I was contacted today by someone evaluating the NIH Public Access policy. In his introductory email he discussed the context for the analysis, including the “claim by proprietary scientific and technical publishers that they have been damaged by the policy and that extending it to other government funded research would cause a considerable loss of jobs—a powerful claim in the current economic and political environment.”
Thinking about this claim has made me so mad I have to blog it out. (To be 100% clear: I’m not angry at the person who contacted me, I’m mad at the claim).
Posting papers in PubMed Central is going to cost jobs, eh? I guess subscriptions could go down if people are willing to wait 12 months to read cutting edge research, then publishers might lose money and lay people off. Not of course the authors or the peer reviewers, since they aren’t paid, but the editorial staff and copyeditors and news writers and graphic designers and system admins…. Ok, I don’t want those people let go, it is true. How many jobs do we think will be lost this way? Are we REALLY SURE their contribution to the direct advancement of science can’t be saved some other way, through some other publishing model?
Let me tell you about all the jobs we lose, or fail to have created, since we don’t have Open Access (a step beyond Public Access) to our research articles.
- the jobs of people who might do text mining of research studies to IMPROVE SCIENTIFIC PROGRESS
- the jobs of people who might build tools on top of all scientific research articles to improve discovery and thereby IMPROVE SCIENTIFIC PROGRESS
- the jobs of the people who might mine datasets TO IMPROVE SCIENTIFIC PROGRESS but they can’t, since the data aren’t deposited anywhere, because our way of rewarding authors who archive data is broken, in part because we don’t have access to article text and reference lists and systems that record usage statistics
I will admit that in the current system we gain job openings that we might lose under OA — jobs opened up when people die because our scientific progress isn’t fast enough to save their lives. Just in case we want to include that in the calculation.
Publishers complaining about jobs? Find a different publishing system. One that helps not hinders efficient and effective research progress.
You know that whole bioinformatics industry? It would still be in the dark ages if people hadn’t made their data open. There is every reason to believe that opening up the scientific literature will spark the same revolution. In jobs, and in lives. Count what matters.
Edited to acknowledge greater respect for jobs in the publication industry.