with freedom comes responsibility: open publishing

As of a few months ago, I’m no longer on a publish-or-perish academic track. Mozilla gives me the freedom to publish, but no pressure. Coincidentally, the publishing world is at a bit of a crossroads. Some organizations, like USENIX, are increasingly open: all papers are published for the world to see, many talks are videotaped and available openly. Others, like IEEE, are increasingly closed, with tighter and tighter constraints on authors, more paywalls and obstacles to the dissemination of knowledge.

I’ve got increased freedom, so I intend to use it. Starting today, I will not publish nor review papers destined for closed venues. Academic publications should be available for the world to read, to learn from, to build upon. If you’d like me on your program committee, if you’d like me to review a journal publication, if you’d like me to help with a paper, please understand that I will refuse if the conference/journal isn’t truly open. In the short term, this probably means I’ll only work with USENIX, and maybe IACR which appears to be moving towards true open-access.

My move isn’t exactly courageous. I have the luxury to make this decision, while many of my colleagues do not. I hope a few tenured professors make this move, though, as they have both the luxury and a good bit more influence than I do. Matt Blaze is starting down this path. Dan Wallach is helping tweak the IEEE approach. All of these efforts are incredibly important.

This is about free dissemination of knowledge. This is the point of the Internet. Academics who stand for discovery and learning should be outraged by the direction most publishers are taking today, and should at the very least encourage those publishers who are doing it well. Hesitating between ACM and USENIX? Go with USENIX. IACR holding a vote on open-access publishing? Make your voice heard.

5 thoughts on “with freedom comes responsibility: open publishing

  1. I still remember, 3 years ago you gave a talk in UCLouvain about Helios, and you had a strong argument with a “crypto-sceptic” in the audience.  The argument was about yes or no, a lambda citizen was actually able to scrutinize and validate the code of such a project as Helios.
    As you explained it then, this is only possible if the knowledge is open to the world!
    Good decision!

  2. Thank you (and good advice)!

    The fact that somehow every search for an academic paper ends up pointing at a paywalled version on a handful of sites — when quite often the paper exists freely as well (e.g. on the author’s website) — is pretty annoying.  I can almost always find a copy somewhere, but it’s usually a slog.

    I’ve benefited a lot from ACM/IEEE journals in past, but the writing’s on the wall for the traditional model; there’s just too little benefit to it to justify the costs (financial and otherwise).  I presume everybody basically realizes this, but the ACM/IEEE/etc are creatures of their time, and seem bound and determined to milk their reputation as long as they can…

  3. An advantage I have working for the US Geological Survey is that all of my work output is Public Domain. That means if a journal accepts a paper from me, they cannot claim copyright.  So even when I publish in IEEE, I can (and am required to) share freely:

    http://cegis.usgs.gov/pdf/Wolf-WebClientGeoprocessing.pdf

    But this represents a unique (and long-standing) acknowledgement by the publishers that works by Government employees get special treatment.

    Having attended several NSF panels, I’ve found there is great support for open publishing. When you write an NSF proposal, include costs for keeping resulting publications open shouldn’t hurt the chances of the proposal being funded.

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