Ramblings about what I encounter within the realm of the geosciences, as well as the occasional rant about nonsense.

19 June 2010

Of Boycotts and Impact Factors

Well it has been a while since I visited this corner of the internet. I am also WAYYYY behind in my blog reading (so, by now, this may be old news to people). I suppose that is what happens when the real world imposes itself. So to get back into the swing of things, here is a quick summation of a relatively minor story with potentially significant implications.

The Nature Publishing Group (NPG) is planning to raise the cost of subscription for the University of California Library System (UCL). NPG's argument is that UCL's subscription is currently being subsidized by other universities. So NPG wants to raise UCL's subscription fee to be more in line with what other universities are paying (though as Larry Moran notes, NPG has yet to mention that they will lower the subscription costs for these other universities).

More to the point, this change will effectively raise UCL's subscription fee 400%. Simply put, with the financial woes of the UC system, UCL might be unable to fit this into the budget. In response, UC professors have proposed a boycott of NPG. Not only will they stop the subscription (which may be unavoidable in any situation), they will no longer serve as peer-review, and they will no longer submit articles.

This is potentially a large problem, not just for NPG but for any research publication that is for-profit. Primarily because the consumers of research journals also supply the content of research journals. To put this in perspective, people talk about the power that the Baseball Players Union has when negotiating with the team owners. Imagine how much power the Baseball Players Union would have if they not only supplied the product (i.e. played the game), but were also the predominant consumers (i.e. they were the largest, or only, group purchasing tickets and attending/watching games). This analogous to the situation with researchers and research publications. That is the amount of leverage researchers have when dealing with scientific journals. It should be interesting to see how this situation develops in the coming weeks.

While this is an interesting story in its own right, the principle organizer of this boycott made an interesting statement justifying the lack of article submission (via Sandwalk):
In many ways it doesn't matter where the work's published, because scientists will be able to find it
If this is indeed the case (which given inter-library loan and the predominance of digital copies of papers, it is), this should have an interesting effect on the concept of evaluating the impact factor of journals. I have no idea whether this will make the concept of an impact factor obsolete, or whether it just grants journals that have cheaper (or free) access to online papers higher impact factors.

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All the Latin on this page is from my vague recollections from High School. There are mistakes in the text. I just was trying to get the point across

Between Los Alamos,NM and White Rock, NM

Between Los Alamos,NM and White Rock, NM
The photo of the travertine spring was taken in the small opening in the center of the image.

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