Open-Access Journals

The current annoyance on the VRTPALEO list is the academic publishing industry, who will publish your work in exchange for owning the copyright (meaning that you, as an author, cannot distribute your own work without permission). A simplified but good analogy is made by Scott Aaronson here:

I have an ingenious idea for a company. My company will be in the business of selling computer games. But, unlike other computer game companies, mine will never have to hire a single programmer, game designer, or graphic artist. Instead I’ll simply find people who know how to make games, and ask them to donate their games to me. Naturally, anyone generous enough to donate a game will immediately relinquish all further rights to it. From then on, I alone will be the copyright-holder, distributor, and collector of royalties. This is not to say, however, that I’ll provide no “value-added.” My company will be the one that packages the games in 25-cent cardboard boxes, then resells the boxes for up to $300 apiece.

But why would developers donate their games to me? Because they’ll need my seal of approval. I’ll convince developers that, if a game isn’t distributed by my company, then the game doesn’t “count” — indeed, barely even exists — and all their labor on it has been in vain.

Admittedly, for the scheme to work, my seal of approval will have to mean something. So before putting it on a game, I’ll first send the game out to a team of experts who will test it, debug it, and recommend changes. But will I pay the experts for that service? Not at all: as the final cherry atop my chutzpah sundae, I’ll tell the experts that it’s their professional duty to evaluate, test, and debug my games for free!

We need to figure out a way to exchange information without making people pay exorbitant fees for it, but in the current situation we could be sued for distributing our own work in PDF format. I’m no opponent of paper copies of Journals, but if all you want is a PDF of a work that is peer-reviewed, there’s no reason you should have to pay for it.

EDIT: This person has something to say about it too, with an analogy to the QWERTY keyboard.


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