Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Keep science off web, says Royal Society

Interesting snippet in the Grauniad, which I didn't notice making much impact elsewhere: Keep science off web, says Royal Society. I think this is a terrible idea. Through the internet, information can be shared rapidly and freely. Obviously the peer-review process is valuable, but note that the reviewers themselves don't get paid under the current system anyway! Many journals already charge authors (institutions) for the priviledge of publishing in them. IMO that is a better method of supporting them, than giving them full copyright control and preventing authors from disseminating their work freely. In fact, most journals do allow authors to post their papers on the web anyway - all of my recent papers are available from my web site.


EliRabett said...

The Royal Society unlike King Canute is rather fond of flattery and thinks it can command the sea.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't the web startesd as a way to exchange scientific information?

Anonymous said...

John Fleck asks -

So how does your self-archiving on your own web site work in terms of the Journals, James. Do they own rights and grant you permission? Do you own the rights? I see more and more scientists doing what you have done (which is great), but I run into a lot of folks in the climate community who won't post the electronic reprints of papers in things like Journal of Climate where they apparently don't own the rights.

James Annan said...


It varies by journal. They almost(?) all actually take over the rights, but usually give the author limited permission to publish on their own web site and/or preprint server (sometimes with additional minor restrictions, such as not posting the final article but only a preprint with link to the official version). In fact on checking again I find I have technically breached the conditions of one journal by not waiting for 12 months before putting the article on the web. In practice I've never heard of a journal complaining about such minor breaches at the individual level, although I would probably comply if they kicked up a fuss :-)

Note that the work of US Federal Govt employees is already in the public domain by default - I don't think that journals can prevent such authors from distributing the research as they see fit.

On reading more carefully, the Guardian headline is perhaps poorly-chosen. The RS is actually objecting to a proposal that all (UK) researchers be forced to make their work available on the web. On balance I still think they are wrong, but they probably have an arguable case. In any case I think the momentum in this direction is clear - it is only a matter of time.

William M. Connolley said...

The US position is interesting, and copyable. All we need is for all other govts (or in practice, a few of the major research producers: UK, Germany, Japan, France, Canada) to pass the same laws and the journals would have no choice but to accept. Since it works for the US, I can't see why it shouldn't work elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

John Fleck said -

Not that it matters much what I think, but I've been arguing for years to anyone who would listen that the earth science community needs to emulate the physics community's "arXiv" preprint server. It allows quick and relatively frictionless communication of results. It looks like a few climate-related publications are posted there, but not many. Having a central repository like that would be far more useful to folks like me than the current system, where individual researchers post their preprints and reprints on their own personal server.

Anonymous said...

I've been curious as to what folks think about the PLoS model (www.plos.org). Is this approach likely to penetrate to the climate field at some point?

James Annan said...


PLoS looks like just another open-access journal to me. There are already some in the climate field (the EGU runs a few, eg here and here), but they haven't made a huge impact yet.


I agree that greater use of arXiv would be a good idea, but in these days of omniscient search engines, anyone who searches on relevant topics will easily find personal web pages anyway. It's not as handy for general browsing of course, but from a researcher's web page, you can usually make a judgement as to whether the work is valid but perhaps not yet published, or just dross - arXiv doesn't seeem to make this distinction yet :-)


Yes I agree, and this does seem to be the way things are going. I'm sure it will eventually lead to a stotally different way of doing things which will be weaselly distinguished from the present situation.