27 August 2012

Thoughts on open access - again

The BOAI forum has had a number of posts regarding the RCUK decision on funding open access through author charges. Today's Independent, in an article on the UK Health (!) Secretary caving in to the fast food industry, has a comment from Professor Simon Capewell, who served on the Health Secretary's Public Health Commission when the Tories were in opposition:
It is breathtaking that when deciding on public health policy in relation to food you should be sitting around the table with the very people who make large amounts of money from selling this stuff.
Does that remind anyone of anything?

11 August 2012

"Do no evil"?

There were a couple of bits of news the other day that relate directly and indirectly to Google (which is currently taking a lot of flack for its decision to abandon iGoogle, used by millions of people as their home page). First, there was the announcement:
Google is to pay a record $22.5m (£14.4m) fine to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the US after it tracked users of Apple's iPhone, iPad and Mac computers by circumventing privacy protections on the Safari web browser for several months at the end of 2011 and into 2012.
The fine is the largest paid by one company to the FTC, which imposed a 20-year privacy order on Google in March 2010 after concerns about the launch of its ill-fated Buzz social network.
and the other:
A petition demanding that Google pays its “fair share” of tax has attracted nearly 40,000 signatures in just two days as anger over the internet giant’s avoidance of tax in the UK grows.
The petition began as a direct reaction to revelations which emerged this week showing that Google paid the Exchequer £6m on a turnover of £395m last year.
This suggests that Google's aim to "do no evil" is nothing but a marketing slogan and, like most such slogans has no real effect on what is just another big corporation intent on maximising profits at the expense of others. And among those who suffer from the tax avoidance of the bankers and major corporations (Amazon is another that manages to pay less tax in the UK than it ought to, by channelling sales through an offshore company) are children. How about these statistics, Larry (Page) and Jeffrey (Bezos):
The proportion of children living in poverty grew from 1 in 10 in 1979 to 1 in 3 in 1998.
Today, 30 per cent of children in Britain are living in poverty.
The UK has one of the worst rates of child poverty in the industrialised world
This is what your tax avoidance contributes to.

10 August 2012

Unpaid work

Like most academics I get frequent requests from commercial publishers to review papers and manuscripts of books. For the latter some meagre payment is generally offered and, unless the author is a personal acquaintance, I decline. In the case of journal papers I now have a standard response:
"Thank you for your enquiry: my daily rate for this kind of work is £400 and I estimate that what you require will take a couple of day's work. If you would confirm your acceptance of this rate of payment, I shall be happy to oblige."
Needless to say, I usually hear nothing more :-) Now, if we all replied in this manner, I wonder how long the commercial domination of scholarly publishing would last? I will, of course, review papers for genuine open access journals, i.e., those that levy neither subscriptions nor author charges.