[full movie] Paywall: The Business of Scholarship — annotated + commentary

September 27, 2019 0 By Ronny Jaskolski


It all starts a question: why is
getting access to research so expensive, and what are people doing about it? My
name is Peter, and this is Stacks and Facts. [Music]
Okay y’all, so today we’re doing something very different and that is
because of a couple of things! First of
all, last week YouTube announced that they released this new functionality
called “YouTube Premieres” for everyone, where basically what you can do is, you
can record a video in advance, and then you can schedule it to be released. And
then at the moment that it’s released, people can all come together and watch it
at the same time with a chat window, so they
can talk to other people as it comes out! The chat window ideally should be over…
there? yeah. So notice the in chat window
there are people there! Another reason is
that last Monday — so a week before this video is running, right now, live, for the first time — was the start of Open Access Week! Now, Open Access Week, if you have
not heard of Apen Access, is basically a week where we celebrate and we promote
all of these things that are Open Access. And the idea behind Open Access, it’s a thing that I very much love, is this idea that people should have access to information! because that’s what helps
them make informed choices; that’s what helps them advance in their lives, and in their careers, and just generally make the world a better place for everyone. So about a month ago, a documentary came out called “Paywall: the Business of Scholarship” … I think? we’re gonna find
out! And it was released for free for everyone, and it talks about the world of
scholarly publishing. The cool thing about the documentary though is that the guy who made it, he released it under what is known as a Creative Commons 4.0 license or CC-BY, which basically means anyone can take it and do whatever the heck they want with it, as long as they just credit him, and point them-point viewers towards the source! So here we are! So I attended a screening of this
after watching it on my own with a bunch of librarians, and the general consensus was like, “this is cool but it’s kind of preaching to the choir,” and so I wanted to see if I could do something to help
make it more accessible to everyone. So what I have done is I have taken the movie, and I have added a few things to it: I’ve added little captions to describe, break out acronyms for folks who’ve never experienced anything in the world of Open, or in scholarly
communications. I added the speakers’ Twitter handles in the top… left… corner
— sorry, I had to think of which side was left — so that if you want to tweet people with questions about specific things they have said you know exactly where to do that! And I have put it here on YouTube with this lovely chat window! And the cool thing about the shat window is: before this video got published, I reached out to a number of folks and organizations to see if they might be able to send someone to sit in on the chat and answer questions as they come up for the layperson. Now, we might not have a very large group of people here
*right now,* but that’s fine because this is going to be on YouTube forever! Or at least as long as YouTube exists and they let me keep it. I figured that this would
be a really good way, a really novel way of taking advantage of this new YouTube Premiers feature, to put the experts in contact with everyone else and so by all means take advantage of the people. Now for those of you watching this video in the future after it’s been released, I
know you can’t be a part of the chat but what you CAN do is you can actually make
a comment below, and you can put a timestamp in it, so that others who watch it in the future and myself, we know exactly what you’re talking about so to
do that what you do is you write your comment and in the comment put the time code. So if this is showing at like 4 minutes and 15 seconds, what you would
type is 4:15, just like that, and then the rest of your comment. And then anyone who wants to see what you’re talking about can click that, because it will become a link, and see exactly what’s being talked about. So go ahead and
comment away throughout the course of this. Go ahead and give it a try now, if you want to. But don’t feel obliged. Now, people over in the chat: if you would
do me a favor and go ahead and start introducing yourselves; give maybe your name, your title and maybe your social media handle? Twitter, if that’s your choice, so that if people want to continue this discussion with you offline
— or, online but off this video — they can. All right, go ahead and take a minute to do that. I’m just gonna say now that this is brand new, and I don’t know how this is going to work, but I’m hoping it’s going to work out well! As for me if you want to tweet at me in the future
or now, you can always do so at @the_musser or @StacksEtFacts, where I will answer your questions. So that’s about it… But before we get started, I want to say thank you to a few people who have made this possible! First, to the folks at UBC Libraries. Some of you are in the chat, thank you so much for making this happen. Second, to Jason for making this documentary! I’m really really grateful
that you published it under the Creative Commons license so that I could do this! I also want to thank everyone who participated in making this, and all the folks who sat down to be interviewed for the documentary. Your guys’s views are very important, and they help shine a light on a thing that the most most people just don’t know about. And also I want to give a shout out to Creative Commons — without having made the CC-BY licenses, and the whole suite of creative common licenses designed to help people share information in meaningful ways, what I have done here would not be possible, so thank you very much. And of course thanks YouTube for doing this thing. Okay so hopefully, that was enough time for introductions, take note and let’s just do this. All right! Oh, and also I’m in the chat so you’ll see me as Stacks & Facts. So that’s me. Okay, ready let’s do this! On the count of three one two three–
This is The State of Things. I’m Frank Stasio. A lot of academic research was
paid for with public funding, but public access is often
restricted by expensive paywalls. Meanwhile, some academic
publishing companies have higher profit margins than companies
like Walmart, Google, and Apple. But there is a movement on the way
that could turn the tide. Paywall
The Business of Scholarship Universities are about educating humans,
and there is literally no reason to keep information from people. There is nothing gained other
than money, and power, and things that, as people,
we should want to push up against. Lot of money? A lot of money! A lot of money. It’s huge, huge business. Billions of dollars of business. Academic publishing is a 25.2 billion
dollar a year industry. This journal by Elsevier, Biomaterials, costs
an average 10, dollars for yearly digital subscriptions. Is that money well spent? It’s hard to say. In 5, Forbes magazine predicted that scholarly
research would be the Internet’s first victim. Academics are progressive, and surely journals
would lose power in revenue with digital distribution. 23 years later,
this couldn’t be further from the truth. I think one thing we learn
when we look at history is that humans are really
bad at predicting the future. And this is something that
the media, they love to do, and people who consume media
love to read it. It’s fun, it… We are sorry. You don’t have the credentials
to access this documentary. Please see payment options below. The scholarly publishing industry makes
about a 35 to 40 percent profit margin. And different years
when I’ve looked at this, you know, Walmart
is making around 3 %, and Walmart is like this evil,
you know, giant for a lot of people. But it’s 3 percent compared to 35 percent. I mean, I could have flipped my own
attitudes now, like, Walmart’s not that bad compared to some of these
other players in other industries. You know, wealth management industry
is around 21 %, Toyota’s around 12 %. How is it okay for this whole industry
to be making so much a profit margin when there really aren’t any inputs
that they have to pay for it? – What are the corporations
which you compare with that sort of a profit margin,
that 32-35? – I have honestly never heard
of corporations that have profit margins that are that big. In most other lines of,
lines of normal enterprise and business, that kind of profit margin
is the sign of some kind of monopoly logic at work. Even though people not in academia
may not be reading a lot of these articles, may not find them useful,
they are still paying for them. Your tax dollars go towards governments
who then subsidize universities, who then provide funds to libraries,
who pay publishers through subscription fees. The journals and the publishers
are getting your money. Whether is it’s you or your neighbor,
everyone is paying into the system. And the people benefiting the most
are publishers. Everybody deserves a profit margin. But how can journals – journals! –
have a profit margin larger than some of the biggest tech companies? Well, publishing is so
profitable because the workers don’t get paid. I mean, in what other industry,
I can think of none, in which the primary workers,
in this case, the authors, reviewers, get paid nothing? Profit margins in many respects
in the publishing are second to none, and a few years back, I compared them to Facebook,
and I realized they’re about the equivalent of the most successful software
companies today in terms of margins. And of course, Facebook has
virtually infinite scale and there’s arguably no more successful
company in the last five or ten years. So, publishing is obscenely profitable, and
because of it, the publisher’s in no rush to see the world change. There is a real question
as to why the margins are so high, like, 35 percent higher
than Google’s margins; what’s going on there? Well, and that is simply
because the pricing power, you know. You, if you are Elsevier, let’s say,
you have proprietary access; you are selling a stream
of content to a university. And it’s not like, you know,
going to the supermarket and if there, you know, one beer is
too expensive, you choose another one. It is not like a university librarian can
say, “Well, the Elsevier papers are too expensive,
we’ll just go with Wiley this year.” You kind of need all of them. And so you have an ability to charge
really as much as you want, and the universities will rarely
actually balk. They might pretend to balk, but
the reality is that faculty have to have access, and that’s a very powerful position
for the businesses. Here’s a problem in the market. The market exhibits what
someone has called a moral hazard, which doesn’t have anything to
with morality, [it’s] an economic term. Moral hazard comes about
when the purchasers of the good are not the consumers of the good. So what is the good here,
in the traditional publishing market? It’s access, you know,
readership access. The consumers are people like me
who want to read the articles, the purchasers, though, are not me,
I don’t tend to subscribe to journals. The Harvard Library spends huge amounts of
money subscribing to a huge range of journals. So, I am price insensitive to these journals,
’cause I don’t have to pay the bill. The money is real. Right? Academic publishing
for journals is a 10 billion dollar a year revenue producing industry. This is not chump change. This is a significant amount of money. When you think about a profit margin
of 30 to 40 percent taken out of that, that could be put back
into the research enterprise, whether it’s supporting more science,
whether it’s supporting universities, you know, hiring more researchers,
paying more faculty, making college more affordable,
that financial aspect is a symptom of just how out of alignment
this commercial model is in trying to stay relevant
in the research process. Usually we don’t think
about the relationship between the profit
of such companies, on the one hand, and the ever-increasing
tuition fees at universities, but it’s also a part of the story. We are not talking about
a marginal problem. We are not talking about
the internal issues of the scholars. We are talking about
very basic social problems. What will be the future of our societies? Journal prices have been
increasing way above the level of inflation and well above
the rate of the growth of library budgets. Not just for years,
but for decades. And it’s been a catastrophe. Just ten hours ago,
Anthem College shut down. Saint Joseph College will be
closing its doors. Deep in debt, Dowling College
is shutting its doors. The abrupt closure leaves faculty
without jobs and thousands of students
scrambling to find another school. The academy writ large
has not really examined the full cost
of scholarly communication. It’s been really the libraries’ budgets
that have born the brunt of that, and we have often had to go
hat in hand to the administration to get increases for serials,
specifically science, technology, medicine journals,
that have just had a rapid increase in price
for whatever reasons the publishers may claim for that. And for profit to go up,
scarcity has to prevail. Welcome to the world of paywalls
blocking research. – Have you hit paywalls? – Absolutely. I have definitely hit a paywall. I hit a paywall frequently. – Have you ever hit a paywall? – Oh, pff, yes. I hit a paywall. Quite often, I’ll find a paywall, yes. When I was a student,
I definitely hit a paywall. I hit paywalls a lot. – How do you feel? – I feel really pissed. Students graduate,
get their Master’s, flow into those
spin-off companies, and suddenly they discovered,
that they could not get access to the research results
that they needed because they were not longer affiliated with the university. They came knocking on my door. And
I had to tell them, that, as a librarian, I was in this awkward position,
that I had to block non-affiliated users for access to publicly funded research. And that is completely contrary to the mission
of a library and a librarian. So that was an eye opener. Do you want to tell us a
little bit about yourself? I’m Dwight Parker,
in the middle of my working on a PhD in Ed Psychology,
I decided that I needed to take a break from that,
and I’m selling cars. While I was in the program,
I had access to lots of things, but once you’re outside that program,
if you, those same resources just aren’t available to you;
at least they weren’t to me, anyway. In, you know,
education psychology was mine, and most of the research done
is government funded, so that’s taxpayer money
going to fund research, that they’re then charging for,
which is absurd. – I mean, it’s absurd. – Absolutely. Not to mention it is a public good. I mean, certain academic research. I need to be able to access
that research regardless. I mean, I don’t have 79.99 or…
to do that. Not selling cars. Even the coolest car in existence. If I worked for Elsevier,
I could afford it. Yeah, or any one of those. I mean, it’s such a… Anyway. You know. You guys are doing it,
you know, it’s so… the money just corrupts
everything, you know? You’ve got the money, you’ve got the
government, and everybody’s all… and it is like the science gets lost. Honestly, It gets lost. My wife had a
pulmonary embolism. And they’re not sure why. And nobody is still sure
why she had a pulmonary embolism. It could be a number of different things,
and so I started doing the thing I do, which is get on the Internet
and start doing research. And you hit all these medical research paywalls
where people are doing these studies about PE,
and I can’t afford to spend the money to read a research paper
only to discover that it’s not relevant to her. Relevant to our situation. It might be. It might not be. But there’s not enough information
in front of it for me to tell! But it could save her life! The reason that we have
research is we’re trying to solve problems in the world. We’re trying to cure diseases; we’re trying to figure out clean water,
we’re trying to figure out how to take poverty to zero. We’re trying to completely wipe out
particular disease states once and for all. And, if you want to do that, we’ve got
to make sure that everybody has access. Not just rich countries,
not just people who have Ph.D.s, but everybody gets
to read scientific research, think about it, and then
contribute their ideas. And when large portions of the population
don’t have access to research, the odds of us solving big problems
are significantly lower. The publishers have been
part of curating the scholarly dialogue for centuries. And, in that respect, they are vital. At the same time, we have a global
population, that the vast majority does not have access to research
about current developments in science, medicine, culture,
technology, environmental science. And are faced with the prospect of trying
to make sense of the world without access to the best knowledge about it. And, in some sense, that is tragic. Western universities have
really great funds for their libraries, so, they are in the…
they have the capacity to purchase the journals, give access to their students. But, in context of developing countries,
libraries are really poor. So, you eventually end up doing everything
on your own without any support from the university or college. And even if you’re trying to approach
your faculties or professors, you get the same answers,
that “we did it the same way, and you’ll have to do it
the same way as well.” So, it just keeps going, and we don’t get
a concrete result out of it. So, my research was more
in very fundamental physics. Special relativity, there. And many of these
papers, again, was “you’ll have to pay for it.” I would say I’d never
pay it for any paper, especially in the economy of Venezuela,
right now, it’s even worse, unfortunately. But even when I was a student there,
you just kind of take your credit card
and buy something from the Internet. So, from the lack of access,
a movement has sprung out. And that movement is called Open Access. In its simplest form,
Open Access is, you know, free and
unencumbered access to information. Very simply, it’s a way to
democratize information. It’s to reduce disparity
and to promote equality. There’s lots of academics out there
who can build on top of the research that’s gone before if they have
access to all of the research. You might have some of the greatest minds
of our generation living out in Central African Republic who
don’t have access to any of the content. So, what they can build on top of this;
how can they help move things further faster? And I think that is what
Open Access is all about. It’s allowing people who want
access to the knowledge to have access to the knowledge
and take it further. I think being passionate
about Open Access is great. Where I get concerned is
when somebody’s passion for Open Access
leads them to be unwilling to think about the costs of it,
as well as the benefits of it. I get concerned when Open Access
becomes a religion or when it becomes a halo,
that requires you to love whatever it’s placed over. If we lose our ability, or, worse,
our willingness to think critically, to think as critically and analytically
about an Open Access model as we do about a toll access model,
then we are no longer operating in the realm of reason and science;
we’re now operating in the realm of religion. And, I’m a religious person myself,
I’ve got nothing against religion, but it’s important not to confuse
it with science. I can see how,
especially if you’re on the other side, it would appear religious. There is a lot of belief for sure, right? It is a belief-based
movement for a lot of people. But a lot of the most powerful pieces of the
movement come from the biomedical literature. From parents who can’t access it, right? From family members who can’t access it. And those take on the element of witness
and testimony that is religious, at least in overtone, right? And there’s real power in witness and testimony,
that is part of evangelical movements. And we can have a nerdy conversation
about innovation, or I can give you an emotional story;
which one goes more viral? Movements need to take all kinds, right? Movements are bigger than organizations;
they’re bigger than people when they work, right? That’s kind of why they work: they take
on this rolling avalanche aspect. For me, why I am
doing this is because of the benefits to research efficiency. I want to see increased
research efficiency overall. That is my overall goal. If you said, closed science was the way to
do that, I would be supporting closed science. But that research efficiency
comes with increases in quality, increases in inclusivity, increases in diversity,
increases in innovation. Just having more people that
can do something is a benefit. We have big problems to solve. I was very much
involved, deeply involved in the early days
of Open Access in life sciences. And our hope was that Open Access would not
only bring the very significant change in access;
it seemed completely crazy that most of research is not available
to most of the people who need it. I had a visit to the University of Belgrade
a few years ago, and I was meeting with grad students
before my lecture, and we were going
around the room talking about what
each researcher did, were working on
for their thesis. And almost everyone in the room
was working on implicit cognition. And it was amazing that there were
so many students working on this particular area of research,
and so I said, “Why are all of you doing this? How has that
become this be the area that’s so popular?” And the immediate response was, well,
“We can access the literature in this area.” “What do you mean?” I said. “Well, there is a norm of all the
leading researchers in your field, all of you put your papers online. So, we can find them. And we can know what’s going
on right now in this literature that we can’t get access to
in other subdisciplines.” I was blown away by that, right? That they made some decisions about what
to study based on what they could access. When I was
directing the Library and we had made
major cuts in our subscriptions because of budgetary constraints,
same sort of thing that libraries do, and we did a series of focus groups to try
to see how people were coping with that. And one of the people who really stood out
to me was a young M.D. Ph.D. student when he talked to his advisor. And the advisor said:
“These are interesting areas. Read widely in these areas.” And he said, “So, I have to read widely,
but I realize my ability to read widely is constrained by what you have access to. And so my dissertation topic is going to be
constrained by what you are able to afford, because I can’t get at and read this other
material that you no longer have access to.” Some of the world’s
greatest challenges are not going
to be solved by one individual
group of researchers. And we know that interdisciplinary
research and collaboration is the way to get to those
solutions faster. And because so many of those
challenges are so prevalent – clean water, food security,
global warming, public health – there’s so many challenges
that need to be solved that there’s no reason why we wouldn’t
want to do everything we can to drive that collaboration
and to enable it to happen. Medical knowledge and incredible expertise
can be found in every far corner of the world; we just haven’t tapped into it too often. So, a friend of mine is a pediatric heart
surgeon at Stanford. He would observe when
he was visiting India, and went to an institution
that has now treated 10 times as many patients as him,
and they’re able to get almost as good results
as he gets in Stanford, and they can do this between
5 and 10 percent the cost. And, to me, that’s genius! That is genius! And, you would think that we in the Western
world would want to understand what’s going on in India as much as
they would want to see what we’re able to do with all
our marvels of technology. It is an easy conclusion to draw
that scholarship must be open in order for scholarship to happen. And so it’s sort of a curiosity
that it isn’t already open. But that’s really because of the
history of how we got here. Every since the scholarly journal was
founded or created in the mid-17th century, authors have written for them without pay,
and they’ve written for impact, not for money. To better understand the research process,
we traveled to where research journals originated:
The Royal Society of London. I am Stuart Taylor, I am
the publishing director here at the Royal Society. The Royal Society is Britain’s
national academy of science. It was founded in 0
as a society of the early scientists, such as Robert Hook and Christopher Wren. A few years after that, in 5,
Henry Oldenburg here, who’s the first secretary of the society,
launched the world’s first science journal called Philosophical Transactions. And that was the first time that the
scientific achievements and discoveries of early scientists
was formally recorded. And that journal
has essentially set the model for what we now
know today of science journals. Embodying the four principles of archival,
registration, dissemination and verification. So that means having your discovery
associated with your name and a particular date,
having it verified by review by your peers, having it disseminated to other scientists,
and also having it archived for the future. As soon as there were digital networks,
scholars begin sharing scholarship on them. Ever since, let’s say the early nineties,
academics have been seriously promoting Οpen Αccess. Not just using the network to distribute
scholarship and research, but promoting it and trying
to foster it for others. It may sound like I’m making this up, but
I really felt at the time and I was not alone,
that if you have some wonderful idea
or you make some breakthrough, you like to think it’s because
you had some inspiration or you worked harder than anyone else,
but you don’t like to think it was because you had privileged access to information. And so, you know, part of my intent in 1
was just to level the playing field, that is, give everybody access to
the same information at the same time, and not have these, you know,
disparities in access. Forty percent of all the papers published
in the New England Journal of Medicine – and then the New England Journal
of Medicine is arguably the most impactful journal in the world –
but 40 percent of the authors came from a -mile radius of Boston,
which is where the New England Journal of Medicine is headquartered. Publishing is really an insiders’ game. Those of us who are insiders have much greater
access to publishing and also even reading, as we come from the richer of the institutions. A lot of people are
suffering as a result of the current
system in academia. We have a lot of doctors who would benefit
from having the latest information about what the best care
to give to their patients. There is so much research
that has been done already. It’s ridiculous sometimes when we try
to access a paper that was written in 5. And it’s still behind a paywall. It doesn’t make any sense. Research journals have come a long way
since 5. We now have the ability to reach
many around the globe, simultaneously for next to nothing, and
that is a huge benefit for scholars. Many authors think that if they
publish in a conventional journal, especially an important conventional
journal, a high-prestige, a high-impact, high-quality conventional journal,
they’re reaching everybody who cares about their work. That’s false. They’re reaching everybody who is
lucky enough to work in an institution that’s wealthy enough
to subscribe to that journal. And even if those journals are relative
best-sellers or if they’re must-have journals that all libraries try to subscribe to, there
are still libraries that cannot subscribe to them. And many libraries have long since
canceled their must-have journals just because they don’t have the money. So, authors get the benefit
of a wider audience, and by getting a wider audience
they get the benefit of greater impact, because you cannot impact in your work,
your work cannot be built upon, or cited or taken up or used,
unless people know what it is. And most scholars write for impact. Part of what academics
do is study questions, try to figure out some insight about
what they’ve learned about a phenomenon and then share that with others
so then those others can then say, “Ah, what about this, what about that,
are you sure?” or “Oh yeah, let me use this
in some new way.” So, really, scholarship is a conversation,
and the only way to have a conversation is to know what each other is saying
and what the basis is for what they’re saying. And so openness is fundamental to
scholarship doing what it’s supposed to do. There’s one of those
original myths about Open Access. There’s no peer review,
there’s low quality, and so forth. And we know that
when you put your stuff out in the open, people notice, you know,
if you BS your way out there, you’ll be caught very quickly. If you miss something important,
in terms of a piece of evidence, someone will point you to it. If you are not careful in your argument,
or you miss a piece of important literature, someone will tell you that. And so you, as a researcher,
would benefit from these observations and criticisms and other things,
so your research will be better, not lower quality as a result of it! If you don’t work
in this space, you don’t have any contacts, you don’t have any concept
of the, sort of, dramatic impact that these tensions
are going to have on everyone. You know, when you see the EPA
[Environmental Protection Agency] take down its climate change section
of its website, there’s real, concrete impact to not having
information be available. There’s plenty of free information out there,
and we all know how problematic it can be. Just because it’s free doesn’t make it good;
just because it’s paid for doesn’t make it bad,
and I think that’s the tension that this community’s always going to have to deal
with. Of course, in the very early days
of the Open Access movement, and Open Access journals, this notion that
Open Access publishing is not of high quality was very predominant,
but that has changed now. Open Access, to us,
does not at all denigrate the level of peer review, you know. If anything, you know,
it’s going to be even better. The reward system in
many countries, in many developing countries still mirrors our own,
in the UK and the U.S. We did a survey recently, asking
about our researchers’ perceptions of Open Access, and lots of them,
you know, were saying “Great, Open Access is exactly
what we need, we need to tell the whole world about our research. Everyone needs access. This is great.” However, when we asked the researchers
what their priorities were for journals, where they wanted to publish their journals,
the top things were impact factor, indexing, and at the bottom of the list,
was Open Access. So whilst they were saying great things
about Open Access, unfortunately because of the
reward structures, it’s nearer the bottom, because they still need
to progress their career. Open Access has been
with us for some time. The impact has not been
as quick as I expected, and I’m kind of worried that in the next
5 years, how fast are we going to move? Is there a reason
that research journals are so lethargic to change? Well, you might call them
resilient [laughter]. I think there is a certain degree
of lethargy. As you know,
academics are probably the most conservative people on the planet. You know, yes, they may be
innovating with their research, but academic structures
are very slow to change. The academic community
is very, very conservative. It’s very hard to change,
make significant system changes, in the academic community. Our process for tenure now
is the same as it was years ago. Authors are very aware,
that their chances of progress, to continue their jobs,
getting funding, whole aspects of their careers
depend on where they publish. And this need created
a sort of prison in which authors cannot have
an alternative way to publish except to publish in those journals
that are most likely to help them in their careers. One of the big obstacles
for Open Access is actually the current resource assessment
and tenure and all these things. Because there still is a tendency
to say, okay, if you publish four papers
in the higher-rank journals, you are producing better research. It might be so that those papers
will never be cited or never read. But they take the journal impact factor
as a proxy for quality. And we know, all of us, that it is
subject to gaming and fraud. The impact factor is
actually the average number of citations that that journal gets over,
it’s a 2-year window. The impact factor is a perverse metric
which has somehow become entrenched in the evaluation system and the way
researchers are assessed across the world. You can charge for a Gucci handbag
a hell of a lot more that you can for one that you just
pick off the high street. Impact factors have
perverted the whole system of scholarly
communications massively. Even their founder, Eugene Garfield,
said they should not be used in this way. Then you must begin to wonder that,
you know, there’s something wrong. And the faux-scientific nature of them,
you know, the fact that they are accurate
to three decimal places, when they’re clearly not, they’re
given this pseudoscientific feel to them. The Royal Society, a few years ago,
signed something called the San Francisco Declaration on Research
Assessment, or DORA for short, which essentially calls on institutions
and funders to assess scientists in ways that don’t use the impact factor. So going much more back to peer review,
and actually looking at the work itself rather than simply relying on a metric
which many people believe to be a very flawed metric. But the way of
addressing the problem is to to start divorcing
the assessment of an academic from the journals in which they’re publishing. And if you are able to evaluate
an academic based on the research that they produce on their own, rather than
where that research has been published, I think you can then start to allow
researchers to publish in, you know, journals that provide better service,
better access, lower cost, all these things. Journals that are highly selective reject
work that is perfectly publishable and perfectly
good, but they reject it because
it’s not a significant advance, or it’s not going to make the headlines, in
the same way as a paper on disease or stem cells might. So it gets rejected, and then
goes to another journal, goes through another round of peer review,
and you can go through this through several cycles. And in fact the rationale of launching
PLOS One was exactly to try and stop that, rounds and rounds of wasted both
scientists’ time, reviewers’ time, editors’ time,
and ultimately, you know, at the expense of science and society. The time it takes to go through
the top-tier journals and to maybe not make it,
and then have to go to another journal, locks up that particular bit of research
in a time warp. It is in the interest of research funders
who are paying, you know, millions or billions of dollars
to fund research every year, for that research to then
be openly available. There have been a lot of
different ways to come at this, and a lot of people
have said, let’s be incremental, first we’ll create
what’s called green Open Access, where you’ll just provide access to the content
but no usage rights that are associated with that. The Gates Foundation said,
“That’s only half a loaf, we’re not in the half a loaf business,
if you’re gonna do this, go all the way.” And I really applaud them for
not wanting to take the middle step. They have enough foresight
and, frankly, leverage to demand getting it right
the first time around. From the Foundation’s
prospective we were able to, through our funding,
work with our grantees to say, “Yes, we are going to
give you this money, and, yes, we want you to do
certain scientific and technical research, and yield a particular outcome,
but we want you to do it in a particular way.” And one of the ways that we want
people to work is to ensure that the results of what they do
is broadly open and accessible. And, along with that, we want to ensure
that not only the money that we spend directly on our investments
and new science and technology yield a tangible benefit to those people,
but we’d also like to see it to have a multiplier effect so that the information
and the results of what we funded gets out for broader use by the scientific community,
the academic community to build on and sort of accelerate
and expand the results that we are achieving. – What comes to mind when
you hear of Elsevier? Oh my goodness. He-he. Yes. Elsevier is a pain in the neck
for us in Africa, because their prices
are too high for us, they don’t want to come down. You know, I think
we can say that Elsevier is actually a good contributor
to the publishing community. – Elsevier. What comes to mind? Well, a level of profit that
I think is unfortunately unpalatable. And unsupportable, because
from a University’s point of view, of course, it’s all public funds. Their licensing practices which have
certainly evolved over time. You know, if we look at Elsevier’s reuse or
commercial practices over the past 10 years, I think they’ve made a lot of changes
that have made them more author or researcher-friendly. So there is definitely an evolution there. These publishers, whenever
we publish something there, this is financed by our departments. This is kind of public money. So we are paying the money,
but they are closing in. I would never characterize
them as a bad actor. I think they do a lot of good
for supporting innovation and kind of cross-industry initiatives. There is a lot
of reasons why people focus
on Elsevier as kind of the bad guy. Have a look at their annual report;
it’s all online. their profits are up; their dividends are
up; they’re doing very well;
they made a couple of billion pounds in profit last year. By and large, does our industry
treat researchers well? Do we act effectively as a responsible
midwife for these important scholarly concepts or ideas
and make them accessible to the world and distribute them and reinvest
in the community? I would say yes. I personally think
that Elsevier comes in for
a lot of bad press; some of it is deserved
and earned, I think. I also think they have made a lot of
smart innovations in publishing that we have all learned from. I remember when I moved to UC Press,
I have moved from 20 years in commercial publishing
into the non-profit university press world, and
it turned out that one of the main concerns of some of the staff head was that
I was gonna turn UC Press into Elsevier. Which, of course, has not happened. But I… More seriously, I think
that those of us in a sort of non-profit publishing world can actually learn
a lot from big competitors. I worked for Elsevier for a year,
so I have to say a disclaimer; I also worked for 15 years
for non-profit scholarly societies. And I was a journal publisher in
both of those environments. They’re different environments. And, for me,
my view of commercial publishers was shaped by my experience coming out
of the scholarly society. I worked for the American Astronomical
Society, where our core mission was to get the science
into the hands of the scientists when they wanted it,
the way they wanted it. I went to a commercial publisher. I was recruited by them;
I thought I was gonna do more of the same. But that was really not the job. The job was managing a set of journals
to a specific profit margin. And that just wasn’t my cup of tea,
it didn’t mesh with the values that I have. So I went back into
not-for-profit publishing. I do think it’s not that they are
bad entities, but their goal is to return profits to their shareholders. They’re not mission-driven organizations. And that is fine;
they’re commercial companies. My question is, right now, in the 21st century
when we have these other mechanisms that can enable the flow of science,
are they helping or hurting? And I would like to see them
adjust their models to be a little bit more helpful
rather than harmful. There are absolutely just criticisms
that can be leveled at Elsevier. There are just criticisms
that can be leveled at PLOS. There are just criticisms that can
be leveled at anyone and anything. I try not to judge the legitimacy
of a criticism based on its target. I try to judge the legitimacy
of a criticism based on its content. Oh yeah, good, I just wanted
to make sure someone said this. I need to talk about what kind
of company Elsevier is. The hostility that they sometimes get,
it’s not just about the money; it’s about the kind of company
they are, right? It’s the actions they take often,
they’re anti-collegiate. So, when they send take-down notices
to academia.edu, where academics had put up
some pdfs of their research, and then they were forced to
take them down. Obviously the lawsuit against Sci-Hub
as well in 5. And, yes, both of those things were illegal,
but the academic community doesn’t care; it doesn’t really see them in that way. When I got the
take-down notice, I didn’t get the take-down
notice directly from Elsevier, they sent it to
an official at Princeton. In the notice itself, it only mentions a handful
of papers by two academics at Princeton. Now, if you look at Princeton’s websites,
there are probably hundreds if not thousands of PDFs of published Elsevier papers. So, why did they only target those small amount
of papers and just those two researchers? I don’t know this for sure, but I suspect
it’s because they were testing the waters. Nothing is preventing Elsevier
from doing a web crawl, finding all the published PDFs, issuing
massive take-down notices to everybody who is violating their copyright
agreement, but they don’t do that. They do that, because I think they’re
trying to tread softly. They don’t want to create
a wave of anger that will completely remove the source of free labor
that they depend on. So, critically, as it happened,
I was grateful to Princeton for pushing back against them, and
eventually they rescinded the take-down notice. And so I think that they have a sort of
taste of what it would mean to really go up against the body
of scientists as a whole. The way that Elsevier thinks as
an organization is just antithetical to how I think a lot of academics
think about what it is that they do. We sent Freedom of Information requests
to every University in the UK. So, in 6, Elsevier received
42 million pounds from UK Universities. The next biggest publisher was
Wiley; now it’s at 19 million. Elsevier, Wiley, Springer,
Taylor and Francis, and Sage, between them they take about
half of the money, and the rest is spread out. Elsevier in particular are a big lobbyist. In the European Union and in Washington as
well. They employ a lot of staff that are
basically full-time lobbyists. They have regular meetings
with governments around the world in order to get across their point of view. There is some notion
that publishers have that publishing has to be very expensive
and that publishing requires publicists and copy editors, PR agents,
managing editors, and so on. So many academic institutions,
to cope with the burdensome costs, have elected to buy research journals
in a big-deal format, as opposed to specific journal titles. Each institution,
for the most part negotiates, you know,
with each publisher for access to generally
that publisher’s entire corpus of research or a large portion of it in what’s called
a big deal. So, the subscription packages
which most libraries are involved in,
because we can save more money,
are definitely like cable subscriptions. You get a lot of content; you may not like
always like all the programming. But if you wanna pay just
for individuals titles, the price goes up exponentially,
and you can’t afford it. So we’re stuck in contracts with content
that we may or may not need to try to keep the price down. However, they can remove content
from the package without notice. So, if a publisher decides that
they don’t want a vendor to have a certain piece of content in their package
anymore, it can be removed immediately. That does not mean that
you can cancel the contract; that just means that you no longer have
access, and we have no control over that. Although most institutional access to current
research operates like cable subscriptions, we found one library that has stood
its tangible ground. What we had to find was a reason for us
to be valuable to the research community. How could we add value to this proposition,
even though we cannot support the rising cost of
electronic publications? And we realized that
we could that by remaining a
print-based library. – You can’t have a plug pulled
on by tangible journals. – No, we can’t. We can’t. And if the power fails, you know,
we still have access to content by flashlight. You don’t need a login or an
institutional affiliation to use our library. We are open to the public; even though we
are privately funded, we are publicly available. You don’t need a login; anybody can access
it. In the modern world, all the sudden,
print-based seems pretty forward leaning. Maybe half of our problem was getting roped
into digital negotiations in the first place. So, imagine a market for cable television
where you don’t know and you can’t find out what your next door neighbor is paying
for the same package that you have. – “How much are you paying for HBO?” – “I can’t tell you,
I signed a non-disclosure with Comcast.” Libraries, universities do that all the time. Commercial publishers can capture
all of what’s called the consumer surplus. They don’t need to pick up a price point
that maximizes their revenue or profit across the entire market. They can negotiate that price point
with every single institution. And that’s important, right, because it’s
like, if you were buying healthcare
and the doctor could look at your financials, and be like, “Ah well, if you want this treatment,”
and, you know, they know you’re a millionaire, “then it costs, you know, . dollars.” Whereas if you are somebody who
does not have as much money, they can charge less,
but still make a good return. I feel like, in many ways, that’s sort of
how the publishing market functions, right. The publishers can look at the endowment,
how wealthy an institution is, how much they’ve paid over,
you know, previous decades, and then charge right up to
the level that they think is possible. There is lot of
choice in here for libraries. Libraries don’t have
to sign those contracts. And public universities, like the
University of Michigan have made a point of being much more transparent
about what we pay for things. And the Big Ten Academic Alliance,
of which we’re a part, does a lot of transparent work
with each other. So, I set off to test the Big Ten’s transparency. Unfortunately, I was met with more of the
same. I always sympathize with the librarians
who rail against Elsevier, but my response always to them is
“Cancel.” You don’t cancel. “We can’t cancel.” You can cancel,
but you have to make that choice, and nobody does,
so they keep going strong. Yeah, and I think
that just, you know, that’s all the
process of negotiation, it is a traditional factor
of collections work in libraries,
and there is a lot of issues with that. But,
it’s part of a negotiation type of thing. And I don’t see that changing at all because… – Could a university, like Rutgers, tell somebody
what they paid for it? – No, we wouldn’t. No. – Because you’re contractually bound not
to? – Yeah, I mean, this is the way it works. So,
again, this is not up to me to comment on that particular aspect,
but it is the way it works, and it’s the way it works with all publishers. Not the ones that you hear about. But it’s, you know, I don’t know what
I could compare it to, but it’s how it works, so I don’t think there is going to be
a change in that any time soon. You know, I understand why a library
wants to get a competitive advantage, wants to demonstrate that they are
getting an economic benefit, getting a larger group of content. And institutional libraries are
very different from each other, and some have to really demonstrate
different sorts of value, but it is a choice. Libraries don’t have
to sign confidentiality clauses. It’s often done in return for what
looks like a competitive advantage in the short term, but in the long term,
it’s not a competitive advantage. It reduces price transparency and
increases the risk of paying more, as well as potentially paying less. It’s fractally secret, right? Everything’s
a trade secret at every level. How much this cost, who paid what,
what the terms were. And that’s on purpose. It prevents collective bargaining, right? And all these things essentially maintain
a really radically unfair market. There are some people who believe
that there’s enough money right now in scholarly publishing
that it just has to be moved around; we don’t need to find more money. We just
need to change the way it’s in the system. There has been a growing collective of
journals that find it advantageous to flip away from the for-profit paradigm. So, in the case
of Lingua/Glossa, what happened is that
that community of researchers decided
that it was enough and then the editorial board all resigned. And then started another journal
on a non-for-profit platform, Open Access, et cetera. There’s not many cases of moves like that,
but what this example shows is that it can, indeed, work. So the entire
community, or the leaders of that community -because that’s what basically an editorial
board is- leaders of that community
decided to resign collectively; everyone on the board resigned
and then started a new journal with exactly the same focus and, in a way,
the exact same quality, because what gives the quality of a journal? It’s not the imprint of the publishers. It’s actually the editorial chief
and the editorial board, who make all of the scientific decisions. My name is
Johan Rooryck, I am a professor
of French Linguistics at Leiden University. And I am also
an editor of a journal. First, I was for 16 years the editor
of Lingua at Elsevier. In 5, we decided to leave Elsevier and
to found an Open Access journal called Glossa, basically just the Greek translation
of the Latin name to show the continuity. So, the organization of Lingua was, like,
we had five editors total, so a small editorial team. Four associate editors;
me as the executive editor. And then we had an editorial board
of about 30 people. I had prepared all of this
two years ahead of time, so, I mean, Elsevier knew
nothing until we flipped. So, for two years, between 3-5, I had
already talked to a number of people on the editorial board, but, of course,
everything under the radar. And I had already talked to all the members
of my editorial team to say, “Look, I am busy preparing this. If we do this, are you with me
or are you not with me, because I have to know. And because or we all do this together,
or we don’t.” And so I all looked them in the eye,
and they all said, yes, if you manage to do this,
we do it. Elsevier’s editorial body at Lingua shifting
to the Open Access equivalent Glossa set a precedent of how a successful and
respected journal could change its business model and yet maintain
field-specific credibility, quality peer-review,
and overall impact. We live in a culture that really prioritizes
start-ups, innovation, and entrepreneurship. And the reality is that, right now, there
is literally one company that can innovate
on the scholarly literature, and that’s Google. And that’s, Google’s great; I use
Google for everything like most people, but I would kind of like it if there were
a hundred companies competing for that. I would kind of like it if non-profits
could compete with them and try to create alternatives that said, “You know what,
maybe this shouldn’t be a commercial product; it should be a utility.” And that kind of competition
isn’t possible without Open Access. That kind of competition is
baked into Open Access. And you see this from the large
commercial publishers, you see them understanding that
this is actually an important argument. They put like little drink straws in
and dribble out little bits of content that you can do text mining on. We can make cars that can drive. You’re telling me that
we cannot process the literature better? If a car can drive itself because of
the computational powers we have available, and there are more companies competing
to make self-driving cars then there are to process
the biomedical literature and help us decide
what drug to take. That is a direct consequence
of a lock-up of the literature. That is a fundamental fucking problem. We started advocating in Congress for taxpayer
access to taxpayer-funded research outputs. The most common response
we got in our initial Office visits was, “You mean the public doesn’t
already have access to this?” Like, there was a disbelief among
policymakers. That this was, to them,
the words ‘no-brainer’ comes to mind. Researchers want
their work to be read. They want to advance
discovery and innovation. And while I spend
a lot of time fighting over why work should
be open versus closed, at the end, the real case is, do we want
innovation, or do we not want innovation? And I think there is an obvious case
for openness to unlock innovation. We’re seeing a lot of very inventive resistance
to this from some of the incumbent publishers. But I think there’s also
a generational factor here. I think the younger generation of scientists,
of students, of academics, just the old model
doesn’t make sense anymore. The public should be ashamed
for allowing a model like that to exist. We have, today, a set of tools to
share knowledge, including academic research, in a way that
we couldn’t 20 years ago. You know, I’m seeing in our engagement
with the academic sector, and by that, I’m referring
specifically to our grantees, so we make grants to academic institutions,
and it’s then the academics that work there that do the work. There’s a much stronger appreciation for the
role of Open Access to the results of their research. You know, they see it as being
something that is a benefit to them to be able to have access
to information, data, and so forth that’s being generated by others,
and so there’s much more comfort with this notion of information and
data being open and accessible. I’m never sure
of the right solution. Actually, when
I talk to publishers,I think, “Can I do this? Or can’t I do this?” You know, there are so many
questions about copyright; there are so many questions
about intellectual property; there are so many questions about
what individual authors can and can’t do if they decide to go and
publish with a particular journal. It just feels like there’s so many questions
with each interaction. One outlet that has streamlined scholarship
is that of Sci-Hub, which continues to connect individuals
directly with the scholarship they need, when they need it, for free. You know, those of us
who work in scholarly communications writ large, right,
really have to look at Sci-Hub as a sort of a poke
in the side that says, “Do better.” We need to look to Sci-Hub and say,
“What is it that we can be doing differently about the infrastructure
that we’ve developed to distribute journal articles,
to distribute scholarship?” Because Sci-Hub cracked the code, right? And they did it fairly easily. And I think that we need to look
at what’s happening with Sci-Hub, how it evolved, who’s using it,
who’s accessing it, and let it be a lesson to us for
what we should be doing differently. People use websites like Sci-Hub,
considered the pirate of academic publishing. It’s like the Napster of academic publishing. I know that they’ve been in legal battles
with Elsevier who shut them down,
they just open up in a different website. It’s
still up and running and more popular than ever. So, if I had to give advice to graduate students,
or people not affiliated with institutions that provide access to a lot of these
journals, Sci-Hub is a great resource, it provides it for free. A lot of people don’t
feel guilty about using these resources just like when Napster came out, because
the industry at present is making too much off of the people who are giving
of themselves and doing great research, and they’re being taken advantage of. So, to take advantage of publishers
and get articles for free that are actually being used to educate or to develop things
that are used for the public good, it’s a trade off that a lot of people
are willing to make. And I am not completely against it. You know, I like those acts of what
I would consider civil disobedience. I think they’re important. I think they’re a moment when we can,
should have open discussion around them, and I fear that the openness of the discussion
is there’s no nuance at all. It is either, as we’ve heard, Sci-Hub equals
evil. Like, it just has to. Sci-hub basically is illegal. It is a totally criminal activity,
and why anybody thinks it’s appropriate to
take somebody else’s intellectual property and just steal it basically? That bothers me. It’s not only about people
who don’t have access. It’s even being used by people in
institutions that have full access, because it works in a very simple
and efficient way. What Sci-Hub shows is the level of
frustration amongst many academics about the number of times
they encounter a paywall. I just feel like we’re in the middle,
we’re in this interstitial period, and everyone wants it to be done
as opposed to just saying, “You know what? None of us really
has a clue of what’s going to happen ιn the next 15-20 years.” All we know is that we’re
at the edge of falling off the cliff that music fell off of with Napster. That’s what Sci-Hub shows me. Τhere would not be a demand for Sci-Hub
if we had been successful or if the publishing industry
had been successful, right? Arguably, what we did was to create
the conditions, right, on both sides, us and the publishing industry
that led to this moment. And, so, you know, now that you
see the potential of a system that lets you find any paper. I’ve been
using Sci-hub to collect my dad’s papers, right. My dad died earlier this year, he was a Nobel
laureate for his work on climate change. I’ve tried to build an archive of all his
papers so I could give it to my son, right. Can’t do it! Price would be in the
tens of thousands of dollars. Right. I’m not the only person who needs papers. I’m not the only person who’s doing it this
way. I’m not trying to redistribute
these things, right. I am literally printing them out into a book. Then
I’m gonna just staple it for my son, right? So he knows his grand-dad, what his
grand-dad did, because he won’t remember it. That’s a market failure. That’s a tremendous market failure. Priorities are going to change. And I believe that Elsevier is a business
full of smart people, who want discovery to happen, but don’t have a better idea on
how to make money in the middle. And, unfortunately for them, the internet
is the story of breaking down gatekeepers. They’re the gatekeeper, standing between,
in some cases, research and discovery. If someone’s research is behind a paywall,
and it stops me from doing research in that field in my lifetime, how many
more lifetimes do we have to wait for somebody else to be able to
take that evolutionary step? Sometimes, innovation is the right person
in the right place at the right time, and all a paywall does is ensure that it’s
a lot less likely that the right person is going to be in the right place at
the right time to get something done. [exit music] All right everyone, so that’s it. Thank you so much for watching now I’m just gonna talk for a little bit, if you want to keep having your discussion go ahead! But I wanted to say a few things: first
of all, I did send a message to Elsevier to see if they wanted to send a rep, so rep, if you’re here thank you for being here, good luck! I do want to acknowledge though that like
when you watch the documentary — when I watch the documentary, it definitely felt like it had a slant to it, and I am inclined more than not to believe the slant. I do think that the way that elsevier does business is a little sketchy, and their profit margin is huge, and I don’t know if they provide enough value for what they give bac. So hopefully, someone here is a little bit more Pro-Elsevier or at least more informed on the topic, to tell us you know what’s wrong and what’s right and what’s missing! Now if you would like any more information, I highly encourage you to reach out to your local University Libraries; they are filled with these amazing experts on this stuff. These experts –you may have heard of them — are called librarians who can tell you all about the pains and pleasures of working in scholarly communications. Reach out to them! Ask them questions, they’re going to be happy to answer them! And if you have any ideas on how to make publishing a little bit more friendly and accessible to everyone, let me know in the comments below! Yeah, cool, okay. So that’s about all I’ve got; if you like this (and I hope you did) go ahead and share it with people that you think might be interested in it! For example: profs, other students, fellow folks in the field who could go with seeing what the dialogue and the discourse looks like around something like this… If you like what I’ve done generally and you want to see more of it, you can click little “subscribe” button down there — it’s red, unless you’re subscribed, then it’s gray — and right next to that is a tiny little bell, and if you click that bell you will get a notification every time I upload a new video! Usually about Library and Information science, usually about twice a month! I think it’s fun and I you know I’m a big proponent of this open thing too so if I can make knowledge accessible to everyone, I’m gonna do it. So thank you so much for watching… And until next time, don’t forget to ask questions. [Music]