Posts Tagged ‘publishing’

Scholarly Publishing Symposium at UW-Madison

30 Oct 2014

At the Scholarly Publishing Symposium at UW-Madison today. Has interesting list of supplemental materials, but apparently only on paper:

Supplemental materials from UW-Madison Scholarly Publishing Symposium

So here they are electronically.

If I could do it over again, I’d self-publish

12 Aug 2014

In 2009, Śaunak Sen and I wrote a book about QTL mapping and the R/qtl software. We started working on it in the fall of 2006, and it was a heck of a lot of work.

We’d talked to several publishers, and ended up publishing with Springer. John Kimmel was the editor we worked with; I like John, and I felt that Springer (or John) did a good job of keeping prices reasonable. We were able to publish in full color with a list price of $99, so that on Amazon it was about $65. (In April, 2013, there was a brief period where it was just $42 at Amazon!)

Springer did arrange several rounds of reviews; they typically pay reviewers $100 or a few books. But the copy editing was terrible (at the very least, you want a copy editor to read the book, and it was pretty clear that our copy editor hadn’t), and the actual type-setting and construction of the index was left to us, the authors.

It feels nice to have written a proper book, but I don’t think it makes that big of a difference, for me or for readers.

And John Kimmel has since left Springer to go to Chapman & Hall/CRC, and Springer has raised the price of our book to $169, so it’s now selling for $130 at Amazon. I think that’s obnoxious. It’s not like they’ve gone back and printed extra copies, so it’s hard to see how their costs could have gone up. But in the publishing agreement we signed, we gave Springer full rights to set the price of the book.

(Update: it’s now listed at $199, though it’s still about $130 at Amazon.)

I have a hard time recommending the book at that price; I’m tempted to help people find pirated PDFs online. (And seriously, if you can’t find a pirated copy, you should work on your internet skills.)

I corresponded with an editor at Springer, on why our book has become so expensive and whether there’s anything we can do about it. They responded

  • If we do a new edition, it could be listed as $129.
  • If the book is adopted by university classes, “the pricing grid it is based on would have lower prices.”
  • Our book is available electronically, for purchase by chapter as well.

Purchase by chapter? Yeah, for $30 per chapter!

Springer has published books and allowed the authors to post a PDF, but only for really big sellers, and ours is definitely not in that category.

I’m both disgusted and embarrassed by this situation. If I could do it all over again, I’d self-publish: post everything on the web, and arrange some way for folks to have it printed cheaply.

I still don’t like it

9 Feb 2014

I got a book in the mail this week, a book I hadn’t ordered and would never have ordered. The publisher sent me a complimentary copy, as I’d reviewed the book proposal last year. (It’s the one where the author refused to allow me to have an electronic copy.)

Actually, I soundly trashed the proposal in my review. In the nicest possible way, of course. For example, I said:

And then there are things that are just plain wrong. For example, “We then express our confidence in the H0 with a p-value, which might crudely be considered the probability that the H0 is true.” That is not a crude interpretation of the p-value; that is just wrong.

It seems like if a reviewer says, “This particular book should not be adopted,” the publisher can interpret that to also mean, “and whatever you do, don’t send me a copy.”

$18 for a two page PDF? I still don’t get it.

2 May 2013

Yesterday, I saw this tweet by @Ananyo

Time that biologists stopped telling the public oversimplistic fairy tales on Darwinian evolution, says P Ball ($) nature.com/nature/journal…

So I clicked the link to the Nature paper and realized, “Oh, yeah. I’ve got to enter through the UW library website.”

But then I thought, “Wait…$18 for a two-page Nature comment? WTF?”

So I tweeted:

DNA: Celebrate the unknowns, like this Nature comment, which costs $18. nature.com/nature/journal…

And thinking about it some more, I got more annoyed, and tweeted:

Why do publishers charge such high per-article fees? At $18/artcl, you’d have to be desperate or stupid to pay; at $1-2, prob’ly lots would.

And then I thought, I’ll ask Nature directly:

@NatureMagazine Why is the per-article charge so high? It seems like you’d make more profit at $2/article.

And they responded:

@kwbroman For a while now, individual papers can be rented through @readcube for $3-5. A full tablet subscription to Nature costs $35.

But that didn’t quite answer my question. So I asked:

.@NatureMagazine So is the $18 charge for a 2 pg PDF just to discourage piracy?

I thought a lot about whether to put “piracy” in quotes or not, or whether to write “copyright infringement” instead.

But anyway, they responded:

@kwbroman just as with any product, the more you buy, the more you save. Media/publishing subscriptions have worked this way for decades.

That again didn’t quite answer my question.

It’s a scam

I still don’t understand the $18 business. It’s not “The more you buy, the more you save.” It’s, “Buy the whole season for $35, or buy 5 min from Episode 1 for $18.”

I understand that the cover price of Wired is $5 per issue, while I could get a year’s subscription for $15-20. But that’s not the same as $18 for one article vs $200 per year.

The $18 for a two-page PDF is like 900 numbers and paycheck advances. These are scams taking advantage of desperate or stupid people.

If they don’t want to sell the PDFs for individual articles for a reasonable price, they should just not sell them at all.

Open access, animated

25 Oct 2012

Here’s a great interview with Jonathan Eisen and Nick Shockey on open access publishing, nicely animated by Jorge Cham, who does the Piled Higher and Deeper comic.

Web-enabled publishing environment

23 Oct 2012

Karl Rohe has an interesting commentary in Amstat News this month, on how our current publishing system is obstructing research progress, and what a better future might look like.

Positive comments on peer review

27 Apr 2012

We all complain about peer review, particularly when our best work is rejected by every journal from Nature Genetics down to that journal that will publish anything, so that it finally appears in a volume to honor some guy that only he will read.

However, sometimes an anonymous reviewer will identify an important flaw in a paper that you can fix before it’s published, thus saving you from potential public embarrassment.

That happened to me again today. I finally got the reviews back for a paper, eight weeks after it was submitted. I had become a bit impatient, but one of the reviewers identified a hole in our theory section, which we can now fix before publication (I think we figured it out this afternoon), thus avoiding public embarrassment, except for the fact that I’m currently pointing it out publicly.

Complaints about the peer review process are not unlike a common complaint about statisticians: that we are a barrier to scientists publishing what they know to be true. That is sometimes the case, but at other times, both reviewers and statisticians can help you to avoid embarrassing yourself.

UW-Madison news item about Elsevier boycott

21 Feb 2012

There’s an article in the UW-Madison newsletter about the Elsevier boycott. I’m quoted as follows:

“The main issue is that scientists want their papers to be read and available, and not just to scientists at well-funded universities. We are spending, collectively, a good amount of money that goes toward profit for these journal companies, and that could be redirected.”

At this point, Broman says scientists are in control. Although Elsevier is a giant among publishers, “Authors have complete control over where they decide to send their papers. If one day, everybody decides not to send to Elsevier, but to open access journals instead, it would be done.”

I just refused an Elsevier review

10 Feb 2012

This afternoon I refused a request from the American Journal of Human Genetics to review a paper, though the abstract was extremely interesting. AJHG is published by Elsevier, and I’d signed the declaration at http://thecostofknowledge.com to not publish or review for Elsevier journals. If only AJHG were still with the University of Chicago Press…

Michael Eisen recently wrote:

The boycott isn’t perfect. I wish they hadn’t focused exclusively on Elsevier – they are hardly the only bad actors in the field. And it’s crucial that the focus be on papers. Nobody views turning down invitations to review to be a big sacrifice – and publishers will just find someone else. Same thing with editors. But papers are their lifeblood.

I agree with him. It’s easy to turn down a review. (I do so several times a week.)

And so I was feeling quite unsure about turning down the review, but also unsure about breaking the pledge regarding Elsevier. Nevertheless, I came down on the side of the pledge, and responded to AJHG with the following:

It sounds like an interesting paper, but…

I recently signed a public declaration to not publish or review for Elsevier journals (http://thecostofknowledge.com). I noticed at the time that Am J Hum Genet was published by Elsevier (if only it were still at U Chicago Press), which could be a problem.

I’m having second thoughts (especially in that refusing a review for this reason seems too easy…I say no to review requests almost every day), but for now I’m sticking to my promise.

I’m not sure whether it was the right decision.

I think the most important thing for me to do is to work to get Genetics to become open-access, or at least encourage discussion along those lines at the Genetics Society of America.

More on open access

3 Feb 2012

I am quite persuaded by Michael Eisen’s recent comments on open access:

…it is simply unacceptable for any scientist who decries Elsevier’s actions and believes that the subscription based model is no longer serving science to send a single additional paper to journals that do not provide full OA [open access] to every paper they publish.

But how can I do that if Genetics isn’t fully open? Genetics charges an extra $1200 to make an article open access. Would it really cost $1200 per article to make the journal fully open?
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