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LIBLICENSE-L  March 2016

LIBLICENSE-L March 2016

Subject:

Re: What's wrong with OA megajournals

From:

LIBLICENSE <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

LibLicense-L Discussion Forum <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 9 Mar 2016 19:16:00 -0500

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From: Joseph Esposito <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Tue, 8 Mar 2016 20:15:20 -0500

Michael,

I want to confirm that the figure of 6 published articles to date at
U. of California Press's Collabra is correct. I know it's still early,
but it does seem like a very small number. Would someone from
California offer some guidance on what the forecast for this period
was? Is Collabra performing in line with projections? Ahead of
projections? Behind?

Joe Esposito

On Tue, Mar 8, 2016 at 6:11 PM, LIBLICENSE <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>
> From: Michael Magoulias <[log in to unmask]>
> Date: Tue, 8 Mar 2016 22:39:23 +0000
>
> Since my original post sparked a number of comments, I'll do my best
> to answer the most substantive points in one response without boring
> everyone into an early grave.
>
> First, careful readers will have noted that I referenced three
> occasions in which scholars formerly positive, or at the very least
> neutral, on PLOS One reversed themselves in the view of experience.
> One was the scholar who had been asked to review his own paper, the
> second was the commentary within the scientific community on the "Hand
> of God" article which expanded considerably after I submitted my
> comment on Thursday, and third was a former section editor who
> disassociated himself from the journal on the grounds that it was a
> "dumping ground."
>
> I thought it was worth making my comments since all three of these
> cases -- and if you want to call them "anecdotal," it's worth keeping
> in mind that anecdotes can be just as empirically valid as anything
> else -- occurred within a three-week period, which seemed to me much
> more than simple coincidence. For established journals, that kind of
> anti-trifecta could mean eternal disgrace, if not death, and at the
> very least, would normally result in staffing changes and a
> re-evaluation of editorial policies. While even the best of journals
> can occasionally be fooled by cases of plagiarism or fabricated data,
> the combination of triviality, horrendous writing, and misplaced
> metaphysics in the "Hand of God" article just doesn't happen in the
> leading subscription-based journals. This obviously doesn't mean that
> every article published by standard journals is brilliant, but it does
> mean that the kinds of peer-review failure seen in PLOS (and let's not
> forget the author who was asked to review his own paper) almost never
> happen in the best of the journals that PLOS was intended to replace
> or supersede.
>
> So if you want to defend PLOS, the only recourse you can have is to
> some version of "not every single article it publishes is quite that
> awful" or, to quote the Osmund Brothers: "one bad apple don't spoil
> the whole bunch, girl."
>
> This is undoubtedly true, but it is hardly a strong defense. It is
> essentially the defense used by Allison of the University of
> California Press which announced over a year ago that it intended to
> get into the megajournal game. Since to date, its Collabra service has
> published six articles, it's really more of a "minijournal" at the
> moment, but the aspiration is there. It also shares with PLOS One a
> crucial element of editorial philosophy: "The journal’s review process
> will focus on scientific, methodological and ethical soundness and
> credibility, and will not focus on more subjective notions of novelty,
> topicality, or scope."
>
> This philosophy is the heart of the problem for all megajournals (or
> non-megajournals, for that matter) that share some version of it. It
> represents nothing less than a repudiation of what all leading
> journals explicitly aim for and quite often achieve. The contrast with
> a journal like Nature couldn't be more striking. Nature highlights the
> following characteristics of the papers it accepts: "novel," "of
> extreme importance," and "ideally interesting to researchers in other
> related disciplines." Nature sums up its philosophy by saying that "a
> paper should represent an advance in understanding likely to influence
> thinking in the field."
>
> One of the graver instances of muddle-headedness in the editorial
> philosophies of PLOS and Collabra is the notion that considerations of
> novelty and significance are damagingly "subjective," whereas notions
> of "the scientific," "credibility," and "soundness" (applied to both
> methodology and ethics) are not. Nothing could be further from the
> case, as the extensive literature on objectivity in the philosophy of
> science demonstrates. It is impossible, and hardly even desirable, to
> have value-free science, and no one has so far been able to develop a
> statistical approach to data that can remove every hint of personal
> bias. This does not mean that all scientific research is hopelessly
> flawed or that there aren't effective methods of minimizing bias, but
> it does mean that the key editorial driver of this kind of OA
> publishing rests on a deeply flawed understanding of the nature of
> meaningful research. The most important research is never a catalogue
> of mute facts or data points, but always reflects considerable amounts
> of interpretation, judgement and creativity.
>
> It's a shame that the attempt to find another way of publishing
> academic papers has meant departing not just from a particular
> business model but also from shared and valid notions of quality. This
> is a case of drowning the baby before you throw it out with the bath
> water. I can see that for those whose worldview is based on the rosy
> and unfounded fantasy that the "market" is always right, knows how to
> correct itself, and is the ideal mechanism for settling all questions
> of value, there is no problem here. If the World wants lots of not
> very good articles, and you can charge a minimum of several hundred
> dollars to slap each one on a website, then you have got yourself a
> going concern. But I can't think of a single society or editorial body
> I've ever worked with that would seriously entertain even for a moment
> adopting the editorial philosophy of PLOS One. That would represent a
> betrayal of their academic mission. The idea of publishing
> non-significant articles in non-significant journals would certainly
> not be enough to get me out of bed. I would have to find a way to
> convince myself that I was doing something very different instead.
>
> Michael
>
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Alison Mudditt <[log in to unmask]>
> Date: Sun, 6 Mar 2016 11:05:17 -0800
>
> I hate to point out the obvious, but I think you’re putting two and
> two together here and getting at least five, Michael.  What you have
> highlighted is a clear problem with the standard of at least some peer
> review for PLoS One, which you then extrapolate to a problem with peer
> review across megajournals in general and thus a question about the
> sustainability of this form of OA publishing (if not all OA publishing
> – I’m not quite clear). The conclusion you draw isn’t supported by all
> megajournals at all. And peer review itself is of course an entirely
> separate construct to that of the megajournal – there’s good and bad
> peer review across all journals and plenty of examples of poor or lazy
> “traditional” peer review.
>
> That said, I completely agree that you’ve highlighted a very real
> issue that requires our attention and response, but I suspect that the
> market will sort itself out on this one. There are now many more OA
> publishing options open to researchers, an increasing number of which
> are run by scholarly associations who are very protective of their
> quality brands. Thus if a journal such as PLoS One cannot maintain
> appropriate standards, the community will simply move elsewhere.
> Perhaps the declining number of PLoS One publications signals that
> this is starting to happen.
>
> Alison Mudditt
> Director, University of California Press
> 510-883-8240
> www.ucpress.edu

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