Ignorance of Nature Isn't Evidence

Invoking brands to argue they don't matter is nonsensical, and remaining ignorant of evidence is even worse

Follow the machinations of OA advocates for any time at all, and you begin to sense that there’s a purposeful ignorance at work. It’s as if they are afraid that engaging with publishers, editors, and reviewers in any meaningful way might shake their foundational beliefs.

It’s why cults have compounds, I guess — as much to keep their believers in as to keep reality out.

Every once in a while, there’s such a great example of ignorance in action, it bears examination.

Such a confluence occurred yesterday, as a blog post by Olivier Pourret, Dasapta Erwin Irawan, and the busiest OA fog machine around, Jessica Polka, argued that reporting in Nature by Katharine Sanderson misrepresented the potential for a “no pay” academic publishing model.

Implicitly, they are parroting the tired and disproven arguments that journals like Nature can be replaced by platforms and repositories, and aren’t themselves needed or wanted by academics.

Time itself has disproven these arguments, as ineffectual platform launch after ineffectual platform launch has confirmed that entropy is real — if you don’t inject energy into a system consistently, it stagnates and falls apart.

However, while arguing against journal brands and prestige, these academics can’t help but grasp for legitimacy, putting the following at the head of the blog post:

This is an opinion submitted as a Correspondence to Nature but not considered for publication.

Read that again — we wrote this, submitted it to Nature, and they didn’t want it, but we’re so proud to have even interacted in that manner with the brand that we’re bragging about it.

So, you’re saying the Nature brand has no prestige to bestow — by invoking it to improve our opinion of you and your ideas?

In any event, their representations of data and realism about platform approaches are both misleading and offered in bad faith. And while Sanderson’s reporting appeared in June, it took these three crackerjack writers three months to post 211 words to their blog in response.

But the fun isn’t over, as just two days after their post, FinELib — a consortium of Finnish universities, research institutions, and public libraries — announced that the allotment of OA articles for Nature journals through 2024 has been used up as of September 2023, or about 15 months earlier than planned. While this was only 33 articles, FinELib writes:

The open articles acquired for Nature and Nature Research journals were used up noticeably faster than expected. The acquired article quantity was based on publication data available at the time, but the amount of published articles was much higher than anticipated.

It’s interesting wording, I have to note — prepaid means “acquired,” underscoring the distasteful and volume-inducing cash-on-the-barrelhead proposition at the heart of Gold OA. Every time I read something like this, I get a whiff of predatory publishing — as if a garbage truck just passed by going in the other direction.

In any event, actual behavior continues to show that academics value brands — not only authors in Finland, but even the erratic, unintentional behavior of academic blog authors.

Can we just accept this and move on?