Stephen Buranyi ~ Is The Staggeringly Profitable Business Of Scientific Publishing Bad For Science


In 2011, Claudio Aspesi, a senior investment analyst at Bernstein Research in London, made a bet that the dominant firm in one of the most lucrative industries in the world was headed for a crash. Reed-Elsevier, a multinational publishing giant with annual revenues exceeding £6bn, was an investor’s darling. It was one of the few publishers that had successfully managed the transition to the internet, and a recent company report was predicting yet another year of growth. Aspesi, though, had reason to believe that that prediction – along with those of every other major financial analyst – was wrong.

The core of Elsevier’s operation is in scientific journals, the weekly or monthly publications in which scientists share their results. Despite the narrow audience, scientific publishing is a remarkably big business. With total global revenues of more than £19bn, it weighs in somewhere between the recording and the film industries in size, but it is far more profitable. In 2010, Elsevier’s scientific publishing arm reported profits of £724m on just over £2bn in revenue. It was a 36% margin – higher than Apple, Google, or Amazon posted that year.

But Elsevier’s business model seemed a truly puzzling thing. In order to make money, a traditional publisher – say, a magazine – first has to cover a multitude of costs: it pays writers for the articles; it employs editors to commission, shape and check the articles; and it pays to distribute the finished product to subscribers and retailers. All of this is expensive, and successful magazines typically make profits of around 12-15%.

The Guardian Long Read:
https://www.theguardian.com/profitable-business-scientific-publishing-bad-for-science

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Nikos Lappas ~ Do We Still Need Publishers In Academia?


As any Ph.D. student, I spend significant amount of my time studying journal articles and books. A portion of that time is spent trying to access the content itself: Lengthy requests of inter-library loans for publications not available by my university, searching though a fragmented ecosystem of search engines and citations, using slow VPNs to get authenticated by the publishers. No wonder there is one simple question spinning in my mind:
“-Why do we need middlemen in Academia in the era of electronic publishing?”

To elaborate on the existing situation, academic institutions pay fees both to submit research articles for publication, as well as to gain access to them. How much? Well, as it seems a lot. The following figure shows how the journal prices for submitted articles vary with influence and business model.

Read more: https://medium.com/do-we-still-need-publishers-in-academia

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Jess Auerbach ~ What A New University In Africa Is Doing To Decolonise Social Sciences


It’s not often that you get to create a new university from scratch: space, staff – and curriculum. But that’s exactly what we’re doing in Mauritius, at one of Africa’s newest higher education institutions. And decoloniality is central to our work.

I am a member of the Social Science Faculty at the African Leadership University. Part of our task is to build a canon, knowledge, and a way of knowing. This is happening against the backdrop of a movement by South African students to decolonise their universities; Black Lives Matter protests in the United States; and in the context of a much deeper history of national reimagination across Africa and the world.

With this history in mind our faculty is working towards what we consider a decolonial social science curriculum. We’ve adopted seven commitments to help us meet this goal, and which we hope will shift educational discourse in a more equitable and representative direction.

Read more: http://theconversation.com/what-a-new-university-in-africa-is-doing-to-decolonise-social-sciences-77181

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The Economist ~ The Shackles Of Scientific Journals


SCIENCE advances fastest when data and conclusions are shared as quickly as possible. Yet it is common practice for medical researchers to hoard results for months or years until research is published in an academic journal. Even then, the data underpinning a study are often not made public.

The incentive to withhold findings is powerful. Journal papers are the de facto measure of a scientist’s productivity. To win research money and get promoted, scientists need to accrue an impressive list of publications. Yet the delays in disseminating knowledge have the capacity to do real harm: during the Zika crisis, sponsors of research had to persuade publishers to declare that scientists would not be penalised for releasing their findings early. Nor are elite journals the guardians of quality that they often claim to be. The number of papers so flawed that they need to be retracted has risen sharply in the past two decades. Studies in elite journals (such as Nature andScience) are no more statistically robust than those in lesser journals.

Read more: http://www.economist.com/shackles-scientific-journals

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Stephen Battersby ~ News Feature: Can Humankind Escape The Tragedy Of The Commons?


Photo: wikipedia

Selfish resource exploitation threatens societies and livelihoods. But there could be ways for nations and communities to circumvent narrow self-interest in favor of the common good.
Consider a simple pasture, common land where anyone may let their cattle graze. Any rational, self-interested person wants to increase their livelihood. So each adds to their herd, one more animal at a time, until eventually the common land can’t sustain any more cows. The pasture is overgrazed and all of the cattle die.

This bleak picture, sketched out in an 1833 pamphlet by the British mathematician William Forster Lloyd, remained an obscure snippet of social science until 1968, when ecologist Garrett Hardin picked it up. In his profoundly influential paper, “The tragedy of the commons”, Hardin wrote, “Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons. Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all.”

It has proved to be a powerful idea. To Hardin and others, the same grim logic was behind many of our biggest problems. Common resources, such as fisheries, forests, and even the air are threatened by selfish individuals and nations taking what they can, even though they know the resource will be wiped out if everyone does the same. Hardin’s solution was to cede our freedoms to the state, to be bound by “mutual coercion mutually agreed upon”.

This brand of tragedy is particularly urgent today as our population and technology put more and more strain on limited nature.

Read more: http://www.pnas.org/content/114/1/7.long

 

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Peter Scott ~ Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics And University Performance Targets


Pilate asked: “What is truth?” No, this is not just another attack on the “post-truth” brigade – Donald Trump, Nigel Farage, and the rest engaged in counter-revolution against liberal society. Every serious person knows that the consequences for universities of leaving the EU, and the wider Brexit-style tide of reaction, will be dire. Whatever social media trolls so aggressively believe, there is no upside.

There are other dubious “truths” – in particular, the cult of performance. As well as a knowledge society, the audit society, the network society, we have now have the performance society.

The signs are everywhere – targets (and “stretch” targets) for organisations and performance management of individuals; Ofsted scores in schools; and gold-silver-bronze rankings in the forthcoming Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) in higher education.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/university-performance-targets

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