The Faculty of 1000

As of this minute, 1890 scholars have signed a pledge not to cooperate with the publisher Elsevier. People are starting to notice. According to this Wired article, the open-access movement is “catching fire”:

• David Dobbs, Testify: the open-science movement catches fire, Wired, 30 January 2012.


Now is a good time to take more substantial actions. But what?

Many things are being discussed, but it’s good to spend a bit of time thinking about the root problems and the ultimate solutions.

The world-wide web has made journals obsolete: it would be better to put papers on freely available archives and then let boards of top scholars referee them. But how do we get to this system?

In math and physics we have the arXiv, but nobody referees those papers. In biology and medicine, a board called the Faculty of 1000 chooses and evaluates the best papers, but there’s no archive: they get those papers from traditional journals.

Whoops—never mind! That was yesterday. Now the Faculty of 1000 has started an archive!

• Rebecca Lawrence, F1000 Research – join us and shape the future of scholarly communication, F1000, 30 January 2012.

• Ivan Oransky, An arXiv for all of science? F1000 launches new immediate publication journal, Retraction Watch, 30 January 2012.

This blog article says “an arXiv for all science”, but it seems the new F1000 Research archive is just for biology and medicine. So now it’s time for the mathematicians and physicists to start catching up.

12 Responses to The Faculty of 1000

  1. In 1989, with several colleagues in philosophy from around the world, I launched the International Philosophical Preprint Exchange, then IPPE.org. At that time, it was an ftp site for uploading preprints.We acheived moderate noteriety, transforming into a website when such could be done.

    Of note is that a journal publisher approached us, asking how we were circumventing their processes. They learned a lot and quickly.

    Our little exchange didn’t catch on amongst ‘serious’ academics in philosophy; we were too early for the discipline. Now is the time to enable academic publishing to use and trust open access peer-reviewed work. Kudos to the Faculty of 1000.

  2. [...] John Baez has posted another follow-up discussing what else can be done to replace journals for peer-review. Apparently the life sciences [...]

  3. Blake Stacey says:

    It’s hard to tell without F1000 Research actually being in operation, their “initial sanity check” doesn’t sound like a clone of the arXiv process. I guess in-house sanity checking will take the place of the endorsement system.

    • John Baez says:

      The arXiv once used an ‘initial sanity check’ to weed out nutty papers, before they adopted their endorsement system. I’m not convinced they’ve dropped that initial sanity check, either—that would be a risky move. Maybe I should post a crazy paper and see what happens.

      More importantly, this blog article describes some suboptimal features of the Faculty of 1000:

      F1000 Research—yet another open-access publisher, Gas Station Without Pumps, 30 January 2012.

      Since I don’t know that much yet about how the Faculty of 1000 works, nobody should jump to the conclusion that I’m proposing them as a precise role model for what mathematicians and physicists (or other scientists!) should do. But we should look at what they’re doing and learn from it.

  4. Eugene Lerman says:

    Since the cost of journals is mostly paid by libraries, maybe libraries should get into publishing. The arXiv is an example.

    I am skeptical of the so called “open access” journals since they tend to charge the authors for publication. I was invited to join the board of one such journal, but it was never clear to me if it was (1) non-profit and (2) how such a math journal could possibly succeed.

    • John Baez says:

      Eugene wrote:

      Since the cost of journals is mostly paid by libraries, maybe libraries should get into publishing. The arXiv is an example.

      Right! Eugenia Cheng has argued that universities should run scholarly journals—they could avoid huge subscription fees if they did this systematically. Since it’s the university libraries who pay these fees, her proposal is not unlike yours. Whether it’s the library or some new bodies within the university, it would be a nice way for scholars and librarians to take charge of the situation. It’s our laziness that has let the journal publishers insert themselves as expensive middlemen.

      I am skeptical of the so called “open access” journals since they tend to charge the authors for publication.

      That’s a common misconception, which Elsevier is deliberately using to spread fear of open access journals. Please read Peter Suber’s information on open access, in particular this:

      A common misunderstanding is that all OA journals use an “author pays” business model. There are two mistakes here. The first is to assume that there is only one business model for OA journals, when there are many. The second is to assume that charging an upfront fee is an “author pays” model. In fact, most OA journals (70%) charge no author-side fees at all. Moreover, most conventional or non-OA journals (75%) do charge author-side fees. When OA journals do charge fees, the fees are often paid by author-sponsors (employers or funders) or waived, not paid by authors out of pocket.

      • Eugene Lerman says:

        John,

        I think you maybe misinterpreting what I said. I have no objection to PLoS journals, for instance. But when Springer offers me a chance to pay a fee so that my article in CMP could be open access while the paper in question is already in the arxiv, I am not sure if it is really such a good thing.

        Also, it’s not clear that a for profit open access journal is really that much better than any other other for profit journal. In particular I object to public subsidy/provision of private profit. Elsevier can convert all of their journals to open access with outrageously high fees. Is this really an outcome you would welcome?

  5. asdf says:

    About the PLoS journals: they are supposedly non-profit, but their author fees are very high, $1350 to $2900 depending on journal. Is it really that expensive to run a journal? There are open-access journals with no (or low) author fees, but unfortunately the “best” journals often have rather high fees. I’m sure that there are exceptions to this, though.

    Even if the author fees are paid by a sponsor, don’t they in many cases ultimately come from the same pool of money as the subscription fees? It doesn’t make a lot of difference if expensive subscriptions are replaced with high author fees, unless the total amount of money spent in author fees and subscriptions decreases.

    • John Baez says:

      I don’t want to defend high author fees, but I have to correct this:

      Even if the author fees are paid by a sponsor, don’t they in many cases ultimately come from the same pool of money as the subscription fees? It doesn’t make a lot of difference if expensive subscriptions are replaced with high author fees, unless the total amount of money spent in author fees and subscriptions decreases.

      It actually makes a huge difference, because it’s the university library who pays for journals, while it’s the author or their funding agency who pays to publish papers in an author-fee system.

      If author fees for a certain journal rise past a certain point, the authors or their funding agencies will stop wanting to publish in that journal. (Even if I’m getting my author fees paid through my NSF or NIH grant, like most people who publish in PLoS, I will eventually decide I’d rather spend my grant money some other way.)

      But as journal prices rise, university libraries spend less and less money on books and staff, while trying to continue to purchase the journals (or large journal bundles) that the faculty demand. Faculty complain much more when journals are cancelled than when when books are not bought, or library hours shrink.

      At U.C. Riverside, for example, the purchase of books in the humanities is a small fraction of what it once was: the money is all going into journals. Eventually the stretched string will break and the libraries will be forced to cancel subscriptions first to individual journals, and finally the big journal bundles that are the worst problem. But by then, the library’s collection will have been severely damaged by years of underfunding: lots of books they should have been collecting all along, they won’t have.

      I know this because I’ve been on the U.C. Riverside library committee for several years. The situation of this library is not unique. Everyone should read this:

      • Judith M. Panitch and Sarah Michalak, The serials crisis, January 2005.

      You’ll see eye-popping statistics like this:

      Among libraries in the Association of Research Libraries in the period 1986-2003, the price per subscription of serials rose by 215%.

      Their conclusion:

      The system as we know it is broken to the point that we can no longer carry out the daily business of the university. But there is also an ethical dimension to the discussion, for what we are talking about most fundamentally is access to information. This information, more often than not, is created through use of public funds—the taxes that, in part, pay our salaries, build our labs, fund our grants, or funded the previous grants upon which today’s research is based, and build our library collections. It is true that commercial publishers do add value to that information, and most of us do not begrudge them a reasonable profit for doing so. But when the conditions they impose become as burdensome as they are now, when prices are breaking university budgets and license restrictions add additional obstacles to access, then the knowledge created as a public good and at public expense is essentially being held hostage to interests that our not our own. By continuing to do business as usual, we are participating in a system that works against our own interests, and we are failing to engage in responsible stewardship of the financial and intellectual resources at our disposal.

  6. [...] So Azimuth tells us: In math and physics we have the arXiv, but nobody referees those papers. In biology and medicine, a board called the Faculty of 1000 chooses and evaluates the best papers, but there’s no archive: they get those papers from traditional journals. [...]

  7. [...] tem um servidor de preprint tão universal quando o arXiv, embora haja idéias se criar um como o The Faculty of 1000. O que eles têm já em funcionamento são iniciativas open access, como a PLoS, em que o ônus da [...]

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