Should Information Be Free?

More
17 Oct 2019 19:22 #344547 by Rex
Replied by Rex on topic Should Information Be Free?
I doubt most researchers would do their work pro bono. If you want to argue that governments should subsidize research on the condition that the results are freely accessible, I'd find that compelling. However, that's not free - it's just burying the costs.

A similar but separate conversation is what types of information should be classified (I'm using the term loosely for anything ITAR-able etc) vs publicly accessible. Quite a bit of research/tech goes straight to the military without seeing civilian usage for quite some time. Some tech remains classified (nuclear technology, weapon schema) years after its creation and dissemination into civilian usage. Should all people be able to freely know how to build a nuke?

IP Team Lead
TM: Carlos Martinez
ὁ δὲ ἀμυχηδόν νεξέταστος βίος γίγνομαι βιωτὸς ἀνθρώπῳ
The following user(s) said Thank You: Kobos, Brick

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
17 Oct 2019 20:22 #344551 by Brick
Replied by Brick on topic Should Information Be Free?

Rex wrote: However, that's not free - it's just burying the costs.


So glad you said that. I was about to pick you up on this otherwise :laugh:

Apprentice to Maitre Chevalier Jedi Alexandre Orion

Moderator | Welcome Team | IP Team

IP Journal | IP Journal 2 | AP Journal | Open Journal

'The only contest any of us should be engaged in is with ourselves, to be better than yesterday'

- Knight Senan
The following user(s) said Thank You: Kobos, Rex

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
17 Oct 2019 20:22 - 17 Oct 2019 20:32 #344552 by Gisteron
Thank you, TheDude, for posting this question.
Before I go on to present a little... "fact" of public research, let me too express an appreciation for the responses to it so far. What, if anything, should or should not be provided for out of a collective resource reservoir or at least by a single buyer is by all means a very important econo-political debate that frankly should always stay active so as to adapt its conclusions to the social and economic interests of the people that in turn themselves evolve with time and between generations and especially with the onset of new technologies produced with the very information the distribution policy of which this thread is all about.

There is a distinction between a book store and a journal's web site, and the amount of ink and paper isn't even the crucial one.

A reality - and the problem - is that when ever you go to Elsevier and find a price tag on a paper you wish to read, this is not the author selling you a copy of their work. The researchers who conducted the study to gather data, ran an analysis on the data to formulate a model or to test how well it matches another, then distilled it into a readable form for the interested public to read, do not enjoy any royalties from your purchase of the paper. Even their fellow experts who the journal referred to before publishing it are not compensated for the time or resources it took them to review the manuscript and evaluate its scientific merits and relevance, or to write their report, or to review amended versions if the initial report did not move the journal to refuse the paper. The referees of course do mostly not attempt to replicate the (experimental) findings during that phase, seeing as in most cases that is an expense they simply cannot afford.
My own time in research so far has been brief and under nowhere near the pressure my supervisors have grown used to deal with, but I have yet to meet a scientist working in the public sector who wouldn't welcome everybody to read their paper for free and resents how often they had to forfeit to the journal their right to distribute it publicly themselves. They are paid to produce and publish the research, but they do not sell copies of the paper. In fact, many journals require that the authors themselves pay a publication fee, which, needless to say, isn't often lower for journals that offer open access but can sure be higher. On top of that, the same researchers of course face the same pay walls when attempting to gather relevant prior literature to build from and reference in their own work. And, though this should not be the case in principle, in practice naturally the chances of a paper making it into a journal are greater if the referees or their friends (chosen anonymously by the journal, mind you) happen to be lusciously (within reason) cited. This inflates the cost of research in much the same way that a lawyer's salary is inflated by all the case law library access they need to purchase to do a decent job of their assignment, and for much the same reason. Many scientists in my experience have also expressed doubt (to put it mildly) that the particular prices put on pay walls reflect the journal's server maintenance or staffing costs.

So in summary, while I wouldn't necessarily argue that information should be free, in the case of public academic research in particular we are talking about an industry that is already payed for by the public. The researchers should be and are compensated for their work from that public fund and they do not earn royalties from sold copies of the results they push to publication. The journals are a private international industry, and should also be compensated for their contribution to the distribution of information and thus advancement of science. Since there is no global collective, there is a discussion to be had as to which public if any can or should be taxed to fund scientific journals, and if they are to remain private then there is a problem to be solved that arises from publicly payed for but privately distributed goods. If the solution settled at is the one we already have, pricing may well still need to be reconsidered.

I am, for the record, not a fan of science piracy. As a public institution or researcher, using it can get one in some trouble, so one is stuck acquiring access legally. What money the journals cannot make from a lay reader they can comfortably gain from the scientists who have no choice but to buy, by simply increasing the price tag yet more, encouraging yet more private individuals to pirate the paper and asking yet more from those who have no such option. Yes, the researchers are the ones being punished by piracy, but punished for no misdeed they commited. Especially, they have no means to solve the issue and are stuck taking the punishment in place of whoever - if anyone - is actually responsible.
As I say, most researchers would be happy if you could read their paper but are powerless to just link it on their website or wherever. I understand that it may be awkward and unnecessary to ask them to send you a copy of their manuscript, but many will gladly do it and thank you for showing interest. A free copy is a free copy and as such does nothing to help escape the viscious cycle, but it can put a smile on their face, for what ever worth one can find in that...


Brick wrote: my girlfriend spent 9 years doing various degrees and finally a doctorate in Chemistry, to become a scientist specialising in Atomic Force Microscopy.

Dude, that's awesome, AFM is like a research gold mine of a technology! Good for her!

Last edit: 17 Oct 2019 20:32 by Gisteron.
The following user(s) said Thank You: OB1Shinobi, TheDude, Kobos, Brick, Rex

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
18 Oct 2019 00:46 - 18 Oct 2019 00:48 #344565 by TheDude
Replied by TheDude on topic Should Information Be Free?
I am not a researcher nor a scientist (my psychology degree is a BA, not a BS, though I did take classes on experimentation and presenting research), so I appreciate you offering that perspective here Gisteron. To me, it sounds like you're saying that getting published in an open-access (or not-open-access) journal is financially detrimental to those who engage in research, and the peer review process unfortunately allows for preferential treatment in some cases.

If publishing the research is financially detrimental to researchers anyway, then why do they not simply self-publish either with or without a cost associated with the writing more often? Seems to me like the investment in self-publishing papers would at least allow for a possibility of a return on the investment, while submitting to the papers you talked about wouldn't provide any such possibility. With the amount of people who actually read scientific research today, there is no guarantee that whatever you write will be studied or cited by anyone regardless of publication methods, and many pieces in the social sciences go unread by anyone for decades (or at least they are never cited by anyone), so I don't see a clear advantage to the publishing deals you talked about.

I would also like to ask, do you think it's genuinely in the best interest of scientific researchers to maintain the "journal" model of publication in the modern age?
Last edit: 18 Oct 2019 00:48 by TheDude.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Gisteron, OB1Shinobi, Kobos

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
18 Oct 2019 08:39 - 18 Oct 2019 10:12 #344580 by Brick
Replied by Brick on topic Should Information Be Free?

TheDude wrote: If publishing the research is financially detrimental to researchers anyway, then why do they not simply self-publish either with or without a cost associated with the writing more often?


I think there is an element of snobbery, no, that's not the right word. But articles published in peer reviewed journal are generally accepted as more reliable, by the nature of them being peer reviewed, than self published research.

I could self publish a document which says it proves beyond any and all reasonable doubt that the sky is red, but no peer reviewed journal would publish that because its none-sense.

It's also a requirement of a lot of research sources. For example, when I did my final dissertation at university, the ONLY sources we were allowed to reference were peer reviewed journals. Any other source would be rejected by whoever was marking it.

Apprentice to Maitre Chevalier Jedi Alexandre Orion

Moderator | Welcome Team | IP Team

IP Journal | IP Journal 2 | AP Journal | Open Journal

'The only contest any of us should be engaged in is with ourselves, to be better than yesterday'

- Knight Senan
Last edit: 18 Oct 2019 10:12 by Brick.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Gisteron, TheDude, Rex

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
18 Oct 2019 11:28 #344585 by Gisteron

TheDude wrote: To me, it sounds like you're saying that getting published in an open-access (or not-open-access) journal is financially detrimental to those who engage in research, ...

In a way... I don't know if I'd call it "detriment". One could argue that sponsoring organizations demand peer reviewed articles as demonstration of the progress made through their grants, so in a way the author is earning - or at any rate justifying their income - through getting their work published. But there is no immediate benefit from the literal price tag the end reader sees when attempting to access a paper, and there is an immediate expenditure associated with getting it up into the journal in the first place...


and the peer review process unfortunately allows for preferential treatment in some cases.

So this may differ between different disciplines and specific areas of research within them. In some areas the total number of researchers is rather quite manageable, and what author you may not know in person is still rather likely to be an author whose work you have read. As you point out later in the post, there can likewise be fields of study where this is not at all the case, and where getting a study to be noticeable is borderline impossible for the sheer number of them. At any rate, if you have conducted a study that touches upon topics discussed in prior ones, and fail to cite them, that can well be a legitimate criticism. After all, you were not writing fiction, you want to be building on a foundation that already stood up to scrutiny before and to embed your node in the larger web of information on the subject. Citing, then, can serve well to help emphasize the importance of your results in the broader context the topic has been covered in. Of course there is some prestige with citations themselves, too. A paper is cited more frequently the more researchers read it, and the more it is cited, the easier it is for yet more researchers to find. Citation count can also be a metric of merit and importance. The more research connects to a paper this way, the more of a "central piece" of the greater web it becomes. So I'd be surprised if some amount of ego, some primal hunger for citations of one's own past work was not a factor that could possibly bias a referee one way or another with regard to a candidate paper they review. Nevertheless the referee composes a brief report on the paper. If they phrase it as bluntly as "I don't like how the authors didn't cite my paper about this from two years ago" I doubt the journal would weigh that judgement as strongly as a competing one from a second reviewer that expressed confusion about why a paper from two years ago was not cited considering its direct importance to the content of the one under review.


If publishing the research is financially detrimental to researchers anyway, then why do they not simply self-publish either with or without a cost associated with the writing more often?

Many do publish books besides papers. But as Brick points out, those do not have to undergo peer review. That doesn't mean that they are without merit, of course. Yet, the extent to which it is fair to rely on them can often be also the extent to which they refer back to the peer-reviewed literature. If the question is why we care about scientific merit, I'm not sure I can point at a very immediate economic argument. Certainly, judging by the amounts pseudoscientific books (I hesitate to call them "non-fiction" for obivous reasons...) rake in, it's not like scientific accuracy necessarily sells better in the short to mid term. Perhaps it is too quick and too naive to conclude that therefore maybe the scientific community is broadly comprised of curious people to whom insight into nature is a currency more valuable than money, so I shall not make that claim, for now. Still, you do raise a good point, and as we refrain from giving that answer, silly as it can sound to some, we are left with an open question as to what, indeed, incentivises us to keep insisting on keeping the peer review process and the honesty it attempts to enforce.


I would also like to ask, do you think it's genuinely in the best interest of scientific researchers to maintain the "journal" model of publication in the modern age?

In a word, yes. As it stands, it is not necessarily within their immediate financial interest. But personally, I do believe that for the purposes of advancing science it is important to keep a self and peer critical culture that encourages honesty and humility. One might say that this can be achieved if instead of having journals we had interest groups with independent actors that curated the papers and referred to relevant experts for their review before permitting publication or forwarding the work to a central publisher, but a system like that is - at least in principle and structure - pretty much the "journal" model we already have. By no means is it without its flaws, especially, as I say, I think there is some debate to be had as to whether it is reasonable that a public industry (academia) is forced to ship their products by the service of a private one (the journals). But the actual work they do I think are very much co-dependent. I don't think science as we know it today would be anything like itself, were it not for the system by which its products are polished and propagated internally and to the public.

The following user(s) said Thank You: TheDude, Kobos, Brick, Rex

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
18 Oct 2019 15:49 - 18 Oct 2019 15:49 #344597 by Rainbow Firefly

TheDude wrote: If publishing the research is financially detrimental to researchers anyway, then why do they not simply self-publish either with or without a cost associated with the writing more often?


The problem is that any scientific text must be veryfied to become acceptable for other researches. If your research is not veryfied, it has the same scientific value as if you would write it on a fence. It may be really intesting and really perspective, but it hasn't been proven to be real. So you can't just self-publish if you want your research to be acceptable as scientific.
Last edit: 18 Oct 2019 15:49 by Rainbow Firefly.
The following user(s) said Thank You: TheDude, Kobos

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
18 Oct 2019 21:12 #344614 by ZealotX
Replied by ZealotX on topic Should Information Be Free?
Information should be free but profiting from it should be restricted to those who purchase a license.

If someone profits from it then the license holder should be able to reap a percentage of that profit equal to whatever percentage of the project their work represented; with exceptions allowable for licensees being allowed to license after the post sales.

License agreements can also protect information from being transferred through a middleman.

The problem is that the more we get established in the information age the more information itself has value. If you can personally use that information for yourself and its not a product and you're not making money on it, but you build whatever it is for yourself, then in most cases that should be free but I also think there should be R&D centers attached to every university, funded through the university and local and state governments. They would then share in licensing as well as taxes from the sale of the final product. And because its paid for citizens should be able to access it for free while other states and countries could license the information for their citizens. And if there is a product sold in those places based on that information then tax would also also be assessed and go back to the governments of origin.

Why?

Because not only do you need to take care of the people doing the research, imo, but also you need to make sure people are motivated to keep making new developments on their inventions. Schools could offer grants and scholarships on top of investment options and cash rewards to students working in those R&D departments. These options can be reserved in a trust for after they graduate so that they continue their work and complete their education.

I think we need better ways of funding research other than a strict observance of capitalism because a lot of people cannot even afford the schools that would give them enough base knowledge and information on top of which to build new ideas and inventions.

While we're at it I think colleges could be free using a freemium type of model and combining job placement services so not only should they train you for a job, but help you get the job, and in turn make money from each paycheck instead of charging up front. This way, the better they equip you the more they will make per student. When money for the school isn't tied to the success of the student that's how you can get scams like Trump University.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
19 Oct 2019 18:11 #344630 by _Vergere_
All things considered, yes, information should be free. But unfortunately, in our world that only functions in capitalism, it can't be free.

This is not to say it is impossible—in fact I would love a world of free information—but for now it is only a dream.


Listen well: Everything I tell you is a lie. Every question I ask is a trick.
You will find no truth in me.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
19 Oct 2019 21:11 #344636 by Rex
Replied by Rex on topic Should Information Be Free?

ZealotX wrote: Information should be free but profiting from it should be restricted to those who purchase a license.

What does that mean.

Vergere wrote: All things considered, yes, information should be free. But unfortunately, in our world that only functions in capitalism, it can't be free.

There are many communist, socialist, and theocracies in the world. China (depending on how you measure it) produces the most IP in the world. How accessible is their research to you?
Of would you consider China too capitalist?

IP Team Lead
TM: Carlos Martinez
ὁ δὲ ἀμυχηδόν νεξέταστος βίος γίγνομαι βιωτὸς ἀνθρώπῳ
The following user(s) said Thank You: Carlos.Martinez3, OB1Shinobi

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

Moderators: KobosBrick