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When ideologues trash science and the scientific process it is not news.  But when disseminators of scientific knowledge do it, it is appalling.

George W. Bush put pressure on NASA Scientists and our Nation's Surgeon General to tailor their results to fit his political agenda. Sad tidings for America, but thoroughly expected.  One might even make the argument that it is just politics -- though our constitutionally-based democracy with it's protections for the minority makes this argument weak.

Then there are the science journal publishers -- you know, those top tier journals that the best academics donate their publishable work to: Nature, Science, etc.  Last week the Association of American Publishers    (whose membership includes hundreds of internationally acclaimed journals and societies) formed a lobbying group called PRISM to convince congress that open access (i.e. available to everyone, not just subscribers of their journals) to research results (which by the way is mostly funded by our taxes) is equivalent to government censorship. From the press release announcing the formation of the lobbying group:

Only by preserving the essential integrity of the peer-review process can we ensure that scientific and medical research remains accurate, authoritative, and free from manipulation and censorship and distinguishable from junk science.

There is an excellent rebuttal to the straw men set up in this press release here, so I won't go into too much detail, but let me first re-iterate the most critical issue: The journals piggy back on the peer-review process, they do not define it.

My biggest concern about the creation of PRISM is that lawmakers will consider the journal publishers in the highest regard. Who better to represent the scientific community than the journals that so many scientists regard in such high esteem and work day and night to get their work published in, right?  WRONG! Journals are there to make money -- if they can make money publishing crap science, they would. Unfortunately, I'm afraid that lawmakers will say journal publishers = science therefore journals representatives represent good science policy.

This may seem like a niche issue, but I urge you all (especially the those in the science profession) to contact your senators and representatives and make sure they understand that PRISM represents the journal conglomerates, not the scientists. And, the journals do not define the peer review process.

Originally posted to madahnuc on Tue Aug 28, 2007 at 06:38 PM PDT.


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Comment Preferences

  •  Government interference with science (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Kayakbiker, debedb

    Government interference with science is state religion, pure and simple.

    We shall overcome, someday.

    by Sam Wise Gingy on Tue Aug 28, 2007 at 06:41:25 PM PDT

  •  Republicans trash science (4+ / 0-)

    they trash history, and they trash the law.  They manipulate science and history for propaganda; they manipulate the law to consolidate power.

    Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity. Horace Mann (and btw, the bike in kayakbiker is a bicycle)

    by Kayakbiker on Tue Aug 28, 2007 at 06:47:38 PM PDT

    •  Its not just Republicans..... (0+ / 0-)

      Admittedly Republicans have manipulated or skewed things in the past and the major one that comes to mind is the pre-war intelligence which was wrong. Now, im not going to get in to the never ceasing altercation weather, or weather not President Bush knew all the facts and knew the report was wrong, or whole heartedly believed the intelligence, and this we will never know. But i guess my point is that ALL Politicians will do ANYTHING to get power, and also do ANYTHING to keep it once they have it. Frankly I am sick of the government in general, and I know im not alone on that, but i feel like im alone because i dont feel it's right to place our displeasure in the way the government has evolved, and the way we have done nothing about it until now, on the current president.

  •  Another thing to note is (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sxwarren, debedb

      That more and more journals are in the hands of big holding companies that don't know jack about science; they just buy up journals to milk scientists and libraries of all the cash they have, because they're a captive audience; they have no choice but to buy the journals: like Elsevier, Wiley, and ACS Publications.

  •  My only comment so far is, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Journals are useful because they have reputations. Good journals almost always publish good science, whereas with less reputable journals it's a crapshoot. So in that respect, journals are useful as an early selection tool.

    Yes, I know this is unfair and makes for intellectual sloppiness.

    The other thing is, the publication-end peer review step. How does that work, precisely, without journals? How is it documented?

    Socialism: Aspirin for your social-welfare headaches. (Use in moderation.)

    by Shaviv on Tue Aug 28, 2007 at 07:06:52 PM PDT

  •  The Journals I know (0+ / 0-)

    are run by professional societies like: American Geophysical Union, American Society of Civil Engineers, American Water Resources Association and most others I think of.  These journals at best break even and may depend on subscriptions of the journals to make publishing of them possible.  I thinks copywrite laws ought to give them some protection (or a much worse alternative is to make them "public" and for the Government to subsidize take their costs.)  

    •  The journals I know (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      are run by commercial scientific publishers and make great quantities of money these days now that publication costs are close to zero and the hard editorial work is done mostly for free by leading professionals.

      One example is Reed Elsevier, which just recently pulled out of a lucrative arrangement with the armaments industry because their core business was threatened by a revolt of their unpaid academic labor.


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