[PET] PET Digest, Vol 49, Issue 8

Steven Murdoch Steven.Murdoch at cl.cam.ac.uk
Fri Jun 15 16:48:56 BST 2012

On 15 Jun 2012, at 15:47, Ben Laurie wrote:
> But you are the damn system. You decide which publications impress
> you. You speak of it as if it were physics. You have the power to
> change it, but instead you argue for the continuation of the status
> quo.

Academics are only part of the system, and I don't think are the most problematic part of the system. Junior researchers seeking jobs have to target their publications in such a way as to impress funders, not academics. Funders of research are mainly government funding councils, and they have been very successfully lobbied by publishers. The publishers and governments are a far more significant problem than academics, and aren't being addressed here.

One of the most problematic countries here is Australia. Here, Elsevier (a decidedly non-open-access publisher) chooses which publications which are indexed by Scopus, and only publications indexed by Scopus get included in the bibliometrics which rank academics. This introduces a clear conflict of interest, but it is the way the Australian (and other governments) have set things up. The UK ranking of academics uses Scopus too, although they get interpreted by a panel rather than going directly into a formula.

I am sure most of this list will agree that the situation is not good, but it is far from clear how best to deal with it. Reducing the distribution of non open access CFPs will mainly harm the people involved with those conferences. In most cases, these people have little or no influence on governments or funding councils. The people who run funding councils generally don't have any involvement in current conferences, and frequently have never had any involvement in academic research.

I think that lobbying the government to change the way they spend tax revenue is a good way forward. Certainly, I think a strong case can be made that publishers should not have any influence in how tax revenue is distributed to support research. Where professional bodies are publishers, I think it is good idea to lobby them to be more open access. I think it is a also good idea to lobby people who have influence over funding councils/governments, such as professional bodies and senior academics, to ask them to promote open access.

Causing problems for academics running minor non-open-access conferences could conceivably have influence on the above groups, but probably not very much. I'm not convinced this potential benefit justifies the harm it will cause.


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