Thursday, January 23, 2020

The World of Publishing

Bill is out for blogging for a couple of weeks on injured-reserve (he’ll be fine). I put together a quick blog post on what’s happening in the world of publications.

The Trump administration has suggested requiring publishers to make all papers based on US federally-funded publicly available immediately instead of after one year. The Association of American Publishers sent an open letter--how do we maintain the organizations and the people who work there if we give up a major revenue source. The ACM joined the letter which caused quite a backlash forcing the ACM to explain itself, write another letter, and run some webinars about open access the last of which is tomorrow. In the end, this is leading to some good discussions about open access and the financial models of academic societies.

The ACM also has a new policy, three options for what happens when an author changes their name: Maintain separate identities, have the two identities link to each other, or retroactively change the name on all previous papers. I can see good reasons for all three options.

Finally Moshe Vardi writes in his CACM column about the ecological cost of conferences and suggests that conferences allow authors to (video)phone it in. Emmanuel Viola offers his own thoughts. Most Conferences will continue to require authors to show up, with only occasional exceptions as needed, believing these policies will keep their conference healthy.

Personally I believe conferences should exist because researchers want to attend, not because they have to. We still need conferences so our community can get together and I don’t believe we can do that via the Internet no matter how good the VR experience gets. But we can have more videos and less conferences and reduce the costs: time, financial and environmental.


  1. This is that I wrote 7 years ago:

    ACM is also risking its financial future by refusing to acknowledge that, whether it wants it or not, open access is the future, given that more authors are putting their papers on their web and more institutions and governments are considering open access mandates. But, at least to my knowledge, ACM is not taking the necessary cost-cutting steps to reduce their cost structures to levels more similar to the arXiv in order to prepare for a future in which publication revenue is drastically reduced.

  2. ACM has made a bunch of changes since Boaz's original post. For the last 5 years, many/most ACM conferences (including all SIGACT conferences) have had open access to conference papers immediately upon publication through conference websites. The choice of whether to do this is up to the conferences/SIGs, not ACM. I don't know the current state of cost-cutting wrt all publications but it was actively being worked on.

    Arxiv doesn't do a lot of things that journals (or selective conferences) do (and its internal indexing is really non-existent). It is also sponsored to the tune of millions of dollars from a long list of donors including private universities and organizations like the Simons Foundation.

    Some of these extra valuable things are done on a volunteer basis within the community and some do require money. I don't think that we can completely eliminate the things that require money. The question is "who pays?". Some venues like PNAS say "authors pay". It would be great if we could get our institutions to pay.