back to article AI boffins rebel against closed-access academic journal that wants to have its cake and eat it

Thousands of machine-learning wizards have signed an open statement boycotting a new AI-focused academic journal, disapproving of the paper’s policy of closed-access. Nature Machine Intelligence is a specialized journal concentrating on intelligent systems and robotics research. It’s expected to launch in January next year, …

  1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge
  2. ThatOne Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Blood suckers

    There is no cake here, only pure greed. Scientists are bound to publish, it's publish or perish, which is the reason there are a lot of vultures (unfortunately not Register-like ones) circling over them, trying to make money from every aspect of scientific publishing, requiring money both to publish and to access the published articles. The big loser is the scientist, who usually isn't really rolling in gold.

    The best and only rational system would be a no-cost publishing service labs can access for free, being thus able to keep an eye on what is happening in their research domain. Unfortunately this doesn't create any profit, so it won't ever happen. On the contrary, the profiteers will keep tying down the market to make sure nobody can avoid paying them.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Blood suckers

      Unfortunately this doesn't create any profit, so it won't ever happen

      If only there were some public funded bodies that already employed the researchers who write, edit and review the papers?

      Perhaps these universities and learned societies could go back to publishing their own journals - like they used to before the publishers convinced them that running their own presses was too difficult

      1. frank ly

        Re: Blood suckers

        They could create a profit by placing carefully targeted advertising in the online jourmals. What could go wrong?

      2. ARGO

        Re: Blood suckers

        >Perhaps these universities and learned societies could go back to publishing their own journals

        Some of them still do. For example the Institute of Physics does all these: http://ioppublishing.org/publications/our-journals/

        But even the journals owned by Institutes have to charge, and in most cases are expected to make a profit to subsidise the parent Institute's wider activities.

    2. phuzz Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Blood suckers

      "The best and only rational system would be a no-cost publishing service labs can access for free, being thus able to keep an eye on what is happening in their research domain. Unfortunately this doesn't create any profit, so it won't ever happen."

      Nope, there's no chance of that ever happening. And by 'that' I mean people actually RTFA, not a free publishing service.

    3. gizmo17
      Pint

      Re: Blood suckers

      "The best and only rational system would be a no-cost publishing service labs can access for free, being thus able to keep an eye on what is happening in their research domain."

      Right you are, and here's one celebrating its 25th birthday:

      https://www.jair.org/index.php/jair

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's Like Burning Books

    The students with best minds are not always the wealthiest and the wealthiest students do not always have the best minds. When we commodify research we limit the potential of human advancement.

    1. LucreLout

      Re: It's Like Burning Books

      When we commodify research we limit the potential of human advancement.

      Quite. It's almost like Aaron Swartz didn't happen. Gone too soon: forgotten already.

      RIP Aaron - I might not have agreed with his methods, but I do agree with his aims.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's Like Burning Books

        Aaron Swartz? He's the gutless wonder who who killed himself because he might have gone to prison.

        Hardly Pankhurst or Ghandi.

        1. DuncanLarge Silver badge

          Re: It's Like Burning Books

          "He's the gutless wonder who who killed himself"

          Butthurt because you missed out on defeding the freedom that the net provides humanity from unjust people/orgs whatever?

          Go to a pharmacy and get some cream.

        2. LucreLout

          Re: It's Like Burning Books

          Aaron Swartz? He's the gutless wonder who who killed himself because he might have gone to prison.

          Hardly Pankhurst or Ghandi.

          I agree, he wasn't anything like either of those folks. Pankhurst orchestrated a bombing campaign - while I agree with her aims I cannot abide by her methods, however successfull they may have been. Ghandi wasn't above calling for enlistment to war, whatever his politics later developed into. Their great achievments will stand the test of time, but their actions prove that nobody is perfect.

          Swartz was someones son, and he was hounded into an early grave for what? A few more dollars for the journal publishers that had minimal input on the work published, whose fees bear little resemblence to the cost of that publishing. Swartz was attempting, quite illegally and I fully understand why some of those whose papers he published would rightly be upset, to make available academic research papers such that all might learn from them and thus progress could be democratized and sped up.

          As I said before, I don't agree with how he attempted to achieve his goal, but I do agree with his goal. And I certainly don't think being driven to his grave was a fair and reasonable punishment for his transgressions. I'm not suggesting his breaking the law should have gone unpunished, only that the punishment fit the crime - he made no personal gain from his endeavour, and he acted without malice - death, seems inappropriate punishment to me.

          I've not downvoted you, but would encourage you to see room for a view that breach of copyright is not an offence worthy of taking a life, whomever enacts the finale.

  4. YetAnotherJoeBlow Bronze badge

    Research

    I'll be the first to admit that without libgen, my whole career would have been a non-starter. Sincerely.

    Most of the world doesn't realise the harm that these companies do - and there are a few. They stifle new research unless it comes with a pedigree. I've seen it happen and I've seen the results.

    1. elDog

      Re: Research

      And even worse, they promote/demote/filter material that they don't want to appear.

      While Nature is an esteemed publication, one has to wonder how it got that way. Was it because they had well-known and peer-evaluated reviewers looking at articles, or was it because they slowly clamped down and monetized what the publishers thought were best.

      Whenever I see offshoots of well-known publications (The Times Review of Hip, or Nature - Homeopathy) then I start to think it is mainly about the money.

      1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

        Re: Research

        ...While Nature is an esteemed publication...

        While Nature WAS an esteemed publication..

        TFTFY...

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Re: Research

          While Nature WAS an esteemed publication..

          Bullshit. AFAIK Nature still is.

      2. Paul Kinsler Silver badge

        Re: [Nature] one has to wonder how it got that way.

        I think it was always well regarded; but now there's an additional unholy feedback loop constructed by the interaction of job/promotion specifications (e.g. "papers in Nature or other high impact journals") and the publication strategies of researchers who have results of significant interest (well, even academics need a job, right?).

        Since Nature is a commercial operation, you cannot really blame them for making the most of the situation. The real blame should be attributed to those who insist on simplistic measures of research success when making hiring/promotion decisions.

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Research

        "While Nature is an esteemed publication, one has to wonder how it got that way. Was it because they had well-known and peer-evaluated reviewers looking at articles, or was it because they slowly clamped down and monetized what the publishers thought were best."

        It got that way by being very early into scientific publishing. If you couldn't get into Proc. Roy. Soc. you wanted to get into Nature although in my field New Phytol. or Proc. Roy. Ir. Acad. were pretty good.

        However I do recall being told that just before I started out as a researcher that a journalist on Nature rung up my boss and my predecessor to check a report he'd written about someone else's paper and it was so bad that they more or less rewrote it for him over the phone.

        It wasn't just refereeing that got farmed out, it was also proof-reading. Hot metal printing meant both galley and page proofs. For an author it was a chance to change your mind providing it wasn't a big change and fitted into exactly the same space as the text you'd changed. It was intended, however as means of picking up typos which really required a new set of eyes so the authors needed to rope in another academic colleague to assist in that.

  5. A-nonCoward
    Childcatcher

    weaklings, all and one, I say!

    Hey, universities are funded by taxes and by making little kids get in debt for life. That's the way it has to be. Then, research is taken over by companies, as good Cthulhu made it be. Pharma, better seeds, chemistry.

    Why should AI guys be free from the long reaching arm of greed? how unAmerican of them! Shame!

  6. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Does Nature Publisinh Group (actually Springer?)....

    ... really need to edit another AI-specialized journal?

    It's not as if quite a few good publications by ACM, IEEE and others already exist.

    Here is a list of some interest, you can also select those that are open-access.

    The debate on Open Access Publishing is not new and has been going on for more than a decade btw. Here is a blogpost from the physics community on this.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Does Nature Publisinh Group (actually Springer?)....

      To survive yes. If they dont prevent AI from coming up with far better replacement that has no interest in profit, only science, then they have to control it.

    2. gizmo17

      Re: Does Nature Publishing Group (actually Springer?)....

      "The debate on Open Access Publishing is not new and has been going on for more than a decade btw."

      A good deal longer than that, actually. JAIR will very shortly be celebrating its 25th anniversary issue. Perhaps not entirely coincidentally, it serves much the same community as this new offering appears to be targeting.

  7. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    The present commercial academic publishing model is surely one whose time has gone.

    It's perfectly possible for an academic society to do all the editorial work needed. I was on the committee of one which did this. As our membership included all the staff of the local University department and the public sector body in the field there was no problem of recruiting well qualified people to do that. We did, however, have to carry the cost of typesetting and printing so although we sold copies to libraries etc. - at nothing like the current subscriptions - it was our major cost of running the society.

    Now the typesetting and printing costs have gone the equivalent would be hosting costs and it would certainly be cheaper for libraries to get together and share those than continue to pour huge sums into the coffers of Elsevier.

  8. Chris G Silver badge
    Trollface

    FB

    Host your publishing groups on FaceBook, it's free.

    What could possibly go wrong?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: FB

      Stop putting Zucker into the wound.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    academic respectability

    Elsevier sells a rag dedicated to alternative freak medicine - electromagnetic hypersensitivity, multiple chemical sensitivity, homeopathy, psychic fields, etc. All "rigorously peer reviewed" by fellow fruitloops. Yeah, academic respectability is just too important for AI to fall in with these ****s.

  10. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    The Devil you Know is in the Vulture Detailing

    Do you realise there is leading cutting edge AI research shared freely here on El Reg, with some searching programs live running betatests/0day vulnerability exploits/project penetrations tests on both brand spanking new and prior analogous established legacy systems of administration/mass elite exclusive executive remote command and virtual control with media complicit with their reporting, or non reporting of developments in key powerful energy fields. ‽

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I got an idea...

    If someone just could program an AI to do the peer review the problem would be fixed. Hmmm... who do we call...

    Anonymous so the enforcers from Elsevier et. al. can't get to me...

  12. DCFusor
    Mushroom

    No fan of big science publishers

    Who held back my initial work in beam collision nuclear fusion - by wanting nearly $60,000 for a subscription that would allow access to back issues of Rev Sci Ins - for one year. As "just a guy" who does science on his own dime (this is a field where that's do-able) - no way.

    Luckily, I had a "Baker street dozen" to download the papers I needed from their Uni libraries and send me copies. Of course, not as good as being able to search and pick myself, but not all college kids are dumb.

    A book I wrote long ago about Digital Audio Processing has been sold and resold without any discussion with me and is now owned by Elsevier. Don't buy it! (it's both out of date and overpriced, though it helped all the DAW people get their businesses going) All of the publishers who have owned it have lied about sales (one claimed negative numbers!) - yet they keep selling it on to the next guy, never a book club (the contract says they have to give me money in that case), and are still selling this thing WAY overpriced...and I know as it contains code with my email address they forgot to sanitize like the rest, and I still get mails a decade later - so I know roughly about how much they lie about sales.

    They may have helped disseminate information at one time. That time is long past. May they all fall in a pit and die in a fire.

  13. packrat

    almost free

    wanna buy some AI cartoons?

    make AI sexy : https://plus.google.com/u/0/b/100378461107020829233/photos/photo/100378461107020829233/6549483669147519170

    and no, i don't get paid for GUNLAKE news... (title of scene)

  14. Dr Paul Taylor

    refereeing and typesetting

    Thank you for the first journalistic article I have seen on this topic that says it honestly as it is: researchers do all the work in producing journals, publishers do nothing. Researchers always did the (research and authorship, obviously, and) refereeing, but for the last 30 years (thanks to LaTeX) they have done the typesetting too. In fact Springer mangled the typesetting of the last paper of mine that they published, despite repeated assurances from the editor of the volume that they wouldn't touch it.

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