Cassandra has moved. Ugo Bardi publishes now on a new site called "The Seneca Effect."

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Education of a Scientist

h/t Azimuth. See also my previous post on this subject. This clip is lovely when the little bear compares scientific editors to the Sopranos. I signed the petition to boycott Elsevier and I already sent back to them the request for a review that they asked me to do for one of their journals with a note saying "sorry, will not do this because I am boycotting you". I don't know how happy they were about that. I was.


  1. Hi Ugo,

    We have corresponded before on this, so I'll do my best not to repeat the earlier discussion.

    It seems to me that scientists hold a fair number of 'cards to play' here. You have deployed the boycott card and costs may force you to play the 'refuse to pay' card. Scientists hold all the cards for 'quality' of content. They even hold the card for quality of journal for research assessment purposes.

    Modern IT permits scientists to dispense with a significant amount of services the publishers provide.

    The publishers hold the cards for 'inertia', 'divide and conquer' (given the difficulty in organising scientists, aka herding cats, this is a powerful card) and 'fear, uncertainty and doubt'.

    Therefore, what is needed is a set of defined objectives and a strategy to achieve those objectives. However, until you (i.e. anyone) are able to successfully 'herd the cats' anything else will be a waste of time. Success at this may be all that is needed to get the publishers to change. (as an expert in system dynamics, you know all this!)

    Best of luck,


  2. Soooo many thinks scientists should be educated about... e.g.:

    Oldest Arctic Sea Ice is Disappearing

    But, decreasing fractional knowledge (or increasing expertise) is the result of increasing complexity. Inevitable, inavoidable...


  3. Apart for imminent global collapse aspects (rendering the whole discussion pointless), this isn't an easy "issue" at all seems to me.

    Indeed there is a benefit in the proper referencing job done by publishers, leading to stable links basically (you can check the little "wars" between DOI organisation and W3C about that for instance). And one could also argue that the "publication gate or filter" still improves the work being published, even if just in obliging oneself to go through this gate, and overall quite obvious that there is also a lot of "junk" floating around (but can be the case in peer review as well).

    Anyway, not knowing this "world" a lot, for Ugo and others who know it better, to what extend would you say that publishers(or some individuals within them) truly make "tons of money" in this business, or not ?
    Or is it more the "overhead"(also known as human ressources, staff) inherited from pre digital time that lead to these cost and/or prices figures ?

    But apart from the cost aspect, seems to me that a balance has to be found, if you consider for instance the price of one paper, between the "number of instances sold", and the price of each instance, or let's say some kind of "optimal price" in optimizing the revenues, and clearly this ridiculous $30 or $35 a paper is currently way overboard.

    I have bought 2 or 3 in my whole lifetime at that price I think, but if a very easy "one click buying" for papers at $2 $3 or $4, and without a registration process always trying to bring you into subscription was in place, for sure I would have bought much more.

    It is also a lot this environment which is missing in fact, and also true for digital publication in a very general sense, with the 2 or 3 giants getting set up right now for instance :

    Note: in fact this also one of the subject of my "blog", as in :

  4. Well, Yves, let's say that my book for the general public "La Terra svuotata" costs 16 Euros, including the royalties for the author - and this is NOT a best-seller. Now, compare with my other recent book "Revisiting the Limits to Growth" that the editor sells at Eur 50-60, and no royalties for the author. I don't know how many copies they printed, but the second book can't cost much more than the first, even though they surely printed a smaller number. So, my "pifometre" (you are French, you understand this term :-) ) tells me that they are making a lot of money on this book.

    Then, of course, charging 30 dollars for a paper that they paid zero and that they printed on demand....

  5. Yes, they are making a lot of money... but eventually someone will make a scan pdf of the "limits revised" book and then eventually let it go on the peer to peer web.

    Alas, people is so disrespectful of other's hard work...

  6. "Limits revisited" is already available on the web, as a pdf scanned by someone. I think it is the logic consequence of charging such outrageous prices for an original. That has not happened for my other book, at 16 Euros (now discounted at 14) it is reasonable to buy it and read it in holy peace.

  7. Thanks for the info Ugo, otherwise you see things like arXiv replacing the traditional publishing houses ?

    What are the current principles around the "gate" to be able put something on arXiv or not ?

    As to the "peer to peer web", somehow there is also quite a bit of hypocrisy there, for instance in saying "there are no centers in peer to peer", when indeed there are, due to the need for catalogs especially. About this :

    For me what we miss first and foremost, is a new role, associated organisations, and a very clear role separation between : organisations holding "personal digital access rights to some published work" independantly of publishers, machine makers, online shops, "social networks", etc, on one side, publishers, online shops, content holders on the other side.
    Which by the way would also allow to get out of this "files and copies" mindset and move to a "if I hve bought this thing free or not I can access it and that's it", also allowing less hardware for everybody, getting out of all the backup, transfer, synchro hell, while still being able to view same "bookshelf" on any machine.
    But it is in fact primarily an organisation structure and role issue, much more than a technical one.

    Otherwise a new report on energy and minerals availibility :

    Quite scary ...

  8. Well, there is a lot of movement in this field. Basically, we are trying to manage 21st century information dissemination using methods developed in early 20th century. It doesn't work. There will be big changes, but the "arXiv" in itself is not sufficient. Everything is in flow. The only sure thing is that scientists are normally extremely conservative so the transition will be very slow.

    Thanks to the link to Zittel's work.Hugely interesting



Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)