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We Take Responsibility for the Content

22 November 2017

From Publishing Perspectives:

In Brussels today (November 21), International Publishers Association (IPA) chief Michiel Kolman participated in the annual lecture event of the European Parliament’s Science and Technology Options Assessment, or STOA.

. . . .

Kolman’s position in this diverse set of voices was as the day’s central representative of book and scholarly publishing, surrounded as the industry is by data-leveraging technology conglomerates.

. . . .

Asking the rhetorical question, “What is the purpose of publishers in this new world?” what Kolman told them was that “Publishers have an important role to play in stopping the spread of misinformation and fake news.”

His thesis was that formal publishing protocols must stand on prescribed, formalized, mutually agreed procedures in order to ensure quality control.

“We [in book publishing] acquire content,” he said, “and in the past 20 years we have increasingly moved it to platforms online, much like a tech company. Speaking from my experience as a science publisher at Elsevier, we can guarantee that the material we produce adheres to the international standards of scholarship. It has been edited, peer-reviewed, and validated.

“In the process it has been revised and revised again to further improve the quality. Most importantly, it is carefully curated so that it remains accessible–and citable–in the future. In other words, we take responsibility for the content we produce.”

. . . .

Nor, however, did he assert that book publishing is without its occasional missteps. “Even after strict peer review,” he said, “the occasional article will slip through and is published while it should not have been. Luckily there are strict procedures in place to deal with these articles, e.g. through a corrigendum or erratum.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

“We take responsibility for the content.” PG wonders how much that is actually worth. It certainly doesn’t cost these publishers a lot of money.

Science and Technical journals are certainly the most profitable part of the publishing world.

The journals pay nothing for their content. Indeed, a respected science journal will receive far more submissions from academics eager to build or maintain their reputation than the journal can publish. Many journals require a submission fee to accompany a prospective journal article. Some journals may require both a submission fee and a printing fee for accepted articles.

Additionally, the academic journal will not pay any royalties to the author and will generally require that the author assign all of his/her copyright interest in the article to the journal for no compensation.

The expertise necessary to adequately review a journal article would be very expensive if the journal had to pay market rates for peer review of the articles it prints.

However, the more prestigious the journal, the more likely that highly-educated professors will provide peer review services at either no charge or an a nominal charge.

Being a peer reviewer for a well-known journal is a credential-burnishing activity by itself. Peer reviewers will have an expectation that when they submit their own papers for publication with the journal that their unpaid services will carry significant weight in the journal’s decision about whether to accept their own papers for publication.

So, you’re looking at a business with no content acquisition costs, free or almost free third-party editorial assistance. If a publication fee is required of the author, the publisher may significantly reduce its printing costs as well. If the publication sells most copies in electronic form on a subscription basis, the printer’s bill will be even lower.

Oh, and as far as selling the journals, once a publication develops even a modest reputation, major academic libraries will feel obligated to purchase the journal. As implied above, electronic subscriptions will essentially require the libraries to pay for each publication over and over again each year.

PG is not terribly impressed when these very wealthy publishing conglomerates “Take Responsibility for the Content.” That high-sounding sentiment is simply a relatively inexpensive cost of staying in a highly rewarding business.

 

Ebooks in Education, Non-Fiction, PG's Thoughts (such as they are)

10 Comments to “We Take Responsibility for the Content”

  1. Maybe those professors ought to listen to Harlan Ellison on that topic.

    “Pay the Writer” where he talks about being asked for free content because “exposure.”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mj5IV23g-fE

  2. The system developed because of an additional fact: the audience for Physics Review Letters or The Journal of Plasma Physics is tiny. No way the publication system could have spread very precise, reviewed, current science information if it had to pay authors, reviewers, and publication costs.

    Some of these things look like bloated cash cows (and some are, especially in the digital age) but they exist at all for a good reason.

    • “The system developed because of an additional fact: the audience for Physics Review Letters or The Journal of Plasma Physics is tiny. No way the publication system could have spread very precise, reviewed, current science information if it had to pay authors, reviewers, and publication costs.”

      All reasonable reasons why it _developped_, when paper was the only reasonable media for scientific knowledge sharing/distribution/archival. But no good reason for it to persist that way, now that publication/distribution is almost effortless, and surely not at that price.

  3. “Publishers have an important role to play in stopping the spread of misinformation and fake news.”

    Really?

    I haven’t seen them doing much stopping this century. Or last.

    What I see them doing is spreading self-serving narratives left and right. But mostly left. 😉

  4. When “Retraction Watch” goes out of business for lack of new material, then I’ll believe that academic publishers and journal editors are taking full responsibility for their content and for the use of proper methods and procedures by their submitters.

    • You aren’t holding your breath, are you?

      The system is totally broken but the establishment can’t admit it because the cow is still giving milk.

  5. Sheesh. Come on, people. Admit that taking responsibility for content is a good idea.

    You’re nursing so many resentments, you miss the value of the basic statement.

    Don’t expect such a statement from Facebook or Google.

    • Creators have responsibility for the content they unleash.
      Today’s middlemen rarely do. Look at their contracts. All the onus is on the author. That way they don’t have tp bother with fact checking.

    • The problem is not that they take responsibility for the content.
      The problem is that they say they do, and then don’t.

  6. Don’t expect such a statement from Facebook or Google.

    We have arrived at a point where Facebook and Google are more honest.

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