PLoS Has Angered the PastramiMachine!!!!

March 15, 2016

@pastramimachine is WICKED PISSED!

from the page charges (aka OA fee or whatever you want to call it. $2250 at PLoS Genetics according to this guy, I think it is still around $1350 for non GlamourHounds.)

So what has him so angree?

Dude, do you have the slightest idea what people make in the private sector? At the executive level? Of a company with $40-50 Million in gross revenue?

The median total compensation package for CEOs totaled $378,000.

The report says that companies with $25-49.9M in annual revenue are at the median for CEO pay.

I understand that academics don’t get paid as well as they might be but….surely you have SOME idea of what private sector jobs pay? And say, what do University Presidents pull down, anyway?

So what? Is there any business that fails to advertise itself? In the hopes of growing in size or at least maintaining current revenues? Where’s the evidence this is excessive? Have you any idea what PLoS is up against in terms of the advertising budgets of NPG, Springer, Elsevier, etc?

This is ridiculous. It’s like asking your home builder why he doesn’t have a lumbering operation and saw mill out in Oregon or up in Saskatchewan or wheretfever the 2X4s come from. This Aries Systems Corp is the outfit that built the EditorialManager system used by several academic publishers. It’s a service provider. Why would the publisher of a journal re-invent the wheel?

Lobbying activities to keep Elsevier from playing penny-ante shenanigans with Congress to totally obliterate the requirement to deposit manuscripts in Pub Med Central, perhaps? Or related efforts? Sure, PLoS lobbying activities may be mostly for them but it seems that having a wealthy organization opposing the pay journals works out well for the OA fans. How can you complain about this, guy?

Maybe I missed something? When did PLoS say they weren’t a company? And heck, many not-for-profit entities have investment portfolios. Starting with your local University (say, Rutgers, for example). What do you think the “endowment” is? This is no crime. This is responsible stewardship of a business entity. Building up a cushion against future changes in the business climate. Smart work, PLoS! Somehow I don’t think PastramiMachine would be too happy if PLoS went belly-up and all of the published papers disappeared because there was nothing to pay the server fees with!

This guy is delusional, mostly because of his stated belief that PLoS is some sort of capital-gee GoodGuy. That’s on you, dude, not on PLoS.


More from Odyssey who picked out some replies from Michael Eisen.

81 Responses to “PLoS Has Angered the PastramiMachine!!!!”

  1. Laffer Says:

    PLoS is also investing in improving its reviewing pipeline with a side goal of maybe licensing it to other journal operations. That may also bring in more revenue, God forbid.


  2. His objection appears to be based simply on the fee vs. the profit – claiming that academics are being not only fleeced out of grant money by the usual suspects, but ALSO BY THEIR OWN!!!! I think there’s this false assumption that PLoS should be run *literally* non-profit, which makes no sense.


  3. Jonathan Badger Says:

    I don’t see why it can’t be considered a capital-gee GoodGuy despite all this. Non-profits (OA publishers, charities, soft-money research institutes) still require revenue and still need to pay the actual employees. They don’t run 100% on volunteers. Of course, you can argue that any given non-profit could be more efficient, pay their employees less, charge less for page charges, etc., but the proof is in the pudding — the critic needs to run a competing non-profit and show it can be done.


  4. drugmonkey Says:

    Paying top level executive employees market wages and building a sensible endowment for the future is hardly making a profit. Lots of charities, non-profits and not-for-profit entities do these things.

    Are the PLoS owners or shareholders getting profit payouts/dividends?


  5. drugmonkey Says:

    Non-profits (OA publishers, charities, soft-money research institutes) still require revenue and still need to pay the actual employees. They don’t run 100% on volunteers.

    right? I just don’t see what this guy is on about.

    you can argue that any given non-profit could be more efficient

    Agreed. But this guy isn’t ranting about the efficiency. He’s amped about the idea that these things exist at all.


  6. Newbie PI Says:

    Ever since PLoS was introduced I thought it was a government-run nonprofit journal group. Something along the lines of how Pubmed came into being. So the fact that they make pretty major profits while charging their high publication fees, is surprising to me too. Clearly I’m not savvy as to the business practices of journals, but I don’t think most scientists are. I think we’ve been mislead by PLoS. So I gotta say I’m with pastrami guy on this one.


  7. odyssey Says:

    Newbie PI:
    Misled in what way? PLoS certainly never claimed to be government run. And the fees they charge? Apparently what the market will bear.


  8. The Other Dave Says:

    We biomedical scientists have, through our own apathy and laziness (reliance on JIFs, H-indices, etc), almost completely handed over control of our profession to companies. Pastrami was clinging to a bit of delusional hope that success in science was fair and meritorious. Now his false reality is crashing down. Have pity on him.


  9. Dave Says:

    Do not care about any of this. If they make money, good for them.

    The quality of papers is my concern. I have seen some truly dreadful papers in my field in there recently. It is living up to its name as a dump journal. The bigger problem is PLoS One was supposed to change everything in publishing. It was supposed to tempt us away from glam hunting. Instead it just seems to make public a lot of science that shouldn’t see the light of day IMO.


  10. The Other Dave Says:

    Dave makes a great point (and it’s not just because I like his name).

    There’s a lot of crap that’s published. If we all quit counting pubs, and instead focused on the quality of the pubs, then I think the world would be a lot better.


  11. drugmonkey Says:

    maybe these papers were already being made public, but in journals that never came to your attention?


  12. Dave Says:

    Possibly. But honestly I see this as a major issue for PLoS overall that will eventually hurt all the PLoS journals, including the more glam version (PLoS Genetic etc).

    If OA succeeds, it will only be because CNS decides to do it after they find other sources of revenue. Not because of PLoS.


  13. JustAGrad Says:

    My only concern about the finances of PLOS is if these key personnel actually deserve the high salaries. But that’s an argument about whether executives deserve the median pay that DM points out that they get. I can’t fault PLOS for paying the market rate, even if I think the overall market rate should be decreased.


  14. dr24 Says:

    I didn’t take PastramiMachine’s tone as very angry. I took it as surprised.


  15. Someguy Says:

    Maybe it’s my ignorance as a lowly postdoc, but I don’t see why pastrami is complaining about executive pay running a large publishing operation when there are PIs in his department making close to $400k and he himself makes $100k. Really, it just seems that this whole episode reveals how little so many scientists know about how to run a business or non-profit.


  16. E rook Says:

    When I published in PLOSOne as a postdoc, my institution didn’t pay the bill for over a year. No collections, no interest. Just one day my fund manager asked me about an invoice with some like 270 days past due or whatever. Senior author at the time had left the institution, and the several projects it was for had ended, and the Dept wanted to charge my shiny new R03 for it and I was like, “oh hells no.” I think it came out of a no cost extension for an ended project that a deadwood graybeard was using for salary.

    So the moral of the story is that you can go in debt for up to a year interest-free for $1350, and then pay PLOS, by the time the year is up, that $1350 will be less valuable, owing to inflation (and their new rate will prob be $1375) — so it’s a way to save 1-2% in purchasing power if your strapped for cash.

    I am not surprised at all by any one of those tweets. In fact, I’d be surprised if any of those things were NOT true. Regarding non profits having investments and securities as a criticism — that is so naive, I don’t know if it’s darling or pathetic. The rate of return on capital always exceeds the rate of growth for a given economy, so a non-profit entity is required (if it is to survive) to hold capital. A nation that wants non-profits to perform functions for the society would want them to hold capital (whose returns exceed growth) rather than relying on donations or service fees, which can only stay in equilibrium at the growth rate. A non-profit that doesn’t hold capital investments is probably just an advertiser with a bank account to pay for advertising. Jesus, people, pick up a book.


  17. zb Says:

    It’s perfectly reasonable to complain about how tax-exempt organizations (universities, churches, publishers, . . . .) spend the money they collect. One is free to advocate that a university should spend less money compensating it’s president and lower tuition costs, or provide more classes, or pay their professors more, or that PLoS should spend less money on executive compensation and reduce publishing fees or provide more publication fee assistance.


  18. E rook Says:

    But those folks pay income taxes on their salaries, zb.


  19. E rook Says:

    Also non profits pay taxes for things they purchase, and the people they contract to pay income taxes, they pay rent for their space — I think the rules on property taxes vary, but I think they pay those, if they own real estate. Non-profits aren’t as tax exempt as you think, it’s just donations to them are, and getting services from them may or may not be sales tax free — by definition, they don’t pay a corporate income tax because they don’t make a profit.

    You only have a say how a non profit spends its money if you donate enough to it (i.e.: sit on its board).


  20. Ola Says:

    I haz 2 beefs with teh Plos

    1. Because they got there first and said $1350, everyone and their brother thinks this is what the market will bear, so literally every OA journals charges in this range. Except for PubPeer who have a slightly more sensible pricing model, given, you know, it’s on the fucking Internet and not in print! Thanks for picking a number out of your arse and saddling us all with the lava you of your choice!

    2. FFS the quality of peer review is just shite. Even ignoring the creation hand job paper thing from last week, just a quick look on PubPeer shows thousands of ploS papers with things that should not have escaped review by Helen fucking Keller. Of course when your editorial board has 8000 people, how the feck are you supposed to maintain any sort of quality control?

    So yeah, the product is shittily policed and overpriced, but otherwise they are a great business. Maybe they should adopt “make publishing great again” as their next slogan. I hear that Herr Trumpler is gonna cut the NIH budget by doing a great deal with the universities, so we’re all fucked anyway, including the businesses wot leech of of our science.

    Srsly PLoS, step it up a fuckin notch! It’s not 1997 any more.


  21. banditokat Says:

    So you do remember Twitter? Just checking.


  22. banditokat Says:

    What is it with PIs named Kern?


  23. Grumble Says:

    “FFS the quality of peer review is just shite”

    After receiving some laughably absurd reviews, I avoid PLoS One like the plague. There are plenty of other dump journals.


  24. Newbie PI Says:

    PUBLIC library of science just implies some amount of beneficence that doesn’t align with the reality of a for-profit company. I think that’s all Kern is saying, and I agree. On the other hand, I don’t really care that much, and it won’t stop me from submitting to those journals if they’re appropriate for my work.


  25. poke Says:

    “PUBLIC library of science”

    You don’t think this refers to the fact that the public has access to every article published in any of their journals?


  26. Dave Says:

    Of course when your editorial board has 8000 people, how the feck are you supposed to maintain any sort of quality control?

    Right. But there are some very good OA journals and that manage to maintain high standards. It’s worth noting here actually that some of these journals have fees much higher than PLoS One but provide full editorial services and some even have a print edition as well. I don’t think all OA journals operate for profit; some just want to cover their costs.

    PLoS One seems to be the cheapest OA journal around.


  27. chemstructbio Says:

    Can you list the OA “sound science, potentially negligable impact” journals that maintain high standards? (serious question, not sarcastic)


  28. drugmonkey Says:

    All the journals I’ve published in recently have the option to make the article OA for a small* fee. So, nearly all of them, I’d say, chemstructbio.


  29. chemstructbio Says:

    I guess I was thinking about “OA-only” journals, such as PLos One, Scientific Reports, etc.—ones that claim they will not reject manuscripts based on fit or impact to field.


  30. Newbie(ish) Says:

    I agree totally that it’d be great to focus on *quality* of paper instead of impact factor of the journal. But hasn’t anyone noticed – this is a problem of how science hsa gotten bigger (peer review quantity) and interdisciplinary (peer review quality). There is too much to review and not enough time to review it.

    When my grant reviewers look at my publication record, they sure as heck aren’t going to actually read the papers. If they’re not already familiar with my work, they’re going to base their judgment on IF of the journal. For those of us doing highly interdisciplinary work (my field is simply ‘uge), how exactly do you suggest getting people to evaluate the work instead of the IF? What’s the alternative for us in the junior field other than desperately shooting for IF?

    I’m being serious. I think grant/CV/biosketch peer review is the root of the problem.


  31. drugmonkey Says:

    chemstructbio – you are confounding Open Access with the antiGlam protestations of PLoS One. Note the other PLoS titles discriminate on predicted impact/importance.


  32. chemstructbio Says:

    OK, that be true. Back to my hole…


  33. chemstructbio Says:

    A related question (to my original line of thinking): does anyone think that PLoS One-like journals from glam entities (e.g., Scientific Reports) will actually produce better “sound science”?

    Or is it that PLoS One has gotten so incredibly huge that bad science publications‚ which one could argue are present in small numbers in most journals, are now very noticeable merely due to the large number of publications published in PLoS One vs. other journals?


  34. WH Says:

    I’ve published exactly one article in PLoS ONE, but I thought the review was fine, and the reviews of good quality. It might’ve also helped that the AE is a pretty well respected person in my sub-subfield. Not getting proofs was annoying.

    chemstructbio, wikipedia says that PLoS ONE put out just over 30k articles in 2014, and in 2011 that the journal was responsible for 1 in 60 articles indexed in PubMed. When you publish that much, there are bound to be some pretty crappy ones. Even Nature publishes a STAP-like paper every now and then, right?


  35. Dave Says:

    Scientific Reports is looking like trash and has the same remit as PLoS One (i.e. no consideration of impact/importance/relevance). The papers I’m seeing and reviewing for this journal are not great. Nature Communications is a different story, but then Nature went all in and put its name on it.


  36. MorganPhD Says:

    Everyone realizes that you can just NOT read PLoS One or any other journal you think has sub-standard papers. Rigorous, quality science is published everywhere. Shitty, derivative science is published everywhere.

    A close friend of mine (a VERY successful BSD-type PI) has specifically said that journals like the Journal of Cell Biology, Genetics, and Molecular and Cellular Biology (3 quality society-level journals) aren’t worth READING, let alone publishing your work in. In PI-mind, data does not exist until it’s published in SCN journals, and you can ignore/not cite any data published in those journals since they are sub-standard.

    Unfortunately, I know too many people who have this mindset (“PLoS One and Scientific Reports are trash..”) Assessing data quality by journal name is horrific and damaging to our field.

    It’s like being mad that McDonald’s exists in a world with fine dining. Yeah, the menu at McDonald’s is unrefined, sometimes sloppy, and isn’t what most people would consider quality. But you know what, Big Macs can be delicious.


  37. drugmonkey Says:

    What cracks me up about people sneering about PLoS ONE is that it is the size and breadth of a *publisher*. It isn’t one journal, it is scores of journals. Compare it to the entire lower-down *catalog* of Elsevier, not one dump journal in your own field.


  38. Grumble Says:

    “A close friend of mine (a VERY successful BSD-type PI) has specifically said that journals like the Journal of Cell Biology, Genetics, and Molecular and Cellular Biology (3 quality society-level journals) aren’t worth READING, let alone publishing your work in.”

    My PI when I was a grad student said the same thing (hey, maybe it was the same person). It took me years to understand how harmful that bias is and to work it out of my thinking.

    My harsh view of PLoS One has nothing to do with scorn for dump journals – I love some dump journals to pieces. (“Dump” to me just means the journal publishes run-of-the-mill, not-too-exciting-but-needs-to-be-done kind of stuff – what PLoS One was envisioned to handle.) It has to do with management. They accept anyone as an editor, and it shows in the review quality. That’s not true for the equivalent Elsevier journals in my field.


  39. drugmonkey Says:

    I would suggest the problem is less “accepting anyone as editor” as it is the matching of papers to editors with the right interest/expertise.


  40. Dave Says:

    What cracks me up about people sneering about PLoS ONE is that it is the size and breadth of a *publisher*


    The problem is that perhaps journals DO need to evaluate papers based on importance or whatever, OA or not. There has to be some filter for just plain shite, unimportant nonsense etc. The financial aspect comes in to play here though because more papers = more revenue.


  41. drugmonkey Says:

    You are not thinking rationally Dave. Take an upper-mid journal published by Elsevier. Then take the five crappiest ones also published by Elsevier in related fields of study. Or from highly dissimilar and unrelated fields of study where you are even more likely to be dismissive about “crap”.

    Do you then say, “That upper-mid journal SUCKS maaang, look at all that shite Elsevier publishes in those crappy journals”?

    Of course not.

    This is, however, what a lot of people are doing when they crap on PLoS One.


  42. The Other Dave Says:

    DM: There’s no question that Nature and Elsevier have seen the benefits of becoming, at least in part, vanity publishers. Why not? It’s revenue they were leaving to others. As long as their crap titles don’t make people think less of their flagship journals, they come out ahead financially. They’re companies. They like that.

    The problem with PLoS is that it didn’t have any flagship journals in the first place. It went straight for the vanity publishing market. And it got the expected reputation as a publisher. It doesn’t matter because they make up in volume what they lose in quality. They’re the Walmart of scientific publishing. I like Walmart. but it’s Walmart, you know.

    Of course there are plenty of exceptions to the reputation — good stuff in PLoS and bad stuff in Nature. I’ve published in both places, and I think our work for both has been equally high quality and important. The only difference was that one paper got scooped and the postdoc had left the lab. So there was no market for the work any longer among the fancy journals, and no easy way to elevate it into the truly novel range again.

    My main point from earlier remains: We can no longer trust the publishing world to filter out the crap any more. There are too many vanity publishers. Just because something is published doesn’t mean it’s any good. We’re forced to rely increasingly on the perceived quality of the journal (which can be manipulated by the in-crowd; witness eLife), or our own careful scrutiny of the paper itself. Which is hard work.

    I used to be a big fan of PLoS and OA publishing. I thought it would be a good thing when authors had more options for sharing information, and we all had easy access to all that information. But now… not so much. I want editors to EDIT again.


  43. MorganPhD Says:

    To be fair, editors at top journals are more like “curators” and have radically different jobs than editors at smaller (or PLoS One-like) journals.


  44. The Other Dave Says:

    Morgan: That thing you say that editors at top journals do? That’s what editors are supposed to do. That’s what editors at every other magazine do. That’s what editing means. Editors are supposed to make decisions about what is and is not appropriate for publication. And if something is appropriate for publication, editors are supposed to improve the article by making suggestions/corrections (using expert consultation if necessary, which it often is in science). In short: The job of an editor is to make the publication and everything in it better.

    The ‘editing’ at the crappy journals is not editing. That’s just secretarial work. Publishing anything for a fee? That’s the definition of vanity publishing.

    This is not just my opinion. That’s what these words mean. I don’t know why scientists think the scientific publishing world is (or should be) any different.


  45. drugmonkey Says:

    no, TOD, you just made up “vanity publishing” and keep bleating it over and over like it has meaning.


  46. The Other Dave Says:

    WTF, DM? Try googling it.


  47. Eli Rabett Says:

    If you pay page charges you are publishing in the vanity press


  48. MorganPhD Says:

    Well, isn’t the fact that editors/curators select particular papers/topics they consider more inherently “interesting” or “hot” the exact reason why journals like PLoS One were even created? It shifts and changes the type of science that is performed by scientists to fit a restrictive definition of “appropriate”. Of course, any “magazine” and publisher can do that as is their prerogative. But that doesn’t mean it’s objectively a good or right way to do things.

    Other Dave, is there a really good peer-reviewed dictionary I can use to look up these words? Maybe one edited by Noam Chomsky or some other famous linguist. I wouldn’t want to use my own brain to decide if Wikipedia is a good source.


  49. drugmonkey Says:

    No, TOD. Try defining it and showing how the way you are using it is meaningful and useful as opposed to some truthy sounding ad hominem attack on…something. Should be easy enough….


  50. The Other Dave Says:

    Dude. I am using the terms in their conventional sense. Seriously, just type ‘Vanity publishing’ into Google. Do you always assume that some term you might not have heard doesn’t exist? And how have you not heard this term before anyway?


  51. drugmonkey Says:

    So you are saying you cannot define it in a way that doesn’t agree with my critique. Gotcha.


  52. qaz Says:

    Eli- Are there ANY journals left that do not have page or publication charges?


  53. jmz4 Says:

    @TOD yoy mean that, because OA gives publishers financial motivation to publish (vanity publishing) it erodes quality control on the part of the journals.
    That’s probably true, but what DM is saying is that this motivation always existed, because some big publishers (like Elsevier) would have crap journals that would publish anything, which they could then add to their catalog to justify more in library fees. At least with OA, the ones paying for crap being published are the ones producing said crap.


  54. rs Says:

    I am waiting when they will start paying to reviewers for their otherwise free service to these profit making machines. If I want to do a good job reviewing a paper, it takes many hours of my time and it is all done in the name of serving community but actually help publishing houses make bigger profit margins.


  55. MorganPhD Says:

    It seems that there are people here that think Cell, Science, and Nature (and the ilk) are more intellectually pure and good because you pay LESS to publish there than PLoS.

    When were Nature or Cell or Science NOT vanity publishers, when we define it as “you have to pay to publish”?


  56. Pippso Says:

    @MorganPhD: actually in some of these glam pubs you end up paying way more than $1350 if you have color figures and such, WAY more. Like 2x + more. So yeah not really. Or was I the only person paying this much ever?


  57. The Other Dave Says:

    Hey everyone. Take a break and Talk to your colleagues outside biomedical science. Publishing charges are NOT common for other fields.

    Also… Am I the only one who remembers when journals paid for review articles? And writing book chapters or editing books could pay for a nice week’s vacation? C’mon… I am not THAT old.


  58. Jonathan Badger Says:

    It isn’t *just* biomedical science. I’m gone to the biomedical dark side now, but I started in environmental microbiology of soil and oceans, and charges were quite common there (especially for color figures, which were seen as a luxury). It’s true that page charges in computer science (where I did my postdoc) are rare, but that’s because CS is a pre-print/conference proceedings culture rather than a journal-based one.


  59. drugmonkey Says:

    It has been entirely possible to publish for decades without paying a single page charge in my fields of closest interest. Elsevier, Springer, Wiley…..they all have these types of journals.


  60. The Other Dave Says:

    Yea, I remember paying for color. But for the most part it seemed that publishing only cost money if you wanted to buy reprints.


  61. drugmonkey Says:

    Or want to Glam it up……vanity!


  62. drugmonkey Says:

    Huff po is notorious for not paying its content providers (“bloggers”). If one publishes work there, one is paying (via uncompensated labor) to publish there. Presumably to satisfy ones vanity over getting something “published” by the high profile Huffington Post.

    How is this any different for journal article publication? Unless you are being paid a fee for publishing in that journal, you are vanity publishing.


  63. MorganPhD Says:

    (Humble brag) Our latest Nature manuscript cost $4100 (5 color figures, plus article processing charge), or significantly more than PLoS journals. And let’s say this: there was significantly more vanity (the traditional definition) involved in submitting to Nature than an alternative journal.


  64. qaz Says:

    Both JNeurosci and JNeurophys have page charges. Cerebral Cortex is as expensive as PLoS. There are scattered journals that don’t, but they are rare and far between and have very low impact (whether measured by weakly correlated signals like impact factor or directly by how many people I know in my field who find my papers there or who are willing not to cite the papers they do find there).

    Is it vanity to want to keep your lab?


  65. The Other Dave Says:

    As for the definition of vanity press, it looks like at least some of you have finally googled it. Thank you for putting in the effort.

    More importantly… You guys are now hitting on exactly what I think are some of the real problems. Our scientific productivity is increasingly measured by publications. This makes us need publications. This creates a market for people who want their work published. Publishers recognize this need, and are happy to cash in on it. This includes charging for services that the market was previously unwilling to pay for. And now we are at the point where we all consider it perfectly reasonable to pay to have our work published.

    This is crazy. First off, it imposes an added cost to doing science. Research money is diverted to publishers instead of being used in the lab. Second, it imposes an economic barrier, which disadvantages some researchers. Lots of you are liberals (so am I). Are “publishing taxes” very different from “poll taxes”? If you don’t like one that why is the other acceptable? Third, the fact that anyone can “buy” a publication undercuts some of the scientific value of a publication. The community is struggling with this now. All our debates about which journals are good, and citation indices, etc. All those are trying to cope with the fact that a publication isn’t necessarily a publication. (And we’re still too lazy to actually read anyone’s work 😦 Fourth, the proliferation of publications has, I think, made it *harder* to find information. A needle is still a needle. But now every needle is buried in a haystack. I think it would be good to maybe go back to a system where we published less. Maybe we could stick the methods papers and negative results in an archive or on our website (It’s not like some crappy publishers really check or improve the information anyway). Unfortunately there is now a huge and growing publishing industry supported by the desperation of biomedical scientists. They’re not going to let us escape them easily.


  66. drugmonkey Says:

    There are scattered journals that don’t, but they are rare and far between and have very low impact (whether measured by weakly correlated signals like impact factor

    In my view they are not scattered or rare but in fact very common.

    JNeuro JIF is 6.3, JNeurophys JIF is 2.9 so yeah, that assertion is also bullshit. I’m talking multiple journals both within and higher than this JIF standard.

    Is it vanity to want to keep your lab?

    Up to this point in time I have been able to keep my lab afloat without paying too many page charges. Maybe 3-5 articles ever, not counting OA fees. So it may be vanity that makes me want to keep my lab but this is not indexed via me paying fees to journals to publish my papers (for the most part).


  67. Dave Says:

    Ok, let’s keep it in perspective here. It’s not as if one simply pays a page fee and gets a paper in that journal. Page fees exist at highly selective journals, so I find it hard to swallow that this is vanity publishing per se.


  68. drugmonkey Says:

    Laughable. This is what you call circular logic, Dave. TOD started in on PLoS (“went straight for the vanity publishing market”) and then refused to say how this ad hominem truthy attack was supposed to uniquely apply to PLoS (ONE, we might assume?)? And sent us to the Googles for a definition. Whereupon we find that the definition is quite simply paying for your work to be published.

    Now you wish to bring up selectivity, as if that helps. It’s a no-duh response because the point of PLoS ONE is to be nonselective, particularly along the axis on which Glams are selective. But it does reject manuscripts. It is by that fact a selective publisher.

    So we are left with “vanity publishing” being a simple restatement of the degree “selectivity”. Which is nonsense in this use because as I’ve posted on once or twice before, you have to compare the selectivity of PLoS ONE with that of submitting one paper to many, if not dozens, of traditional paywalled journals and asking what the aggregate acceptance rate is (nearing 100% ime).

    Is that what “vanity publishing” amounts to? Anyplace that isn’t “highly selective” based on…?


  69. The Other Dave Says:

    Dave: Someone has to pay, right? If the information in the journal is valuable, then it makes sense for the reader to pay. If the space in the journal is valuable, then it makes sense for the author to pay.

    We are seeing more and more authors pay. Whatever you want to call that, I think it reflects the fact that space in the journals is increasingly more valuable than the information in the journals.


  70. The Other Dave Says:

    DM: I wasn’t trying to imply that PLoS was doing anything unique. As others have mentioned, most biology journals now make the authors pay. I simply used PLoS as an example of a prominent example of that business model. They pitched it as enabling Open Access. But whatever the justification, it’s the same result. I don’t think there’s a good correlation between charges and selectivity. As others have said: The publishers will gouge us for whatever they can get. What’s amazing is that we tolerate it. But we tolerate it because we have helped create, and now support, a world where we judge each other not by careful evaluation of each other’s science, but rather the number of lines on each other’s CV.


  71. drugmonkey Says:

    TOD- it’s like Facebook. If you aren’t paying for a service, * you* are the * product*.


  72. qaz Says:

    TOD – Why does someone have to pay?

    Every university or other research institution has a web-server. If we all put our “papers” up on blogs, they would be freely available and cost to the community would be vanishingly small.

    What is the increase in value that the money is going for? (I suspect that its about recognition which is a lot closer to vanity publication than we’d like to admit. The prediction is that for each person there will be a balance between which the value of having a paper published in journal X is worth the cost. Is it worth $5000 for a Nature Communications paper?)

    The real problem is that publishers have both a monopoly and a monopsony (*) and thus have control of the market costs.

    * Technically there are a few so it is really an oligopoly and oligopsony. But the fact that there is little competition which leaves them in control of the market.


  73. qaz Says:

    DM – we used to be the product. TOD is right about the implications of the switch from the reader-pays to author-pays model. In the reader-pays model, the implication was that the publication contained information that you needed, so you paid to read it. In the author-pays model, the implication is that the existence of the publication is something the author needs, so you pay to write it.

    I think that’s a very insightful point about the problem with science today. We judge people based on metrics of their publications. Thus having publications is primarily useful to authors. It also explains why people don’t read the literature as much as they used to.

    IMHO, that’s really backwards.


  74. drugmonkey Says:

    Yeah qaz…….damn. Almost a Matrix moment here.


  75. jmz4 Says:

    I imagine the trainee treadmill also adds to the pressure to publish incessantly. If you replaced your trainees with staff who didn’t need to publish a first author every other year, would you maybe pool some of those stories into more complete stories?
    There are smarter ways to aggregate and curate papers and findings than through pubmed text searches(eg textpresso). Even the search options on Scholar and Pubmed can filter through a lot of the bullshitte. But most people I know don’t use them. Like you, I’m worried about info overload, but I don’t think we’re there yet. Probably field specific, though.


  76. The Other Dave Says:

    Those are good ideas, jmz4. But to hire staff I need grants, and to get grants I need publications, lots of publications. My lab isn’t that big that I have time to build a CNS paper every time. So sometimes we just have to put out lesser stuff to keep up the appearance of steady productivity. Definitely I would like to publish fewer papers that are higher quality. But I can’t figure out how very easily. Also, students and (to a lesser extent but still) postdocs are subsidized workers. I get more out of them for less money than I do staff. So the system doesn’t help me there either.


  77. qaz Says:

    TOD – Publishing bullsh*t papers for the sake of keeping up productivity is not the same as publishing small results that are not “big enough” for Glam. (*)

    In fact, the reason the scientific paper was invented was to reduce the “complete story” stuff which used to plague science in the 16th century. Because scientists could only publish monographs, it would take a decade to get enough to publish the full monograph, and people would put out codes and anagrams so they could claim priority if scooped. The purpose of the scientific journal was to publish partial stories so that other scientists could build off of your work. The complete-story/monster-paper/breakthrough-that-closes-a-field stuff that GlamourMags want is going back to the problems of the scientific monograph. Publishing small scientific papers regularly is what you are *supposed* to do. (Except that it’s hard to get funding based on that…)

    * PS: Why do we list C in CNS? Cell is a within-field journal not remotely equivalent to the readership of Nature or Science. I mean, if we’re just going by impact factor, it out to be all Lancet and NEJM and JAMA, which have impact factors larger than N and S.


  78. qaz Says:

    Sorry: “it ought to be all Lancet and NEJM and JAMA”


  79. The Other Dave Says:

    I don’t think there’s any agreement on what we’re ‘supposed’ to publish qaz. All I know is that I’d rather read more complete story monographs than scientific tweets.


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