Five companies control more than half of academic publishing

June 10, 2015
At great expense to scientists across all fields, Reed-Elsevier, Springer, Wiley-Blackwell, Taylor & Francis, and Sage now publish more than 50 percent of academic articles, say researchers at the University of Montreal. Credit: Joel Bedford CC BY ND 2.0 flic.kr/p/B8HeG

A study at the University of Montreal shows that the market share of the five largest research publishing houses reached 50% in 2006, rising, thanks to mergers and acquisitions, from 30% in 1996 and only 20% in 1973. "Overall, the major publishers control more than half of the market of scientific papers both in the natural and medical sciences and in the social sciences and humanities," said Professor Vincent Larivière of the School of Library and Information Science, who led the study. "Furthermore, these large commercial publishers have huge sales, with profit margins of nearly 40%. While it is true that publishers have historically played a vital role in the dissemination of scientific knowledge in the print era, it is questionable whether they are still necessary in today's digital era."

Professor Larivière and his colleagues obtained their results by analyzing all scientific articles indexed in the Web of Science database and published between 1973 and 2013. Then, to trace the evolution of journal ownership in the complex and dynamic market of academic publishing, the researchers reviewed the history of and the publishers' online press releases as well as their profiles. "Looking more closely at the various research disciplines, we noted that some disciplines have escaped the control of the major publishers," said Larivière. "This is the case of biomedical research, physics, and the arts and humanities. In the case of the arts and humanities, this is explained by the greater number of local books and journals that disseminate research and have transitioned more slowly to digital format. Conversely, more than two thirds of journals in chemistry, psychology, social sciences, and the professional fields are published by one of the major publishers." Several factors help to explain the incredible profitability of this industry. In particular, the publishers do not have to pay for the articles or their quality control, which are freely provided by the . Furthermore, the publishers have a monopoly on the content of journals, which, in digital format, can be published as a single copy whose access is then sold to multiple buyers.

The scientific community has begun to protest against the aggressive commercial practices of the major publishers, said Larivière, citing the example of the "Cost of Knowledge" campaign, which encourages researchers to stop participating as authors, editors, and reviewers of Elsevier journals. In addition, universities have stopped negotiating with the major publishers and have threatened to boycott them, while some have simply cancelled their subscriptions to these journals. The extent of the movement is limited, however, because journals are still a source of scientific capital for researchers. "As long as publishing in high impact factor journals is a requirement for researchers to obtain positions, research funding, and recognition from peers, the major commercial publishers will maintain their hold on the academic publishing system," Larivière said.

Indeed, large publishers have the infrastructure and resources needed to publish and disseminate scientific journals. "One would expect that a major publisher acquiring a would have the effect of increasing the latter's visibility. However, our study shows that there is no clear increase in terms of citations after switching from a small to large publisher," Larivière exclaimed. "Our findings question the real added value of big publishers. Ultimately, the question is whether the services provided to the scientific community by these publishers warrant the growing share of budgets allocated to them."

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KBK
5 / 5 (4) Jun 10, 2015
This is a system that stalls invention, stalls science and prevents the uptick of society, it blocks the average person from looking at science.

That science is not 'open', it is CLOSED, behind an enforced paywall. The reality, is that open science is a lie.

All paywall publishing should be done away with, it is retarding the advancement of humanity and creating a cryptic secret world, that is hidden behind this grotesque parasitic fortress.
JeanTate
3.7 / 5 (3) Jun 11, 2015
At least in astronomy and astrophysics most papers can be accessed free ... or rather the preprints can be (but not every author posts to astro-ph). Contrast that with Earth/planetary studies ... few preprints on arXiv ... (who owns Icarus?)
antialias_physorg
3.4 / 5 (5) Jun 11, 2015
Occasionally - when the debate on here is very good and the paper isn't accessible - I contact the authors directly. In almost all cases they are nice enough to either explain the contentious point or send a pdf of their paper (though that is in a legal gray zone, as if you publish with Elsevier, Springer, etc. you sign away the rights to your *own* paper to them. It's probably legally inthe category of sharing a song with someone you know - with the exception that you wrote the song)

it is retarding the advancement of humanity

Those who can actually use the papers to advance humanity (i.e. those who actually work in these fields) have access to them. It would be cool if everyone had free access, but that wouldn't advance humanity any faster.

As for the data: That is in most all cases in some private/raw format and wouldn't be any good to anyone else - even if they could access it.
Uncle Ira
1 / 5 (1) Jun 11, 2015
@ Everybody. I do not think this is so strange non. Did you Skippys know that over three quarters of all cars are made from five companies? And nine tenths of all computers are run with the stuffs made from just two companies? That is a true thing. Maybe you guys can think of even more "more than's" to postup.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) Jun 11, 2015
I do not think this is so strange non.

It's not strange. But it means the prices for these journals are pretty high (can be tens of thousands of dollars for a bundled yearly subscription...and a good university with many faculties needs many such bundles). It seems like these kinds of journals are a huge cash cow for the publishers. Even though the number of subscribers per journal is fairly low the cost of creating the journal itself is not particularly high (as noted: neither authors nor peer reviewers get paid).

There should be some middle road. I have no problem with articles being for pay if they are collected by publishers into thematically connected subsets and are subjected to peer review. But they should be in the 1-2$ range per article - not in the 20-60$ range.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (4) Jun 11, 2015
I do not think this is so strange non.

To elucidate this a bit more: When you buy a car you have a choice. You can buy a car from manufacturer A or manufacturer B and either will satisfy your need for mobility. So the manufacturers are somewhat in competition (barring any kind of secret cartel deals) which keeps prices reasonably low.

Elsevier, Springer, et al. are not in that kind of competition. You cannot buy paper X from Elsevier if you don't like paying the price that Springer is charging - because only Springer owns the paper. And if you do research in a very specific area you can't just get papers in a semi-related area from somewhere else and build on that. You need the top papers - which means you have to pay the price of the ones holding the rights to them (we have monopoly situations here...i.e. they charge a mint for what they supply)
OdinsAcolyte
not rated yet Jun 11, 2015
This explains a lot.
Uncle Ira
3 / 5 (2) Jun 11, 2015
I do not think this is so strange non.

To elucidate this a bit more: When you buy a car you have a choice. You can buy a car from manufacturer A or manufacturer B and either will satisfy your need for mobility. So the manufacturers are somewhat in competition (barring any kind of secret cartel deals) which keeps prices reasonably low.

Elsevier, Springer, et al. are not in that kind of competition. You cannot buy paper X from Elsevier if you don't like paying the price that Springer is charging - because only Springer owns the paper. And if you do research in a very specific area you can't just get papers in a semi-related area from somewhere else and build on that. You need the top papers - which means you have to pay the price of the ones holding the rights to them (we have monopoly situations here...i.e. they charge a mint for what they supply)


@ Alias-Skippy. I did not think of that. That makes sense to me.
Nicholas_
not rated yet Jun 12, 2015
The real barrier to free open knowledge is the astronomical fees universities charge students to study. The reality is that major publishers have had to cut thousands of jobs in recent years. They make a loss on many publications that are often little more than vanity publishing for academics, so that those same academics also contribute to more important publications.

The article mentions Reed Elsevier (now called RELX); if the researchers had looked at RELX's latest annual report, they would have seen that revenues fell by 4% last year and net profits fell by 14%. Meanwhile the revenue of colleges & universities in the US increased by nearly 10% last year (see Statista, Revenue of colleges & universities in the United States from 2009 to 2014). Students are being squeezed, but they need to look closer to home for the culprits.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) Jun 12, 2015
The real barrier to free open knowledge is the astronomical fees universities charge students to study

That really depends on which country you live in. In most countries studying at a university is free (or as near as makes no difference - given sufficient show of aptitude in previous educational steps or admission exams).

They make a loss on many publications that are often little more than vanity publishing for academics

Universities make no money on publishing at all. But publishing is supremely important. Otherwise everyone would duplicate the efforts of others and a lot of effort and money would be wasted (globally!).

Publishing is also important to the individual researcher to establish a track record. How else should committees decide whom to hire for teaching/senior researcher/professor posts? If you're going to give someone tenure you'd better make sure they are excellent at what they do.
Nicholas_
not rated yet Jun 12, 2015
Thanks @antialias_physorg, to clarify I was referring to the US universities, although increasingly European universities are charging a fortune for tuition.

When I said: "They make a loss on many publications that are often little more than vanity publishing for academics" I was referring the publishers making a loss not universities. Many publishers publish Phd theses of post-doctoral researchers even though it makes no money for the publisher but, as you say, are very important for the post-doc and the advancement a specialist scientific area. These costs has to be recovered from somewhere, which is partly why specialist journals are so expensive. There has always been an informal understanding between academia and publishers about this, but if this goes away, then publishers will cut the costs of journals by only publishing commercially profitable content.

jeffensley
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 12, 2015
Freelance science is the answer. Science has been boxed into the political/economic systems that run higher-education institutions. Creativity is stifled. We need to stop pretending that science/research is something that can only be conducted by someone with an expensive Master's degree or PhD. There are tons of brilliant and creative people out there who don't have degrees but have much to contribute to society.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Jun 12, 2015
Many publishers publish Phd theses of post-doctoral researchers even though it makes no money for the publisher

The PhD student pays for these publications (or the institute). There's a minimum number of copies you _have_ to publish when you get a PhD (usually 3. One for the university archives. One for the university library. And one for yourself...though its a good idea to get some extra.). You wouldn't go to Springer et al. for this. Unless you're sure of selling quite a few. They are not obliged to print your thesis - and will only do so if you upfront the money. There is no way they are losing money on this.

You can get this done at local printeries or sometmes directly at the university printing shop.
Publishers make money on journals/proceedings. A lot.

There has always been an informal understanding between academia and publishers about this

Never heard about this in my years at academia. And I have been published with these guys. Source?
JeanTate
4 / 5 (4) Jun 13, 2015
The main publishers have a ~40% (EBITA) return, if memory serves. Most companies would die to have that! They operate very much like a cartel, but for some reason the Competition Authorities in various countries have not investigated them. Many have started an 'open access' framework, whereby every paper funded by taxpayers' money must be made freely available (many puts and takes on this); however, to my knowledge the US has not even begun to discuss something like this. The major publishers love this ... they have structured their fees so that 'immediate access' is incredibly expensive, and earns them guarranteed $$, far in excess of their marginal costs ...

And let's not forget: the peer reviewers - who one could argue generate an enormous part of the added value - get paid nothing. In fact, they have to take time from their own research to do the reviews!

In economics, I think the term is 'rent seeking'.
Returners
1 / 5 (1) Jun 14, 2015
While the meme of the disaster gene experiment continues in science fiction, r.e. Jurassic Park, the real world presses on with nerve toxins gene spliced into our food. The fiction cannot compete with reality, as diabetes and other neuropathy disorders continue to spread through the population like wildfire, even though they are not contagious disorders. Does anyone else actually give this any thought? Diabetes is not a communicable disease, yet it keeps spreading? You have to start to wonder what causes that, and the most obvious reason is not sugar. People were consuming large amounts of sugar a hundred years ago, so what happened just a few decades ago? GMO corn, that's what. Botulism toxin in our food at the genetic level.

Let's see some academic publishing on that topic for once. Every time someone publishes on this topic some world government silences them and it goes another year or two before the next honest person tries to bring attention to the problem.
Returners
1 / 5 (1) Jun 14, 2015
Sugar doesn't help the problem though, so don't misunderstand. I'm in favor of some "fat taxes". I mean, I'm ashamed of my weight, and I'm "only" 200lbs, but it's freaking disgusting to go to the hospital, for example, and be waiting to take a blood test, and there's a 400lbs woman walk through the door who can't even bathe herself and has to wear a bedsheet for a shirt because clothes don't fit her. Looks more like a hippo than a human.

If they had Cushings that would be one thing, but this isn't Cushings, this is hand-to-mouth disease. I don't think the government should pay for the medical care of people with hand-to-mouth disease. In fact I think the government should penalize them, and insurance companies should be allowed to drop their coverage. It's just like house insurance. If you do something that destroys the foundation of your house, such as leave the water hose running 24/7 for a year, that's your fault, not everyone else. Insurance shouldn't cover that. Same deal.
Returners
1 / 5 (1) Jun 14, 2015
Anyway, let's figure out just how much of obesity is caused by GMO poisons in our food, and how much is caused by consuming sugars, and how much is caused by just the sheer volume of calories of whatever type.

Poison calories (GMO botulism)
Sugar calories (almost everything edible that isn't a protein or fat is a sugar)
Volume of total calories

DNA and RNA are made of sugar, and cell membranes are made of lipids and fats, so the two most fundamental molecules of life are sugar and fat, so they can't be all that bad for life.

Stop putting poison in our food.

Big pharmacy just wants to make more money off Metformin and Neurontin and other nerve pain medicines.

hmmmmmm, our food now genetically codes for nerve toxin, our citizens all have nerve pain disorders.....nah, naaaaaah, the two pieces of information couldn't be related, could they? I mean, nerve pain, nerve toxin in our food, and in our food's food.... nope, nothing to see here, move along sheeple.
Returners
1 / 5 (1) Jun 14, 2015
Meanwhile, universities are more concerned with the alleged AGW catastrophe than they are with the millions of people being killed directly via GMO food.

OMG, AGW might displace a few cities due to coastal erosion and sea level rise.

I say that won't be a problem by 50 to 100 years time, because GMO food is going to kill or cripple everyone at this rate.

But maybe that's your intention, isn't it?

I wouldn't have a problem if GMO corn had been engineered to say, produce a few extra blades of grass and another ear of corn per stalk, but that isn't the route they took. They took the route of gene splicing poison into the food. For what reason? Anything that kills insects can kill human beings, albeit more slowly and more painfully. I can assure you I am not a diabetic, and my doctor says I am not a diabetic, but I'm being treated like a diabetic because nobody knows anything else to do, and corn is in every food that isn't literally picked with your bare hands.
Returners
1 / 5 (1) Jun 14, 2015
I don't think the corn we plant is GMO, i wouldn't have anything to do with it if it was, but for all I know some of the genes from the GMO corn has probably crossed into it already. It's inescapable almost. The all-natural strains only exist in a corner market now, as the poison strains dominate the market, promoted by the FDA; that institution which has morphed into a 4th branch of the government, which has no oversight and no representation.
ab3a
not rated yet Jun 14, 2015
Freelance science is the answer. Science has been boxed into the political/economic systems that run higher-education institutions. Creativity is stifled. We need to stop pretending that science/research is something that can only be conducted by someone with an expensive Master's degree or PhD. There are tons of brilliant and creative people out there who don't have degrees but have much to contribute to society.


Freelance Science was once how much of the physics we know today was done. The scientists were either wealthy themselves or had wealthy sponsors who understood what they were doing. It wasn't all bad. While there will always be a place for government run research, it wouldn't hurt to be able to facilitate some of the methods used in earlier eras.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Jun 15, 2015
There are tons of brilliant and creative people out there who don't have degrees but have much to contribute to society.

Sure. But you also have to appreciate that the easy stuff is mostly done. The stuff where real science happens nowadays requires substantial education so that you at least understand what you're talking about (much less be able to contribute).

Scientists aren't stupid. The stuff that the 'brilliant people without a degree' have thought of they have thought of a hundred years ago. the reason why it didn't fly was because it was wrong - not because it came from laymen.
(Anywho: if someone actually IS brilliant then it isn't much effort for them to get a degree. There's no sense in actively NOT educating yourself. Even you must admit that that is counter-productive. )

Yes: someone who knows nothing about chess can make a valid chess move. But he's unlikely to make a move that would teach a grandmaster anything (much less be able to beat a grandmaster)
jeffensley
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 15, 2015
Sure. But you also have to appreciate that the easy stuff is mostly done. The stuff where real science happens nowadays requires substantial education so that you at least understand what you're talking about (much less be able to contribute).


Not sure I would agree with that.

The "easy"... considering how much research has gone into the human body.

http://www.huffin...560.html

The untrained making discoveries...

http://phys.org/n...net.html

The brilliant don't necessarily do well in the structured environments of school. We overwhelm them with textbook knowledge and minimize creative thought by presenting a paradigm within which they must work. I think we should draw the line between fact and theory a little earlier in high school and higher education. Who knows how many discoveries have been lost because we present theories as facts?
antialias_physorg
4 / 5 (4) Jun 15, 2015
The untrained making discoveries...

Yep. He actively went somewhere where he can make observations. He went through the data KNOWING and UNDERSTANDING what he was looking for. He wasn't untrained.

(But to put this in perspective: He matched a pattern. But he neither wrote the software nor did he collect the data. If you want to call that "science" go ahead. I think it's awesome for him. And I wouldn't be surprised if he'd continue to study astronomy in depth. But we shouldn't blow this out of proportion. Certainly this is nowhere near the ToE-proclaiming cranks on here)

Who knows how many discoveries have been lost because we present theories as facts?

Never fear. The brilliant know the difference. Only the stupid would ever have the notion that they can be mistaken for one another.
jeffensley
1 / 5 (2) Jun 15, 2015
Only the stupid would ever have the notion that they can be mistaken for one another.


Aren't you cute?
JeanTate
5 / 5 (3) Jun 16, 2015
@jeffensley:
The untrained making discoveries...
The potential for scientific discoveries is huge, particularly in the many online (and offline) citizen science projects. For example, Moon, Mercury, and Vesta Mappers (CosmoQuest), and the many Zooniverse ones.

In Galaxy Zoo, the original Zooniverse project, several serendipitous discoveries were made. Perhaps the most famous is "Hanny's Voorwerp" (she got to be a co-author in several papers); another is Green Peas (just one of the many citizen scientists involved got to be a co-author).

One challenge in these: few, if any, of the citizen scientists have the combo of skills and experience to be able to write up discoveries on their own (a Planet Hunters team is an exception), and few professionals are interested enough/have enough time to be engaged in a true pro-am collaboration.

Amateur astronomers, of course, have continued to make plenty of discoveries ...
ab3a
3 / 5 (2) Jun 17, 2015
Never fear. The brilliant know the difference. Only the stupid would ever have the notion that they can be mistaken for one another.


Every once in a while, I get a brilliant insight. It doesn't happen very often, but I have had the experience enough to know what it is like. However, I'm not like that most of the time, nor do I introduce or discuss myself in those terms. I'm just someone with better than average observational skills and the occasional wit to learn from it.

Your statement is a prime example of what scares people off from science. We're supposed to bow to educated scientists because they're "brilliant." Your statement sounds as if there ought to be gatekeepers to what most people think of as "science." Those are the very "gatekeepers" that people like Oliver Heaviside fought for most of his career to gain credibility and success.

This attitude is the problem. It is naked arrogance. It is wrong. Science should be accessible to all.
JeanTate
5 / 5 (1) Jun 17, 2015
@ab3a:
Science should be accessible to all
I agree!

But how do we smash the strangle-hold just five for-profit companies have over academic publishing? How do we get free access to the primary sources in science (the published papers)?

For the rest of your comment, I think you may have misunderstood what antialias_physorg meant, in the context of his comment.
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (3) Jun 18, 2015
Every once in a while, I get a brilliant insight.

I don't doubt this. Everyone has a cool idea every now and again. And yes: scientific results should be fully accessible (but they should also be quality controlled - because else most people won't be able to tell pseudo-science from science).

But there are a few realities in science - especially when you get deeper than the mere "unearthing relics, cataloging species, categorizing star systems" (what Feynman so aptly calls "collecting stamps").

Physics is complex. The frontier areas of research in physics are HIGHLY complex. You absolutely need an understanding about very hard mathematical concepts to even understand what is going on there (much less make a relevant input). Anyone who thinks their brainfarts coming from a highschool mastery of math/physics will contribute is fooling themselves. That's not arrogance. That's just the hard reality of it.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Jun 18, 2015
But don't take my word for it. Again Feynman puts it quite succinctly when he talks about the input of laymen (if you're impatient skip to the last few minutes of the video. But the entire video is a brilliant, and easily accessible summary of what the scientific method is)

https://www.youtu...apE-3FRw

And I agree with him. One should look at any ideas that laymen put out there. But laymen should not expect their ideas to amount to much.

The follow up video
https://www.youtu...zWTU7X-k
illustrates this. Two theories that make identical predictions (that match observations) cannot be distinguished as to their veracity.
This does not mean that simply having a bright idea that 'sounds good' but that hasn't been checked to the same rigour as the 'old' one is automatically equally valid.

Relativity was just not a new idea. It matched all observation just as Newton AT THE TIME it was made (and was firther tested later on)
JeanTate
5 / 5 (2) Jun 18, 2015
A word in favor of astronomy: it's not anywhere near as complex as physics. And there's a lot more one can do than "collect stamps".

With the vast amount of high quality astronomical data - especially from large-scale surveys, done at many different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum - there is tremendous opportunity for amateurs/citizen scientists to make serendipitous discoveries (and some/many have indeed been made by them). The hard part - for citizen scientists - is to investigate these discoveries further, beyond merely making a catalog; that requires at least senior high school math (and a willingness and ability to teach yourself a lot more stuff).
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Jun 18, 2015
And there's a lot more one can do than "collect stamps".

Sure. The pattern matching algorithms alone used in astrophysics are top notch (and they tend to crop up in altered forms a few years later in the medical imaging world...where I'm active at the moment. E.g. recognizing/classifying galaxies and tumors has a lot in common.)

The hard part - for citizen scientists - is to investigate these discoveries further,

Yes. This is what I was getting at. Data input/evaluation? Sure. Anyone can contribute. We used to call these 'data typists' and 'analysts'..today they're called 'citizen scientists'.

But one has to realize there's a tiny bit of a gap between a data analyst and someone who has the ability to formulate a ToE. And that gap cannot be breached without some serious studying of math/physics.
JeanTate
5 / 5 (2) Jun 18, 2015
Sure. The pattern matching algorithms alone used in astrophysics are top notch (and they tend to crop up in altered forms a few years later in the medical imaging world...where I'm active at the moment. E.g. recognizing/classifying galaxies and tumors has a lot in common.)
Cool!

Are you involved in Cell Slider?

A recent Kaggle challenge involved computer systems to match humans' ability to classify the galaxies in GZ2. The winner used convnets ... and successfully matched humans' ability to misclassify! Radio Galaxy Zoo - which I'm working on - aims to get the 'morphology' data (and more) necessary to begin doing decent pattern matching; so far, the best machines can do is woefully awful. When the SKA comes online, there'll be so much data that machines will be absolutely essential. Ditto LSST.
there's a tiny bit of a gap between a data analyst and someone who has the ability to formulate a ToE
True. But not between stamp collecting and researching Green Peas!
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Jun 18, 2015
Are you involved in Cell Slider?

I used to do algorithms related to bone structure (image segmentation and analysis)...which is not as easy as it may sound, as the resolution of the data was around 0.3mm and the trabeculae can be quite a bit smaller than that. But I had to study the literature on image segmentation extensively...and occasionally you find quirky references to astrophysics papers in biomedical papers.

A recent Kaggle challenge

Been meaning to get into the Kaggle challenges. But my neural network software isn't done (lack of time, dammit). Wanted to have a go at the Higgs event classification they had up a while back.
But it's totally awesome that they give access to the kinds of massive datasets needed for something like this.

But not between stamp collecting and researching Green Peas!

Ah well...the latter does need a solid founding in statistics ;-)
ab3a
5 / 5 (1) Jun 18, 2015
My concern is that in any professional endeavor, a certain orthodoxy can take hold. Once it takes hold, arrogance and closed-mindedness replace thoughtful, open minded discussion.

It is unfortunate that education is such an experience of social hazing instead of learning. Those who survive it have typically had most of their creativity beaten out of them. Many feel that someone who discusses the study with them must have survived this hazing or their views are somehow invalid. One has to learn the lingo and the terms of art or be considered just another layman who "doesn't know anything."

How many times have you had the experience of trying to answer an innocent question and then realize that you don't know the answer as well as you thought? Schools do not encourage that sort of questioning in class.

(continued...)

ab3a
not rated yet Jun 18, 2015
(...continuing)

The complexity is often the result of too many specialists who don't fully understand anything outside their own field trying to convey a concept in their own private lingo-land.

There will always be crackpots just as there will always be pompous professors who don't understand what they're professing. The point of science is to develop experiments that are informative and can clearly confirm or deny an hypothesis.

These experiments do not have to be large projects. They can be small scale too. They can be indirect, but informative. However, bureaucracies thrive on large projects and that in turn leads to lots of money and power. People gravitate toward those ends, leading everyone to think that science must be big and expensive.

Given the cost of journals, the jargon, and the often snotty attitude to outsiders, and frankly, I don't see a whole lot of discovery going on here. Just as makers have transformed engineering, perhaps it is time for science.
ab3a
not rated yet Jun 18, 2015
(P.S.) This is one reason I have always enjoyed The Journal of Irreproducible Results and the Annals of Improbable Research. It is good to poke fun at what passes for studies these days. It helps to keep the community honest and engaging; and above all, outside their jargon-coated comfort zone.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Jun 19, 2015
Many feel that someone who discusses the study with them must have survived this hazing or their views are somehow invalid.

I don't think that's true. It is just that when people without the basics (much less the 'intermediates' or the 'advanceds') start to discuss something of that sort you really want to go "Stop. Please stop" after the first few sentences (in almost all cases. There are exceptions).
Not because they haven't passed some rite of passage, but because you can see that it's just wrong, immediately.

Remember that even scientists were once uneducated (i.e. when they started out at university) and went through these very same thoughts. What you think is novel and brilliant in all likelyhood isn't.
Students spent many nights discussing these very same 'brilliant' ideas with their pals. But a few semesters later it becomes obvious that they were missing a lot of the basics to make that judgement at the time.

Happens to every student. Every. Single. One.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Jun 19, 2015
The thing about education in the sciences is: You don't just learn new stuff all the time. You also UNlearn a lot of stuff that you thought was obviously right (because it turns out that experiment shows that it's wrong...such as universal time, or absolute location, or determinism, or ... ).
And a lot of the 'naive' ideas proposed by laymen are based on these wrong assumptions because they haven't unlearned them.

As for the jargon. Scientists don't make up jargon for jargon's sake. Because of the above there are areas that aren't intuitive/ linked to everyday experience and therefore don't have a word for them from 'non-jargon' vocabulary.
Note that whenever scientist try to NOT use jargon it causes misunderstandings and endless 'brilliant' (wrong) ideas from laymen ("wave-particle", "quantum teleportation", "quantum information", etc, )
JeanTate
5 / 5 (2) Jun 19, 2015
@ab3a:
Once it takes hold, arrogance and closed-mindedness replace thoughtful, open minded discussion
There may be branches of science where this is true, but it's certainly not true in astronomy etc.

There are many fora for astronomers to have discussions, from informal 'coffee club' (or 'journal club') meetings to giant international conferences. If you ever get a chance to attend any of these, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at how little arrogance there is (of course there's some; astronomers are humans too), and how much open-minded discussion there is.

And there are surely few who do not hold, in their heart of hearts, a hope/wish to be the/a author of some ground-breaking paper. This is what happened to Saul Perlmutter, Adam Riess, and Brian Schmidt (they shared a Nobel Prize), ditto Richard Hulse and Joseph Taylor (more?).
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (1) Jun 19, 2015
. In most countries studying at a university is free

Are the professors in Europe slaves?

People value what they pay for.
JeanTate
5 / 5 (1) Jun 19, 2015
@ryggesongn2:
Are the professors in Europe slaves?

People value what they pay for
People do pay for professors in Europe ... by paying taxes. Most countries in Europe are democracies, so I guess that - at some level - the people in those countries do value the 'free' education they pay for.
ab3a
not rated yet Jun 19, 2015
@JeanTate: I would agree. The reason Astronomy is comparatively sane is because contributions from backyard astronomers are welcomed and respected among the ranks.
ab3a
1 / 5 (1) Jun 19, 2015
However, things get very complicated in high energy physics. On this, I agree with antialias_physorg.

The missing link for chemistry was the periodic table of the elements. The missing link for electromagnetism was not just Maxwell's work but Heaviside's notation.

In high energy physics, the standard model is still very much in need of refinement and reorganization. However, many are so used to living within this complexity that they don't see what's wrong with it.

It's like being in a room with Sulfur Dioxide. At first, it smells like rotten eggs. And then as you continue to work there, you soon stop smelling it. Eventually it can reach levels where your body shuts down.

I think that's the problem with high energy physics. There is too much invested in the education and complexity to entertain a simpler way of looking at it. Those who are in it don't notice because they have stopped smelling it. We need another Heaviside. Would he be taken seriously? I wonder.
jeffensley
1 / 5 (1) Jun 19, 2015
Anyone have a good link to an analysis of the actual cost for higher education in countries where it's funded by tax money vs. the cost in countries where education is on the free market? All I could find was a comparison of tuition costs which is apples/oranges.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Jun 19, 2015
Are the professors in Europe slaves?

Universities are run by tax money.
Research that goes on there is more an more a mix of tax and company money (more joint venture types of research). As in any research they must find a way to get the grant money together. There's not an infinite of money out there.

But professors have the freedom to choose what to do research on. When you have tenure that liberates you from any pressure to conform.

There is too much invested in the education and complexity to entertain a simpler way of looking at it.

The entire field of string theory would tend to disagree. There are alternative ways being looked at all the time. It's just that none have yet been able to come close to the success of the current set of theories. If and when they do you can watch physicists change over in a blink of an eye. Depend on it.

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