Friday, June 11, 2010

Scooped in a good way by my own brother re Nature-UC dispute

Well, I so wanted to write a piece about the Nature-UC dispute going on right now. In summary, a group from the University of California (University Committee on Library and Scholarly Communication (UCOLASC) including librarians and scientists and various others circulated a letter a few days ago to UC faculty suggesting a possible boycott of Nature journals due in large part to impending price increases. The letter became public (see for example here). Some News stories were written. Some blogs and many tweets were posted (including mine, wondering why I had not heard anything about the whole issue before). Nature responded. UC responded back. More news stories were written (e.g., SJ Mercury news here) and more blogs and tweets came out.

But something was missing in the whole thing from my point of view. What was missing was a discussion of how this whole discussion should not really be about UC vs. Nature.  It should be about how the publishing systems right now is broken - about how we should expect commercial publishers to want to make money and how what we need to do as scientists is to take control of publishing to make it more open and to save taxpayer's money because we do not really need many of the broken parts of the publishing system.

And it should not have really been about Nature vs. UC - Nature to me is not the issue here.  I personally would not have gone after Nature in the way the UC library group did.  Nature does some good things and some bad things.  As do many, if not all publishers, even, God forbid, PLoS.  Nature in fact has been doing some useful experimenting with some nice web/open science features.  We should neither expect them to do good things or bad things.  What we need to do is think about the whole system of publishing, not just go after one publisher.

Fortunately, before I wrote this up, I found a blog post that covers many of my feelings on the issue. And it just happens to be by my brother, Michael (CoFounder of PLoS), who is traveling on the East Coast and who I have not had a chance to talk to at all about the Nature-UC issue. So I recommend people go to his post: The Nature kerfuffle: boycott the business model not the price

I am not saying I agree with every sentiment in his post but the key part to me is:
"It’s time for UC to follow suit. Rather than haggling over prices, the faculty, students, staff and administration of all ten UC campuses should unite to end the business practices that empower NPG and other publishes to regularly attempt to extort money from our chronically cash-strapped library system."
I have little to add to this so will leave it there.   Read his post for more.

Here are some links about the UC-Nature dust up

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