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Re: Academic publishers make Murdoch look like a socialist

Spot on, Fred!

Demonizing all publishers is not right, although a couple of them 
do deserve a good public spanking. Berating researchers is 
putting oneself in the position of a kindergarten teacher 
speaking to toddlers, and that is not bound to influence research 
communities very much.

Indeed, the problems are systemic: when the competition between 
journals is based on faulty interpretations of impact factors, 
and when, furthermore, research institutions rate their faculty 
according to the rankings of the journals where they publish, you 
end up with non-sense for all, except those that benefit from 
this ranking system, and that drive it. Competition helps 
identify excellence if it is designed correctly, but it can also 
be deleterious, especially when poorly framed. Furthermore, 
excellence differs from quality precisely because quality is not 
met through competition; it is met through satisfying standards 
that act as thresholds. Competition is good only if it is used 
right and in the right circumstances.

Back in 1993, John Ziman wrote a piece in the Times Higher 
Education Supplement where he pointed out, for example, that 
competition can lead to stifling creativity (think of what we all 
do to position ourselves slightly ahead of the rear guard in 
order to secure research grants safely; think of the number of 
Nobel prize winners that got some articles refused by journals 
although these articles later turned out to be crucial for the 
research programme that led them to this great honour).

This leads to a two-point reform programme of the communication 
system of science:

1.Restore the importance of quality by measuring it through 
criteria, including quantitative criteria, that work from some 
minimum, rather than through ranking. We grade and pass our 
students to certify their quality, and then we rank the better 
ones to seek excellence as well (but not in lieu of quality). Let 
us keep the quest for excellence at the level of prizes, i.e. 
exceptional moments.

2.Measure the quality of researchers and their work from the work 
itself, and not from some lazy procedure based on prestige proxy. 
Estimating the value of articles by the title of journals is not 
very convincing if one considers the quality of each article 
inside that "prestigious" journal: a few articles get all the 
kudos, and spread their glory onto the majority of others. I used 
to say that one should not judge the quality of an individual by 
the length of the limousine he/she manages to climb into.

Jean-Claude Guedon

Le jeudi 08 septembre 2011, FrederickFriend wrote:

> Perhaps Joe does not appreciate how closely the "services that
> people actually want to use" are linked to policies and
> guidelines. One aspect of green OA which is a service to users
> (authors in this case) is a link between a university's research
> management system and the repository into which research papers
> are deposited. Without that link authors may have to make two
> deposits of their research outputs, one into the research
> management system and again into the repository. Creating that
> link requires a policy decision and guidelines to researchers. A
> second example comes in the arrangements for paying gold OA
> charges. It is a service to users - in this case publishers as
> well as authors - if a university sets up straightforward payment
> mechanisms for this purpose. Setting up those payment mechanisms
> requires a policy decision and guidelines to authors.