A Heavy Twenty from Year One
Looking back, here are 20 essays that I think proved important and enduring
Over the past year, there have been a couple dozen posts that seem worth mentioning again. In a fractured media landscape, knitting things together now and again can be a salve. This list of 20 represents about 7% of the output of “The Geyser” in the past year, so it’s a pretty limited cut of what’s available. They are in no particular order, so aren’t numbered:
- China Has Become a Huge Variable
From censorship to authorship to subsidized review to pricing and power, China is now a major force in academic publishing, producing the most papers and increasingly throwing its weight around. It’s a major strategic variable.
- CrossRef Terminated OMICS’ Membership
In what may be the shape of things to come, CrossRef drew a line to stop a proven predatory publisher. Will they improve further to deny DOIs to shady publishers by increasing their scrutiny from the get-go?
- Taxpayer-funded Silence & Intimidation
Now, the US government has joined the dark side, and is using its power to intimidate scientists, remove scientific information from public view, and throw up impediments to scientific policies and progress.
- “Free” May Be About to Backfire
Various initiatives and trends suggest that making things free in order to placate OA advocates — from archives to preprints to repositories — may be about to backfire as new access brokers and Green OA initiatives start to scale.
- Partners or Servants?
Are publishers just running a service industry for authors? Or is there more to it? Evidence suggests that when a smart and reader-oriented intermediary steps aside, all sorts of bad things start to happen.
- Publishing Amidst a Crime Wave
We’re in the midst of one of the greatest crime waves the information space has ever seen — from Sci-Hub stealing copyright-protected works to hackers stealing personal and financial information. Online crime is safer and easier for criminals, and it pays better. And it makes publishing more expensive and more difficult.
- Why Digital Expenses Continue to Rise
Digital was supposed to be cheaper, even free. Reality has shown it to be quite the opposite — complex, expensive, difficult, and demanding. Changing the underlying assumptions about technology will be key to future success.
- The “Above Inflation” Misconception
Using averages to constrain pricing — and pegging pricing to general inflation rather than to trends in the industry — may be bankrupting everyone. It has happened before.
- Is It Now Risky to Name Peer Reviewers? and The Subversion of Referees
This is a two-fer, as these two posts are highly related, and I believe extremely important. Intimidation of referees — from high school sports to judges to editors — is becoming more common, and is driving qualified people out of these indispensable roles.
- Is “User Pays” an OA Solution?
What is the ultimate financial solution to achieving OA is user-pays?
- Flooding Is the New Censorship
Rather than blocking information, simply overwhelm it with lies. Recent failures from the king of moral bankruptcy, Mark Zuckerberg, reinforces that the age of flooding the field with lies is not over.
- The 0.5% Subscription Achievement
Despite all the fuss, journal subscriptions generally cost institutions about 0.5% of their overall spending, yet produce benefits that far outweigh the costs.
- Paywalls Continue to Produce Benefits
Publishers continue to find that paywalls help them create better content, connect with audiences, and reach more qualified and interested readers.
- Digital Authoritarianism Is On a Roll
Rather than liberating and democratizing, digital technologies — especially social media but also surveillance-driven ad businesses — have given authoritarians the upper hand.
- The Power of the Unprecedented
A contemplation of how shameless and unprecedented approaches to crime, disruption, and chaos can work so well — from Russia attacking elections to Sci-Hub stealing content, and more.
- Sci-Hub’s Business Model Scares Me
The business model of Sci-Hub is about stealing information, not just content. The information they’re stealing is what really worries me.
- Should an Abandoned Preprint Be Retired?
Why do we let unreviewed papers posted on servers sit there, hold DOIs, and be discovered — for years and years?
- Has Militancy Become the Norm?
What started as a few debates has grown into a culture of fighting — between libraries, OA advocates, and publishers, in general. Is this now normal? Is this what young professionals expect and cultivate?
- Can We Break Out of the Skinner Box?
We’ve all become attenuated to “likes” and “shares” like rats getting our pellets. Can we move beyond behavior modification as a way of paying for information?
- Why Disruption Kills the Middle
The idea of “disruption” was to give small companies a fighting chance, to disrupt the bigs. But it keeps killing those in the middle, from mid-list authors to mid-list musicians to mid-list publishers. Why is this?
- What’s So Funny About Stability, Reliability, and Quality?
Stability, reliability, and quality are often overlooked, and with Plan S, these qualities were openly mocked. What kind of idiot does that? Oh, right . . .
These are a mix of subscriber-only and public posts.
As the year approaches its end, please keep a group subscription in mind for your organization or direct reports. Subscriptions start the date you sign up, and run for a year. If you have extra year-end money for your department or company, now would be a great time to make sure your staff can benefit from another year of stimulating, enlightening, and insightful writing.