Where have all the researchers gone?
Scientific publishing is good business for commercial publishers, but why should it be a business in the first place?

Reetta-2.jpgIn September, I attended an event focused on planning how to promote open science. The goal of the event was a researcher-oriented model with the aim of supporting researchers in open publishing.

There is only one but: barely a handful of researchers attended. Henriikka Mustajoki from the Federation of Finnish Learned Societies, who chaired the event, noted that engaging researchers is a big challenge.

Open access is a playground for library, IT and other research support staff. And yet, scientific publishing is at the heart of what researchers do. The only person with a researcher’s opinion on the subject is a researcher.

I personally went to Flamma to ask for researchers’ views on open publishing. The number of respondents was historically low. Thank you, though, to those who did respond! The responses are available here.

Not many deny the benefits of open access. Scientific research knowledge should be accessible to all, and it makes no sense to spend an increasingly large share of library funds on subscriptions to journal packages.

Cost and incentives seem to be the largest obstacles. Publishing always costs money, but who will bear the cost of open science? And what would make researchers aiming to increase their merits choose an open access journal that is less distinguished than one that charges a fee?

Open access publishing often demands efforts from researchers who just want to get back to the content of their research. A good example of long overdue support is a new service provided by the Helsinki University Library, offering a helping hand in self-archiving.

Today, scientific publishing is good business for commercial publishers, but why should it be a business in the first place? Maybe universities around the world and those funding research should together consider how to rewrite the rules of publishing. That is a conversation where researchers should make themselves heard.

Text: Reetta Vairimaa

Published 22.11.2018 09:40, Updated by Reetta Vairimaa (Reetta.Vairimaa@helsinki.fi)
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1 comment count
Michael Jeltsch: 28.12.2018 18:54

Do you want to know why we researchers mostly do not show up at such events (despite mostly being extremely interested in the topic)? We do not have the time! We are expected to manage, to teach, to fund-raise, to adapt to a constantly changing environment and demands, to be our own secretaries and IT support, etc. In addition we want o be good parents to our children and survive the heart attack at age 68. Something has to give. Open access is important, but surviving the academic clear cutting comes first. Open science events are not alone in this respect, in most other university events the non-researcher employees are over-represented. It does not help either, that most of such events use the Finnish language for communication, which can exclude - depending on the faculty - a significant fraction of the employees.

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