Friday, March 29, 2013

Nature special issue on scientific publishing

Nature has a fascinating special issue on scientific publishing, which is well worth reading. In particular, the article Open Access: the true cost of science publishing by Richard Van Norden has a lot of valuable information. The sub-head is:
Cheap open-access journals raise questions about the value publishers add for their money
There is one major problem with this otherwise excellent article. Although it allows Tim Gowers to raise the question in the sub-head:
The key question is whether the extra effort adds useful value, says Timothy Gowers, a mathematician at the University of Cambridge, UK, who last year led a revolt against Elsevier
the article treats this as a he-said, she-said controversy. It fails to point to any of the massive accumulation of peer-reviewed research that answers this key question by showing that only the most selective journals add positive (if barely detectable) value. If the greater levels of misrepresentation and fraud in these journals are accounted for, their value-add is most likely negative.

Publishers, particularly for-profit publishers, are unable to acknowledge that their vaunted and expensive processes are not adding value, and are thus not worth paying for. This is demonstrated by the fact that Nature finds itself unable to cite the literature answering the question that it raises. Isn't part of Nature's value-add supposed to be making sure that relevant literature is cited?

1 comment:

  1. See also this article by one of the authors of this paper in Nature Neurosdcience pointing out the poor statistics underlying many recent neuroscience papers. Tip of the hat to Andrew Orlowski.