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Dr. Douglas Fields penned an article at Huffington Post on open access. There are so many factual errors, false analogies and misleading statements in this article, that I need to highlight just few of the 'wrongest' statements in there (that haven't already been thoroughly debunked by other commenters on the article):

scholarly publication as we have known it is dying

That may be wishful thinking, at least on my part. Last I looked, corporate publishers had been making record profits year over year for the last several decades, with no recession or crisis even making as much as a dent in their profit margins which by now easily exceed 30% and in some cases (I'm looking at you, Wiley) even exceed 40%. Apple would wish they were so lucky...

Scientific publication is undergoing a drastic transformation as it passes deeper into government and capitalistic control

Now which is it, government or capitalistic control? White or black? Or is 'the government' and 'capitalism' the same shade of grey?

The idea sounds great, but nothing is free.

Of course not - the tax-payer has already paid for the research. Why should they pay again? Just to let the corporate publishers make yet higher profits on a product they have contributed little to nothing to?

the article was proofread

Of all my 25 or so peer-reviewed articles, only one was ever proof-read and that was a commissioned review article intended for a general audience - and not a research articles. Actually, Elsevier introduced numerous errors into one of my articles...

In this way the quality of the journal was validated by its readers

Too bad there is no empirical evidence supporting the idea that the quality of journals is actually different. This idea of a journal 'rank' is like dowsing, homeopathy or astrology: the people steeped in the system think it's working, but once you apply scientific scrutiny, all effects vaporize.

The government mandate, however, undercuts all the investment involved in validating and publishing the research studies it funds.

The mandate covers the article version before the publishers add their value. So if the publishers really do so many important things as the author claims, the mandates are not a threat at all. If, however, the publishers don't really add anything valuable, then why keep paying them?

Some open-access journals ask reviewers to evaluate only whether the techniques used in the study are valid, rather than judging the significance or novelty of the findings.

You say this like this is a bad thing - that's how it should be! I don't want people I don't even know deciding over which papers are relevant to me!

PubMed, once the authoritative index of biomedical publication, is now apparently competing with Google Scholar.

And they're not even doing a good job! I still need to use Google Scholar, PubMed, ISI Web of Science and Scopus to cover all the relevant literature in my field! This is absurd! Just to find my literature, I have to do the exact same search in four different places! It drives me crazy! Can someone please provide a decent tools that covers every single scholarly article? The current way is almost unusable.

Even with the most rigorous review at the best journals, flawed studies sometimes slip through

Actually, the 'best Journals' with the 'most rigorous review' are the ones who are publishing the vast majority of all such flawed studies. The lower the journal, the more reliable the research, the data shows.

The scientific journals claim no rights to the results of publicly funded scientific research

What??? Last I looked, they wanted ALL my copyrights! The author must mean scientific journals on planet Vulcan...

Do we want a government-run system in which the money for research is supplied by the same body that validates and publishes it?

You say this like this isn't the way it already is and has been since science became publicly funded: the taxpayer funds our salaries, we pay the publishers' page charges and our libraries pay the subscription fees. We are validating our own research, publishers are only taking it away from us and store it on their servers so nobody else can get to it - today, scientific research is hardly 'published', when only a small, elite fraction of the 'public' can access it.

Now the public must foot the bill for what was previously paid by subscribers of journals.

That one really takes the cake! Who are the 'subscribers of journals'? We, the scientists and our libraries! Who is paying the university libraries? The public (maybe with the exception of a few private universities in the US)! The public has not only been footing the bills for decades, it has also paid for handsome CEO salaries in the millions and skyrocketing, recession safe shareholder profits to boot. Over 70% of journal subscription revenue stems from public funds...

The same thing that is happening to newspaper and magazine publishers is happening to science publishers.

See above. If the 40% profit margins of Wiley and other corporate publishers are dangerously low, Apple really has a problem.

One wonders how many new advances in science will never have an opportunity to take root now that scientific publication is an increasingly corporate and government business

Now here's something that's not entirely from another planet. We indeed need to take our scholarship back from the corporations. If we wrestle scholarship back into our own control, we can reclaim the US$ 15b or so that our libraries world-wide spend annually on journal subscriptions and free the contained US$ ~6b or thereabouts in corporate profits for innovation and infrastructure (the three big publishers make about 5b annually alone).
Posted on Wednesday 21 November 2012 - 17:16:18 comment: 0

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