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11/14/2003 Archived Entry: "Those wacky cannibals"

I don't know why I consider the following story to be so funny...it may be nothing more than my being punchy from working through the wee hours of the morning. Or perhaps it is the stark contrast the story offers to the continuing demand that slave descendants in the U.S. receive restitution. Here goes: "Villagers in a remote Fijian community staged an elaborate ceremony of apology yesterday for the relatives of a British missionary killed and eaten here 136 years ago." I mean, what would such an apology sound like: "I'm sorry I ate your family member. Perhaps you will be comforted by the fact he was delicious."

The death toll in Iraq now exceeds that of the first 3 years in Vietnam. But, as the UK Independent notes, "Concern about fatalities among Western forces in Iraq tends to overlook another ghastly statistic: the spectacularly mounting toll of the severely wounded....America's invisible army of maimed and crippled servicemen." Meanwhile, the Bush administration shows its concern, as MSNBC reports. "Soldiers with the National Guard are already under the gun in Iraq and Afghanistan. But now a new government report claims that while the troops are fighting far from home, red tape is preventing many of them from being paid."

The pick from today's inbox, compliments of Gordon P.: "Copyright Contradictions in Scholarly Publishing", by John Willinsky, is an interesting article discussing the fundamentally conflicting interests of Academic Scholarship, whose ethic demands the widest possible dissemination and freest possible access to research results, versus the increasingly draconian intellectual property demands of the oligarchy of international corporate academic publishing houses, all of whom demand that scholars sign away all copyrights to their research articles over to the publisher, who further demands that the author must withdraw all free access to the paper from the author's website and any electronic archives, and must often in addition pay the publisher a hefty "page charge" of US$ 50.00--200.00/page for the privilege of publication. The publisher then charges academic libraries usurious rates for journal subscriptions (often in excess of US$ 10,000/yr for scientific journals), and US$ 15.00--45.00 for "pay per view" electronic access to individual articles.

Many scientists are becoming openly rebellious at the fact that corporate publishers demand total ownership of the copyright and reprint rights to a scientist's research, forbiding them to even send copies of their work to their colleagues, except in the form of expensive "reprints" which must be ordered from the publisher. There is now a growing movement among scientists to boycott any publisher or journal that demands copyright ownership and/or page charges, and to "cut out the middleman" by submitting their work only to free electronic repositories such as "The arXiv" or "Citeseer". There is also a growing rebellion against the fact that university administrators base tenure decisons largely on the sheer number of journal publications (often weighted by the "impact factor" of the journal each paper appeared in), rather than the quality or originality of the work. This policy has significantly contributed to the high cost of scientific publishing and the exponential proliferation of highly redundant scientific journals, because it tempts mediocre researchers to "inflate" their vitas by "flooding the market" with a large number of slightly mutated versions of each paper they write. See also "Can Peer Review be better Focused?" by Paul Ginsparg, who addresses many of the same issues, using "The arXiv" as a model.

Best to all

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