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RE: Scientific Journals and The Great Paywall

in StemSociallast year (edited)

I would like to share the particle physics example on this topic (that is a very important one). I think my field has one of the best practice on that matter.

First, all particle physics preprints are on the arxiv. This is a general rule in the field, and this holds for at least 1.5 decade (it was already the case when I started my PhD years ago). The papers are then submitted to journals from the arxiv directly (the arxiv number is sometimes even mandatory for the submission to proceed). This guarantees that all texts are available for free, by anyone.

In addition, all our most important journals are open access thanks to the SCOAP3 initiative. To make it short, CERN in particular an other big institutions pay the journals a fee to make all particle physics article free and open. That's not ideal, but this is at least good for making science freely available to the general audience.

And finally, we have the scipost initiative, an online journal by physicists and for physicists, completely open, transparent and free. It is somehow the arxiv equiped with a publicly available referral system. Referee reports and associated replies are all public (which also changes things in the better way) .

I have personally not published that many papers in there yet, as some universities / institutions do not recognise scipost as a real journal (and this is problematic when younger ones are involved in a paper). However, things are slowly changing. I am hence now writing two papers, with young collaborators, that should end to be submitted to scipost within a month or two.

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That all sounds really good! Thinks are slowly tipping into a better direction, and that make me happy.

Now I'm interested in your opinion on something I've been thinking about recently. And that is a token which can be used within the whole journal publication ecosystem. Not sure if it would work at all, but imagine authors publishers editors and reviewers earn the token weighted differently based on their role and the IF of the respective journal. Readers who want to download a paper can use the token to pay for the paper. Each scientist receives a starting budget from whatever funds them. Using some block chain technology in the background can directly be used for citation tracking too.

Perhaps I'm thinking too simple, but somehow this sounded interesting to me :-)

What you propose already exists somehow. Elsevier provide free access to their catalogue to reviewers during a few months for each review you write under the form of a token, and JHEP, JCAP and JINST (3 journals of my field) pay a small referral fee (30 EUR per review).

Starting it from scratch would require scientists' endorsement, so that they are willing to write review and recognise the new journal as something relevant. I don't see how to achieve this easily (it is not even fully the case for scipost although this is a very serious project supported by institutions like CERN). I don't say that your idea is a bad one, but just that I don't see how to implement this in practice so that it works.

My only concern is that I would prefer to have something fully open access. For instance, I have stopped writing paper and reviews for non-open access journals. I refuse to endorse them. We live in the 21st century, an era of open access, open source, etc.

Finally, as a side note, citation tracking is probably unnecessary thanks to the arxiv. Please check what InspireHEP does for high energy physics.

The things you mention I also thought about as major problems for such a system. It would make the whole system potentially more democratic though.

Coincidentally, yesterday a came across this video addressing the issue in a sarcastic way:

It's academic, baby... I liked this video (that I didn't know). They point out the very good reason for which I will never submit anything to Nature.