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Academic Publishing in the Digital Era: A Couple of Issues (Open Access—Well, Maybe)

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Open Access is the new frontier for academic publishing: however, some non-trivial issues are yet to be addressed.
Meeting “The (r)evolution of academic publication”
Istituti di Studi Avanzati (ISA), Università di Bologna, Italy, 10/05/2016

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Academic Publishing in the Digital Era: A Couple of Issues (Open Access—Well, Maybe)

  1. 1. Academic Publishing in the Digital Era: A Couple of Issues Open Access—Well, Maybe Andrea Omicini Department of Computer Science and Engineering Alma Mater Studiorum—Universit`a di Bologna The (R)Evolution of Academic Publication Istituti di Studi Avanzati, Bologna, Italy 10 May 2016 Omicini (DISI – Univ. Bologna) Publishing in the Digital Era: Issues ISA – 10/5/2016 1 / 15
  2. 2. The Cost of Writing a Paper Outline 1 The Cost of Writing a Paper 2 Validation vs. Evaluation Omicini (DISI – Univ. Bologna) Publishing in the Digital Era: Issues ISA – 10/5/2016 2 / 15
  3. 3. The Cost of Writing a Paper Availability & Diffusion The overall amount of scientific products validated by the scientific community is steadily increasing over the years Specialised search engines (Google Scholar, Semantic scholar) along with academic social networks (Academia.edu, ResearchGate) make meta-information widespread The push towards multi-, inter-, trans-disciplinary research makes related literature just explode Omicini (DISI – Univ. Bologna) Publishing in the Digital Era: Issues ISA – 10/5/2016 3 / 15
  4. 4. The Cost of Writing a Paper Costs ICT has made the cost of production diffusion access of the scientific artefacts negligible, technically Nevertheless, the cost of accessing most of the literature is still high—way too high for most of the individuals and academic institutions in the world e.g., “Coordination of Distributed Problem Solvers” (Kluver, 1988) nearly 150 e overall 9 chapters, nearly 25 e each Is this manageable in any way? Is this reasonable nowadays? Omicini (DISI – Univ. Bologna) Publishing in the Digital Era: Issues ISA – 10/5/2016 4 / 15
  5. 5. The Cost of Writing a Paper The Cost of Writing a Scientific Paper The amount of related work to be accounted for in any scientific activity is growing fast Ignorance not allowed You are supposed to know, read, understand, and frame a huge number of related articles, chapters, and books, before you can just claim you advanced somehow the state-of-the-art What if you are doing multi-disciplinary research? What if you are a PhD student with no funding of your own? What if you do not work in a rich country? Omicini (DISI – Univ. Bologna) Publishing in the Digital Era: Issues ISA – 10/5/2016 5 / 15
  6. 6. The Cost of Writing a Paper Solutions? Many just ask for free access to everything Some just circumvent the limitations breaking the paywall—Sci-Hub, LibGen exploiting traditional peer interaction self-publishing research social networking (Academia.edu, ResearchGate) No one has yet proposed a process that could be both scientifically well-founded economically sustainable Meanwhile, could some smart moves such as micropayment research-funding institutions directly funding open access different price schemes for different countries somehow ease the pain? Omicini (DISI – Univ. Bologna) Publishing in the Digital Era: Issues ISA – 10/5/2016 6 / 15
  7. 7. Validation vs. Evaluation Outline 1 The Cost of Writing a Paper 2 Validation vs. Evaluation Omicini (DISI – Univ. Bologna) Publishing in the Digital Era: Issues ISA – 10/5/2016 7 / 15
  8. 8. Validation vs. Evaluation The Scientific Process Our huge ego as scientists makes us perceive the scientific process mostly as the result of an individual (heroic) effort we often behave like we actually think that our own invention and hard work is scientific per se Actually, the scientific enterprise is one of the most relevant and impressive social achievements of humankind no work is scientific before validation from the scientific community [Pop02] Omicini (DISI – Univ. Bologna) Publishing in the Digital Era: Issues ISA – 10/5/2016 8 / 15
  9. 9. Validation vs. Evaluation The Actors Researchers (mostly from public bodies) produce most of the work, at any level Public bodies mostly fund the research Scientific publishers associations control the validation process leading to academic publication Omicini (DISI – Univ. Bologna) Publishing in the Digital Era: Issues ISA – 10/5/2016 9 / 15
  10. 10. Validation vs. Evaluation Issues Researchers think they are the good guys, as well as the smartest asses—and, in the end, that they are entitled to control everything Public bodies are also in charge of most of the evaluation processes Scientific publishers earn as stakeholders, and apparently do not add anything meaningful to the process—yet, they are the only ones earning money (potentially) The planetary scale of the organisational processes makes it difficult to affect in any way the substantial monopoly of huge players—publishers such as Elsevier, Springer Omicini (DISI – Univ. Bologna) Publishing in the Digital Era: Issues ISA – 10/5/2016 10 / 15
  11. 11. Validation vs. Evaluation Self-Validation? I Validation is an a priori process w.r.t. scientific publication Self-publishing – e.g., through open repositories (such as arXiv) – jumps over validation, by postulating the existence of some sort of a posteriori validation process Omicini (DISI – Univ. Bologna) Publishing in the Digital Era: Issues ISA – 10/5/2016 11 / 15
  12. 12. Validation vs. Evaluation Self-Validation? II Issues It just seems to resort to our big egos, again: “I’m a scientist, a real one, whatever I do is scientific per se” No pressure towards quality, no interaction before publication, no selection before diffusion hardly the premise to good scientific papers—let apart excellence, whatever it is supposed to be not a scalable approach Validation is not evaluation which hardly understood by researchers even within most of the review processes nowadays A posteriori evaluation cannot replace in any way a priori validation no way to trust literature if not a real expert: the value of scientific literature is no longer confined to the academia no way for the process to scale up: just think of the potential numbers Omicini (DISI – Univ. Bologna) Publishing in the Digital Era: Issues ISA – 10/5/2016 12 / 15
  13. 13. Validation vs. Evaluation New Actors? New publishers ok, predatory publishers, but this is not the end of the story the case of PeerJ Expanding the role of scientific associations Big universities worldwide should step up Many already do that What about Bologna? Omicini (DISI – Univ. Bologna) Publishing in the Digital Era: Issues ISA – 10/5/2016 13 / 15
  14. 14. Bibliography Bibliography I Karl Raimund Popper. The Logic of Scientific Discovery. Routledge, 2002. 1st English Edition:1959. Omicini (DISI – Univ. Bologna) Publishing in the Digital Era: Issues ISA – 10/5/2016 14 / 15
  15. 15. Academic Publishing in the Digital Era: A Couple of Issues Open Access—Well, Maybe Andrea Omicini Department of Computer Science and Engineering Alma Mater Studiorum—Universit`a di Bologna The (R)Evolution of Academic Publication Istituti di Studi Avanzati, Bologna, Italy 10 May 2016 Omicini (DISI – Univ. Bologna) Publishing in the Digital Era: Issues ISA – 10/5/2016 15 / 15

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