Publishing a paper the right way

Most people are aware of the SCIgen document generator, https://pdos.csail.mit.edu/archive/scigen/ which is able to generate a paper with random text. What is not known is how to publish such a paper in journal. The assumption is usually, that the context-free grammar in Scigen has a low quality and that the output of the paper is below the standard of an academic journal. But not so fast. Who has defined that the content of a paper is important?

My hypothesis is, that something else is more important. The author field. In the Scigen GUI it is possible to enter up to 5 authors. The assumption is, that Academia is group working, and if the names in the field are filled with values the quality of the paper is better.

Let us make an experiment. In the author field 1 my own name has to be enter. Because I’m the group leader. But I need 4 names more. If all the names are filled the group is able to publish a paper, and this paper is much better then a paper from a single researcher. Sure, the context-free grammar from Scigen remeins the same, but now the paper is the result of a group work, and this is what Academic publishers want.

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A detailed looks in paper records

In a former blogpost, https://trollheaven.wordpress.com/2018/09/17/paper-statistics-for-artificial-intelligence/ i introduced short the paper statistics from https://www.scimagojr.com/countryrank.php The first chart was helpful to understand the general idea, but now i want to go into the details. The statistics goes back into the year 1996, and from all the subject I will only focus on “Artificial Intelligence”.

At first the worldwide paper production is interesting. From under 10000 papers about Artificial Intelligence in the mid 1990s the number grows to around 60000 in 2017.

What is also interesting is the percentage of the countries. In the mid 1990s academic papers were written by the United states and japan. Japan was strong because of the so called fifth generation computing, which was a state sponsored effort in Japan to bring Robotics and Artificial Intelligence forward. China was in that period nearly not visible. In the year 2005 china has created more papers on Artificial Intelligence than Japan and in 2008 they even surpass the U.S. Since then both countries have nearly the same amount of paper productions which smaller changes at the top. Each countries produces around 10000 papers each year.

What is not visible from the statistics is the used language. Probably the U.S. researchers are publishing in English. What the preferred language of chinese publishers is remains unclear. In Google Scholar, it is rare to find a paper from a chinese university, perhaps they were written in Chinese which makes it harder for an international audiance to find such papers. According to other statistics most academic research in China is done in Mandarin for a Chinese only audience, but that is only a guess. In some papers, also chinese researchers are in the author list and the paper was written in English.

And the same language barrier is happening with japanese papers. That means, even Japan is researching a lot, most papers are not visible for the world, because the researchers only can read English. If only English-written papers are allowed for the statistics, the situation looks a bit different, that means, the U.S. has the top position and then comes a huge gap to other countries.

Why is academic publishing so expensive?

Last week, a new documentary was released called “Paywall: The Business of Scholarship (2018)”. It as available as OpenAccess at https://paywallthemovie.com/paywall In the movie an important question was asked: why is publishing so expensive, why earn the publishers so much money? Answering the question is easy: because most parts of the chains in the workflow are not organized as market driven companies but as government owned organisations. The first examples are the public libraries in the united states: 100% of them have the same legal status like a court but it would make more sense to see a library something similar to a McDonalds. The second example are the schools and public universities. They are also not market driven but are in the hand of the government without the need to become profitable. Such an environment is not interested in reducing costs, and that is the reason why public founded libraries are paying so much money for Elsevier journals.

Overcome the problem is simple. It is called library privatization and is equal to transform public libraries and public university into for-profit cooperations which compete on a free market and have the need to reduce their costs. This would improve the efficiency and would allow newly founded OpenScience companies like “Academia.edu” or “Figshare” to work profitable.

Predatory publishing is the answer to a problem

Sometimes predatory publishing is described as a mistake in a wonderful working scientific ecosystem with lots of of high quality journals. But it is the other way around, predatory publishing is nothing which can be prevented or which can be avoided – it is the future. A general definition of predatory publishing is easy to give:

– It contains of an all electronic publishing which means the authors are uploading their papers to a website

– predatory publishing is commercial oriented, that means, there is money in the game,

– the paper can be downloaded as openaccess free for the reader, that means anybody can read the paper and it is possible to search in fulltext

It sounds a bit incomprehensible to call these ingredients problematic. It not an all digital publishing workflow is the goal, what else? Should future authors print out their manuscripts or write it down per hand? And if publishing has nothing to do with economic aspects, how should science be managed instead? Right, there is no alternative available to predatory publishers and the critics who are arguing against predatory publishing know it. They are not really against predatory publishers, they see the debate as some kind of a hoax. That means, calling a predatory publisher un-scientific is some kind of inside joke. It is equal to trolling the debate.

But i don’t want to be judge to harsh. Even a hoax debate about publishing in academics is a progress. In the past, there was no discussion available. That means, the scientific community discussed everything, but leaved out the most important part: writing a paper, sending a paper to a journal and retrieving existing papers. Journals were available that is true, but there was nobody out there who could give advice about their inner working. With the new topic of predatory publishing the situation has changed. It is the first time, that there are some explanation given what a paper is, and how publishing works.

Privatization of the postal service as a blueprint for future libraries

A short look into the history of the postal service shows us, that one thing was remarkable stable. In the area before privatization the postal service was a state enterprise and has their main product the handwritten letter and after the privatization the main product remains the same. Today’s postal service is modernized and is listed at the New york stock exchange and at the same time the service wasn’t transformed into an E-Mail provider. Like 100 years ago, the postal service has to do with physical shipment of envelopes.

The example with postal service privatisation is the perfect blueprint for the future of library. Like the postal service before, the service itself hasn’t be changed. In 30 years from now, the main product of the libraries are printed books and physical journals. And the libraries will get physical customers. At the same time, the business structure will be different. Today’s libraries are organized as government monopol. That means, taxpayer’s money is used to finance a huge system of bureaucracy. The better alternative is to let the market decide how many libraries are needed, and what the customer want’s to pay.

The most important fact is, that a modern postal service is different from a telecommunication provider. AT&T has to do with internet cable and electronic communication, while UPS has to do with physical shipment of boxes. A transformation of the libraries means not to digitize the journals or provide internet access, a transformation means, that the products stays the same, but only the legal structure of the company will change.

Does it make sense to transform the British postal service into an internet company? Are the customers interested in replacing physical envelopes by E-Mail? No, if they want to send an E-Mail they will ask a telecommunication company. They are preferring the postal service because they want to send a physical letter. The same is true for the libraries. They get a stable amount of customers because they are not interested in visiting Google Scholar. The customers are going to the library, because they want to meet real people, read physical books and ask real librarians. It is unlikely that this demand will disappear in 10, 20 or 30 years.

Usage statistics for public libraries in the US

According to http://www.ala.org/tools/libfactsheets/alalibraryfactsheet06 the public libraries are producing costs of 11.5 billion US$ per years and have an in-person visit of 1.5 billion per year. That means, each visitor of a public library generates costs of 7.67 US$. The first impression might be, that the libraries are a great success, because many million people are attending them. But, if somebody is offering free beer to the public he will also get lots of customers. The prediction is, that a free service like the public library will gets more visitors in the next years and this will break the system. Because at some level, the party is overpopulated and the costs will become too high. Nobody of the visitors is paying the fee of 7.67 US$ for the visit, instead the costs are virtual and gets payed by the taxpayer. That is the reason, why the quality is so low, most of the books are outdated and the public libraries in the current form have no future. The better alternative is to privatize the business. And yes, it can be called a business. If a system generates costs of 11.5 billion us$ per year, it can’t be called a volunteer service to support the people, it is something which has to do with money, investments, profits and employees.

Only to get the facts right, Burger King has a yearly revenue of 4 billion US$. It is run at a for profit business and is not financed by taxpayer money. If somebody want’s to eat a double whopper he has to pay for it from his own money. What would happen if Burger king would no longer takes money from his customers and give away the products for free to anybody who want’s? Right, the quality will become weaker. And that is exactly the problem with the public libraries. There is a unhealthy combination between high costs for the taxpayer and a low quality for the customer.

Library privatization as answer for everything

The classical debate around the future of libraries is held around the contrast between online and offline media. The library is strong in offline media, that means in printed books, and printed newspapers. Some Open Access activists have argued that this isn’t the future and that Science and information distribution has to become electronically. As a result, the library is no longer needed and can be replaced by Google.

This idea ignores what libraries are today. They are more then only provider of printed books, they have more in common with traditional bookstores and restaurants. And bookstores with printed books can’t be replaced completely by the internet. Because there is a huge demand for such products and this will stay constant at least for the next decades. The good news is, that a new form of debate is possible about the future of libraries, this time with a different spin. Instead of replacing libraries by the digital version, the exciting idea is to change the legal status of the library. Today, all public libraries are owned by non-profit organization like the government or the church. They have endless money, are producing huge costs, but nobody cares, because it is in the public domain. The better alternative is to privatize libraries. That means to transform them into a for-profit organization which is listed at the New york stockexchange like the railway and the postal service.

The surprising feature is, that this debate isn’t about the question if printed books or digital information will have a future. The business of the library (borrowing of printed books) can be remain the same. That means, the libraries didn’t have to digitize their books and they don’t need internet terminals. The only change is, that the legal structure behind the library is different. It is no longer part of the government or the church but the library will become a market participants like Starbucks. In my opinion, this is a great idea and will solve all today’s problem. If any resistance against this developing is occuring, the answer is to raise the privatization level even more. A second advantage is, that this structure is fair to existing companies who are also interested in making a library-like business with borrowing printed books but in former time they were not able to do so, because the public library had a monopoly on this domain. Privatization would help to increase the competition, that means, that different companies are able to run different sorts of libraries and the customer has the choice. Like in the market of fitness studious, where he also can chose in which one he want’s to go.

As far as i can see from a short Google search, the debate around library privatization isn’t held today. It seems, that most participants don’t see a need for discussing the details. But it is only a question of time. This debate will become more successful, then a debate about Open Access which doesn’t change anything.

The funny thing is, that most public libraries are seeing themself as a private service-provider. According to their self-awareness they have customers and are optimizing their return on investment. The library itself beliefs that she is private, at least since 30 years. But this description isn’t grounded in reality, because the public library is from the legal status a not-for profit government organization. Who is wrong? The self-awareness of the library is right, it is a for profit company. The next logical step is to update the legal status.