Thursday, April 05, 2007

Trite conclusions on research.

(Note the clever ambiguity on whether it's my opinions that are trite, or my targets. Mwah-hah.)

Over here, we find Michael Geist arguing... well, it's not entirely clear what he's arguing, actually. First he seems to be saying that peer-reviewed publications are bad. Then he seems to be saying that it'd be a good thing if the general public had free access to academics' completed research. I tend to think it's the second one he really wants to put forward; the former is just so stupid I have to think it's a matter of sloppy phrasing on his part, rather than a serious claim.

Free public access to academic research is, however, a bad thing, for a number of reasons. For one, it should be noted that Geist is overstating the extent to which research is currently inaccessible for the public. All that one really requires to gain access to the wonderful world of university research is a library card at the local university. Most have a "community borrower" privilege (or some such) for a nominal fee, which grants access to the whole collection, as well as the right to request inter-library loans from across the country (and, indeed, the world). While this might seem to imply that free access isn't much of a change from the status quo, the fact is that having to pay for something (even at a nominal level, even if it's just in terms of time and effort rather than money) means that one has to bear a cost in order to obtain it. And if one is willing to bear a cost to obtain something, then it follows that (ceteris paribus) one values that thing. If there's some value in allowing people who don't value academic research free access to it, then Geist is keeping it to himself. Suffice to say, the current, fairly low, bar to access seems to be sufficient to weed out those who just don't care and thus don't need access to university research.

For two, the public as a whole lack the expertise to evaluate the quality or worth of research in any given area. That's why people have to be extensively trained before they're able to contribute to a given field. (Indeed, even with extensive training, it's rare to find academics who are qualified to interpret more than one or two areas beyond their own specialty.) Open access seems to be to be the first step in a long series of tiresome arguments where the ill-informed try to force scholars to justify their research goals. The standard always has to be: if peers say it's good, then it is good, regardless of what anyone else thinks. Given that these arguments are always a huge pain in the ass, there's some value to keeping the current barriers in place (if not erecting new ones).

For three, this is a further step in the high-schoolization (yes, I just made that word up) of universities. High school teachers already work under almost constant public supervision; and, really, no matter how good they are, that level of supervision will always find something they're doing "wrong". No one can survive under constant scrutiny. Universities are already tending towards treating their faculty, in their educative roles, as high school teachers: putting students first, trying to lower attrition rates, trying to raise test scores, etc, etc. Having the public able to access scholarly debates at every level of their development will only extend this into faculty's research roles. Sometimes debates between scholars need time to work themselves out. The last thing any academic needs is one or another busybody resurrecting a paper from two years ago that has been successfully flayed -- and abandoned -- in a series of conferences. (Which, for those who don't know, don't always result in publications.)

It seems that Geist's only argument -- that is, actual reason, instead of empty rhetoric about "falling behind" the rest of the world -- is that the public pays for academics to do their thing, and thus the public has a right to free access to what academics generate. This is absurd on its very face. Physicians are paid by the public; physicians generate patient records; does that mean the public has a right to access patient records? Of course not, and the reason is not just that there's laws preventing free access to patient records; the reason is that what the public pays for is that physicians will ply their trade for public benefit, instead of (say) their own personal profit. The public is not entitled to particular levels of access to what physicians generate, because that's not what the public has bought. The same applies to the academy: the public hasn't bought a series of papers or a book-length manuscript; they have, instead, purchased the services of academics for the benefit of the public. That is, instead of retreating to their own societies, academics agree to teach young people and to publish their work in ways that, with nominal effort, the public can access it.

5 comments:

undergroundman said...

You're so off here that it's shocking.

By the way, I posted a short list of PLoS articles that I found is the case. ;)

For one, it should be noted that Geist is overstating the extent to which research is currently inaccessible for the public. All that one really requires to gain access to the wonderful world of university research is a library card at the local university.

I attend a university. Access is extremely limited because of practical concerns - you have to sign into each individually, search through the library's database, read the studies through a filter, ect. It's terribly inefficient and I have a terrible time doing research. So you're flat out wrong. What is nominal to you is an ENORMOUS problem for me. What's more is that people shouldn't have to through all these hurdles to gain access to important information, and they can spend less time analyzing studies when they are wasting time getting to the studies.

And if one is willing to bear a cost to obtain something, then it follows that (ceteris paribus) one values that thing. If there's some value in allowing people who don't value academic research free access to it, then Geist is keeping it to himself. Suffice to say, the current, fairly low, bar to access seems to be sufficient to weed out those who just don't care and thus don't need access to university research.

Or it weeds out those who care, but don't have the time or the technical skills to access it. Again, I have a lot of trouble accessing articles even though I'm at my school all the time. Some of this is because of glitchy programs, but open-access would eliminate the problem entirely.

For two, the public as a whole lack the expertise to evaluate the quality or worth of research in any given area. That's why people have to be extensively trained before they're able to contribute to a given field.

Standard liberal bullshit about how people are too stupid to understand information. The technical difficulty of economic studies is overrated (although not vastly). Many medical studies are very easy to understand if you review very basic statistics and consult an encyclopedia. I do it all the time and it's very helpful - you can also find that a lot of what the media tells you about scientific results is bullshit. That's the most important thing about open-access: it cuts the link between an incompetent media and individuals. Instead of people reading media summaries they can instead read abstracts.

The standard always has to be: if peers say it's good, then it is good, regardless of what anyone else thinks. Given that these arguments are always a huge pain in the ass, there's some value to keeping the current barriers in place (if not erecting new ones).

And that's just more bullshit. Peer-reviewed does not mean every scientist agrees; it means that a few scientists agreed. Sometimes these scientists are not even real experts. The majority of scientists can consider a peer-reviewed study to be bullshit. (I noted that a bad statistical study appeared in JAMA, likely because mainstream medicine doesn't understand or like nutrition. You probably didn't read my article on this guy who's study on GM foods was discredited by a government scientific commission even though it appeared in a peer-reviewed journal and was sent to a bunch of scientists who said it was well-done. He lost his job over it. And one very common example is the huge controversy around Bjorn Lomborg's statistical study of the environment, which was also discredited by a government commission, after which some scientists and economists tried to come to the rescue.)

Again, it's not that hard to understand a lot of science. Yes, the technical details of advanced biology are hard (I've spent hours and hours and hours browsing PLoS, so I know that personally), but the abstract usually can explain the basic results. Econ, political science, history, philosopy, nutrition/medicine - the most important studies for the laymen are the ones that the laymen can understand the easiest. One of the best effects of open-access would be to clarify the effects of nutritional supplements for the public, an area which is filled with disinformation by greedy marketers.
http://jama.ama-assn.org/current.dtl

For three, this is a further step in the high-schoolization (yes, I just made that word up) of universities. High school teachers already work under almost constant public supervision; and, really, no matter how good they are, that level of supervision will always find something they're doing "wrong".

The public will only be able to access studies once they're finished - I don't know what you mean by every level of their development. Most of them won't bother. The ones that do will be exposed to real science (or, in the case of Pol.Sci. or Econ., enlightened analysis of current issues - really, many Political Science studies are more in-depth news with some statistics).

This is absurd on its very face. Physicians are paid by the public; physicians generate patient records; does that mean the public has a right to access patient records? Of course not, and the reason is not just that there's laws preventing free access to patient records; the reason is that what the public pays for is that physicians will ply their trade for public benefit, instead of (say) their own personal profit.

This is a horrible analogy. Relevant differences are key in analogies: patient records are personal and confidential, but scientific knowledge is not. That is all the difference. The public pays for knowledge to be generated and the public should have access to it.

That is, instead of retreating to their own societies, academics agree to teach young people and to publish their work in ways that, with nominal effort, the public can access it.

Again, the effort is not nominal, and you've basically contradicted yourself by saying that the public pays for academics to research and publish data, but then that public shouldn't have access to it.

There is a long and rich history of non-professionals adding to scientific research (including Einstein!). To deny that is just plain ignorant.

It is not mainly scientists who are opposed to open-access; it is the established publishers who make all the money on journals. They argue that it's not economical, but that's just ridiculous. The peer reviewers do their work for nothing and the scientists don't get paid by the publishers. If it costs money to print the journals, then the publishers can charge for printed journals. But it costs nothing to lift the required registration and subscription online. There have already been statistical studies showing that open-access articles get more attention - which is ultimately what a researcher desires.

By the way, I don't suppose you would have any desire to read scientific literature, being an ignorant and stupid laymen, but if you ever do feel the urge to read science rather than news or blogs, check out DOAJ. But I know you wouldn't want to do that, since then you'd be an intruder where you don't belong. You would never want to step outside your bubble, after all.

ADHR said...

I attend a university. Access is extremely limited because of practical concerns - you have to sign into each individually, search through the library's database, read the studies through a filter, ect. It's terribly inefficient and I have a terrible time doing research. So you're flat out wrong. What is nominal to you is an ENORMOUS problem for me. What's more is that people shouldn't have to through all these hurdles to gain access to important information, and they can spend less time analyzing studies when they are wasting time getting to the studies.

Oh, come on; he's not talking about that and you know it. The issue should never be that it's inconvenient to get access. That's not a hurdle, it's a stumbling-block.

Or it weeds out those who care, but don't have the time or the technical skills to access it. Again, I have a lot of trouble accessing articles even though I'm at my school all the time. Some of this is because of glitchy programs, but open-access would eliminate the problem entirely.

Or simply improving the technology which your school uses?

Standard liberal bullshit about how people are too stupid to understand information. The technical difficulty of economic studies is overrated (although not vastly). Many medical studies are very easy to understand if you review very basic statistics and consult an encyclopedia. I do it all the time and it's very helpful - you can also find that a lot of what the media tells you about scientific results is bullshit. That's the most important thing about open-access: it cuts the link between an incompetent media and individuals. Instead of people reading media summaries they can instead read abstracts.

I'm not disagreeing; you're clearly missing my point. The point is that the general public are more like the media than they are like you: they'll read something quickly, not do the background research in order to understand it, and leap to unwarranted conclusions. You're sailing right by the point I was actually trying to make, which is that this sort of quick-and-dirty reading leads to academics having to justify their research goals to people who don't know what they're talking about. Whether the public could, with minimal work, be able to understand the research is actually not the point; the point is whether they are likely to (I say not, using the media as my example now) and, given that answer, whether academics will get tied up in stupidity rather than actual research (I say, likely so).

And that's just more bullshit. Peer-reviewed does not mean every scientist agrees; it means that a few scientists agreed. Sometimes these scientists are not even real experts. The majority of scientists can consider a peer-reviewed study to be bullshit. (I noted that a bad statistical study appeared in JAMA, likely because mainstream medicine doesn't understand or like nutrition. You probably didn't read my article on this guy who's study on GM foods was discredited by a government scientific commission even though it appeared in a peer-reviewed journal and was sent to a bunch of scientists who said it was well-done. He lost his job over it. And one very common example is the huge controversy around Bjorn Lomborg's statistical study of the environment, which was also discredited by a government commission, after which some scientists and economists tried to come to the rescue.)

Did I say peer review was perfect? Did I say that it required universal agreement? Strawmen left and right here. The point was that the general public is even less informed on the technical details of any given discipline than members of the discipline. So, if you're right and most peer reviewers aren't qualified to make these judgements, then it follows that the general public are even less qualified.

Debates within a discipline over cutting-edge and controversial research are expected; I don't quite see, though, how open-access would do anything other than exacerbate the controversy.

Again, it's not that hard to understand a lot of science. Yes, the technical details of advanced biology are hard (I've spent hours and hours and hours browsing PLoS, so I know that personally), but the abstract usually can explain the basic results. Econ, political science, history, philosopy, nutrition/medicine - the most important studies for the laymen are the ones that the laymen can understand the easiest. One of the best effects of open-access would be to clarify the effects of nutritional supplements for the public, an area which is filled with disinformation by greedy marketers.
http://jama.ama-assn.org/current.dtl


And how is this not solved by charging a nominal fee for access? Why shouldn't there be a gateway? You're leaping to conclusions here.

The public will only be able to access studies once they're finished - I don't know what you mean by every level of their development. Most of them won't bother. The ones that do will be exposed to real science (or, in the case of Pol.Sci. or Econ., enlightened analysis of current issues - really, many Political Science studies are more in-depth news with some statistics).

It was a slippery slope argument: once access is free to finished studies, then why not to working papers, conference proceedings, early drafts, etc, etc?

This is absurd on its very face. Physicians are paid by the public; physicians generate patient records; does that mean the public has a right to access patient records? Of course not, and the reason is not just that there's laws preventing free access to patient records; the reason is that what the public pays for is that physicians will ply their trade for public benefit, instead of (say) their own personal profit.

This is a horrible analogy. Relevant differences are key in analogies: patient records are personal and confidential, but scientific knowledge is not. That is all the difference. The public pays for knowledge to be generated and the public should have access to it.

That difference is actually irrelevant, because it's a consequence not a precondition. Patient records are personal and confidential because the general public doesn't have access to them; they are not personal and confidential and therefore the general public has access to them. Lack of public access constitutes "personal and confidential" in this case.

I also disagree with the "pay for knowledge to be generated" idea. The public pays for academics to ply their trade for public benefit; that doesn't imply open access to the product, only that the generation of the product must benefit the public.

Again, the effort is not nominal, and you've basically contradicted yourself by saying that the public pays for academics to research and publish data, but then that public shouldn't have access to it.

How on earth is this a contradiction? Academics are paid to research, teach, publish, etc. The public, with a nominal additional fee, can access the research, teaching, publication, etc. Where's the contradiction?

There is a long and rich history of non-professionals adding to scientific research (including Einstein!). To deny that is just plain ignorant.

Never denied it. Einstein's a horrible example, anyway. Although he worked in a patent office, he was university-trained and had university connections. He also made the effort to keep himself informed about contemporary science. You're caricaturing my point, which you probably need to do in order to make it implausible: I'm not saying close off access, but I -am- saying don't throw the gates wide open.

It is not mainly scientists who are opposed to open-access; it is the established publishers who make all the money on journals. They argue that it's not economical, but that's just ridiculous. The peer reviewers do their work for nothing and the scientists don't get paid by the publishers. If it costs money to print the journals, then the publishers can charge for printed journals. But it costs nothing to lift the required registration and subscription online. There have already been statistical studies showing that open-access articles get more attention - which is ultimately what a researcher desires.

I'm not sure about that. Surely it would be attention by people who can contribute something of value? Unless we're talking about book sales, of course.

FWIW, I'm not opposed to dropping print journals and doing it all online.

By the way, I don't suppose you would have any desire to read scientific literature, being an ignorant and stupid laymen, but if you ever do feel the urge to read science rather than news or blogs, check out DOAJ. But I know you wouldn't want to do that, since then you'd be an intruder where you don't belong. You would never want to step outside your bubble, after all.

Pejorative and a strawman, all in one. I congratulate you on your ingenuity. D'you think I spend all day reading news-sites and blogs? Do you think what's written here is my entire output? Funny.

As for reading science, unlike most, if I'm going to do it, I'll actually try to educate myself about it and understand what's being said before trying to respond to it.

As mentioned above, I never said I had any problem with people who would make the effort to understand research; indeed, I was suggesting that this effort could be best encouraged by having a nominal barrier to access, rather than no restrictions at all.

ADHR said...

I don't really see the issue in the Lomborg case. Some scientists accused him of scientific dishonesty (whatever that means), and a government commmission agreed with them, but pointed out that he lacked the expertise to be held personally accountable. He appealed to the relevant Ministry, who pointed out there were errors in the decision. He didn't lose his job; he wasn't drummed out of his discipline; indeed, he went on to a government post, and an assistant professorship. So... huh?

The JAMA study isn't flawed because it isn't a study: it's a literature review, with analysis of previous studies. (Something that seems to happen with some frequency in medicine, and I'm not a fan of it.) The problems you identify seem legitimate. So what? That's how science works, isn't it? A paper is considered scientifically worthy, so it gets published; some people disagree with it, write up papers in response, and, if worthy, they get published. Not everything that gets through peer review is perfect, but peer review is the best gate-keeper that we know of to weed out total crap.

The Pusztai thing is interesting, but isn't this a whistle-blower problem, not an open-access problem? That is, he worked for a government agency and got fired because he deviated from the party line. It seems that the research community supported him and published his results.

I'm suspicious of that study claiming open-access articles get more attention. They tracked citations, which are, at best, a crude measure. There's no indication of, for example, whether any given citation actually understood what the cited article was saying.

undergroundman said...

Oh, come on; he's not talking about that and you know it. The issue should never be that it's inconvenient to get access. That's not a hurdle, it's a stumbling-block.

Anything not open-access is a major inconvenience to research. Did you check out that DOAJ? Can you not see the implications of widespread open-access? I can search for something among the sum of science and find all studies relating to it, without having to sign up for a website or scour my metro area for a library which has it? It would allow for a huge, easy database. This would be incredibly handy to scientists as well as the public.

Or simply improving the technology which your school uses?

We still don't have that many journals licensed compared to what's out there.


I'm not disagreeing; you're clearly missing my point. The point is that the general public are more like the media than they are like you: they'll read something quickly, not do the background research in order to understand it, and leap to unwarranted conclusions. You're sailing right by the point I was actually trying to make, which is that this sort of quick-and-dirty reading leads to academics having to justify their research goals to people who don't know what they're talking about. Whether the public could, with minimal work, be able to understand the research is actually not the point; the point is whether they are likely to (I say not, using the media as my example now) and, given that answer, whether academics will get tied up in stupidity rather than actual research (I say, likely so).


I'm not missing your point. I knew you were going to say that, and I say again: paternalistic liberal bullshit. Advanced biology and physics articles are too advanced to twist. Nutritional/medicinal articles usually state their conclusions clearly in the abstract. There are tons and tons of non-academic competent Computer Scientists out there. Of course, nearly all physics and computer science articles are already published open-access. (arXiv and others).

So we can cut out mathematics, physics, and computer science and focus on others. What areas do you see laymen abusing and misinterpreting, justifying his/her exposure to it from solely a journalist? Economics - the effects of the minimum wage, perhaps? The answer can either be negative or positive. Political science - has George Bush acted unconstitutionally? History? Philosophy - people can't be told what is moral or what makes sense? Nutrition or medical treatments? Give me an example. You're exaggerating something (people will misinterpret science and cause harm) which is not a very big deal.


It was a slippery slope argument: once access is free to finished studies, then why not to working papers, conference proceedings, early drafts, etc, etc?


And like most slippery slope arguments, it was unrealistic.

Physicians are paid by the public; physicians generate patient records; does that mean the public has a right to access patient records? Of course not, and the reason is not just that there's laws preventing free access to patient records; the reason is that what the public pays for is that physicians will ply their trade for public benefit, instead of (say) their own personal profit.

Physicians don't get paid by the public in my country. They are not hired by the government.

Patient records are personal and confidential because the general public doesn't have access to them; they are not personal and confidential and therefore the general public has access to them. Lack of public access constitutes "personal and confidential" in this case.

Nonono. Patient records are confidential because they are personal and there is no reason for the public to have access to them. It works the other way around; confidentiality is caused by the personal-ness of the records. Scientific studies are not personal; they're made to be shared. You're trying to argue that because we make patient records confidential it is ok to make public research access restricted? They aren't analogous. One must be kept private, the other has no such restrictions on it.


Pejorative and a strawman, all in one. I congratulate you on your ingenuity. D'you think I spend all day reading news-sites and blogs? Do you think what's written here is my entire output? Funny.


Ad hominem attack. :p Not really. I'm driving in the point - you treat others as if they're not good enough to have free access to research.

As for reading science, unlike most, if I'm going to do it, I'll actually try to educate myself about it and understand what's being said before trying to respond to it.

Most? Most people don't respond to science at all. Media covers it and exaggerates.

The costs, which you exaggerate, outweigh the benefits of having large databases from you can search all articles and don't have to go a freakin' library (by the way, libraries usually don't have all the articles either).


Did I say peer review was perfect? Did I say that it required universal agreement? Strawmen left and right here. The point was that the general public is even less informed on the technical details of any given discipline than members of the discipline. So, if you're right and most peer reviewers aren't qualified to make these judgements, then it follows that the general public are even less qualified.


Open-access allows experts as well as the general public to glance over the research easier. Right now scientists also have to go to bad library databases and search. It's inefficient.

ADHR said...

Anything not open-access is a major inconvenience to research. Did you check out that DOAJ? Can you not see the implications of widespread open-access? I can search for something among the sum of science and find all studies relating to it, without having to sign up for a website or scour my metro area for a library which has it? It would allow for a huge, easy database. This would be incredibly handy to scientists as well as the public.

I did take a look. Since academic scientists have access to library databases free, and non-academics who work in research can likely get their employers to pay for access, I don't see the advantage to having an open-access one.

We still don't have that many journals licensed compared to what's out there.

Which is indeed a problem. But it's particular to your university. Mine may have a bigger catalogue than yours. Which suggests the network should be improved, but not necessarily opened up.

I'm not missing your point. I knew you were going to say that, and I say again: paternalistic liberal bullshit. Advanced biology and physics articles are too advanced to twist. Nutritional/medicinal articles usually state their conclusions clearly in the abstract. There are tons and tons of non-academic competent Computer Scientists out there. Of course, nearly all physics and computer science articles are already published open-access. (arXiv and others).

So we can cut out mathematics, physics, and computer science and focus on others. What areas do you see laymen abusing and misinterpreting, justifying his/her exposure to it from solely a journalist? Economics - the effects of the minimum wage, perhaps? The answer can either be negative or positive. Political science - has George Bush acted unconstitutionally? History? Philosophy - people can't be told what is moral or what makes sense? Nutrition or medical treatments? Give me an example. You're exaggerating something (people will misinterpret science and cause harm) which is not a very big deal.


You know "paternalistic liberal bullshit" isn't an argument; and you also know I don't find anything prima facie wrong with paternalism, nor am I a liberal. So, please, knock it off.

What you're not seeing is that the misinterpretation by journalists is exactly the kind of harm I'm suggesting may occur. You're assuming that anyone who accesses research openly will do (or will have done, through their prior schooling) enough background work to understand what they're reading. I don't have anything like that kind of confidence in people, and I use journalists as an example of what happens when perfectly well-educated people (high school and either college or university degrees) take scientific papers and misread them.

It was a slippery slope argument: once access is free to finished studies, then why not to working papers, conference proceedings, early drafts, etc, etc?

And like most slippery slope arguments, it was unrealistic.


You haven't established that. What stops open access from being pushed further than just finished products?

Physicians are paid by the public; physicians generate patient records; does that mean the public has a right to access patient records? Of course not, and the reason is not just that there's laws preventing free access to patient records; the reason is that what the public pays for is that physicians will ply their trade for public benefit, instead of (say) their own personal profit.

Physicians don't get paid by the public in my country. They are not hired by the government.


So, substitute an example that isn't tied to Canada. DAs, maybe.

Nonono. Patient records are confidential because they are personal and there is no reason for the public to have access to them. It works the other way around; confidentiality is caused by the personal-ness of the records. Scientific studies are not personal; they're made to be shared. You're trying to argue that because we make patient records confidential it is ok to make public research access restricted? They aren't analogous. One must be kept private, the other has no such restrictions on it.

Yesyesyes. Not everything that's personal is confidential. (Your birthdate, for example, is personal but not confidential.) What really matters is the issue of whether the public has a reason to have access to them; and, the presumption in the case of patient records is that they don't. Sometimes this presumption is defeated (e.g., when the patient has expressed a clear intention to harm someone else). Same should apply to research, I would think. The presumption is to keep research (somewhat) closed, and only allow open access if there is a reason to do so (such as, say, if some guy comes up with a cure to cancer).

As far as whether scientific studies are made to be shared, I can (and will) argue that they're made to be shared in the same sense that patient records are: amongst other relevant specialists in the field. If your family physician refers you to a specialist, he's going to forward at least a letter describing your condition, and possibly some prior reports from your record. (And, frankly, physicians swap patient stories all the time.) Similarly, scientists (and any researcher) create research for a specialized audience. To open things up to the general public requires a special reason; you can't just claim there's a presumption in favour of sharing without flatly begging the question. If some particular researcher wants to make his research available to the public, he's quite welcome to do so on his own -- look at Carl Sagan, for example. But why does there have to be a general presumption in favour of doing so? Most academics, in my experience, do research that they don't really want the public to be looking at; they're not writing for that audience at all.

Pejorative and a strawman, all in one. I congratulate you on your ingenuity. D'you think I spend all day reading news-sites and blogs? Do you think what's written here is my entire output? Funny.

Ad hominem attack. :p Not really. I'm driving in the point - you treat others as if they're not good enough to have free access to research.


That's exactly my point. And? You haven't established that most people -- or, indeed, any but a select few -- should have general free access to research. You haven't shown me that the (classically) liberal presumption that individual people are good enough to have access to any research they want is true.

As for reading science, unlike most, if I'm going to do it, I'll actually try to educate myself about it and understand what's being said before trying to respond to it.

Most? Most people don't respond to science at all. Media covers it and exaggerates.


Media is people. And they read things, clearly, without trying to understand them first.

The costs, which you exaggerate, outweigh the benefits of having large databases from you can search all articles and don't have to go a freakin' library (by the way, libraries usually don't have all the articles either).

You're exaggerating the benefits of a large database. And you don't have to go to the library in most cases: you can do your reserach, and download articles, online. (It's getting to the point where many publishers are releasing books in .pdf or .html form, as well.) Any given library may not have the article, but any given library can order the articles for you. I specifically mentioned inter-library loan.

Did I say peer review was perfect? Did I say that it required universal agreement? Strawmen left and right here. The point was that the general public is even less informed on the technical details of any given discipline than members of the discipline. So, if you're right and most peer reviewers aren't qualified to make these judgements, then it follows that the general public are even less qualified.

Open-access allows experts as well as the general public to glance over the research easier. Right now scientists also have to go to bad library databases and search. It's inefficient.


I'd suggest that, actually, their RAs and grad students go to the databases and search. I agree the tools could be made more efficient. Getting every journal (and book, for that matter) into electronic form would also help. None of this tells in favour of open access, though.