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The Biggest Scandal in Science
— Why should the public pay twice, even three times, to see the research it funded?
Following is a transcript of this video; note that errors are possible:
Rohin Francis, MBBS: Welcome back to yet another night shift. It’s Shift #4 and in a fit of narcissistic delirium I decided to search for one of my own publications, but I can’t actually see it without paying. The per-article price is about standard, £30 or $40.
If you’re writing a paper, you might reference 50 studies, which would be a huge expense. Luckily I get access through my university, who are in turn funded by me and other students through our fees and by the government. An establishment like UCL will pay something £10 to £12 million pounds a year for subscriptions to scientific journals, most of which belong to just five publishing companies. (See link for article)
Rohin Francis, MBBS, is an interventional cardiologist, internal medicine doctor, and university researcher who makes science videos and bad jokes. Offbeat topics you won’t find elsewhere, enriched with a government-mandated dose of humor. Trained in Cambridge; now PhD-ing in London.
Science journals have gotten away with one of the biggest monopolizing schemes in the world.
- peer-reviewers aren’t paid
- authors of scientific article aren’t paid by the journals
- the public pays for the content – the science itself in the form of tax and then pays millions to access that science – so we pay twice
- the scientific publishing industry is valued at around $20 billion – same as the music and movie industries
- interestingly, fraudster and alleged spy Robert Maxwell – father of the infamous Ghislaine Maxwell, was the first to turn science into profit by creating Pergamon Press (which was eventually sold to Elsevier which quickly hiked up prices forcing libraries to end subscriptions to less popular titles. Now in control of a quarter of all scientific literature, it told universities to pay a lump sum for their whole catalog or get nothing). He wined and dined scientists, signing them up to exclusive deals with his journals and greatly influenced modern science with paid subscriptions creating the monopoly of a handful of journals which prioritized novel research
- there are a few other companies with a stranglehold on scientific publishing
- instead of replicating studies and answering the big questions, quickly turned around experiments that are popular are hot with journal editors (we see this clearly with the ‘climate change’ moniker regarding tick proliferation and the spread of Lyme)
- those using observational studies or without control groups are laughed at
- a true monopoly has occurred because scientists are required to read research published in their area
- Alexandra Elbakyan has having done more for science than any other living person due to creating Sci-Hub, a server dedicated to offering almost all scientific articles for free, which is of course, illegal. But illegal isn’t always wrong. It is now home to almost 80 million scientific papers. It is funded by donations
- Open-access currently exists where articles are available to everyone but it shifts the cost to the authors. This creates a needless barrier for small groups. And why choose 2-3 anonymous peer reviewers when you can have dozens by opening papers up to public scrutiny?
- scientists must be willing to forego their egos using super-flashy journals and instead use online-only, open-access journals