Via Michael Nielsen: Don't Ask, Don't Tell: Rights Retention for Scholarly Articles. My mother, a poet, thinks it very strange when she hears about the system of scientific publishing in which we give away the copyrights for all our papers. In poetry, the authors retain their copyrights, and give permission to publishers to publish their poems; the same is true in fiction writing. The system works without problems: it doesn't prevent publishers from going after people who illicitly copy their works, and it doesn't prevent them from getting exclusive publication rights to the works in question. So what, exactly, do we gain by giving away our copyrights? What we lose is the right to distribute our own works online for free; but as this Harvard Law blog post observes, many of us do that anyway, hoping that the publishers won't demand that we take them down again or sue us for noncompliance with their contracts. And mostly it works, but there's always that risk...

Fortunately, there is a solution: free online journals. The Journal of Graph Algorithms and Applications and the new Journal of Computational Geometry both are free as in free beer (no cost to access the papers, no publication fees) but also free in the sense that authors retain copyright and grant the publisher a license to print the paper. Therefore, I am happy to echo Suresh and Ernie Jeff and announce that JoCG is now open for business and accepting submissions.

One question I had with the new journal was, if it's online-only, how permanent are its archives? If whoever's running the journal gets hit by a bus, what happens to all the old papers? In today's business climate one should wonder about that for commercial journals too, I suppose. JGAA has been handling the issue by collecting its old issues into printed volumes, but as I understand it that arrangement has run into difficulties, so I was curious to hear what JoCG intended. Anyway, the answer is that they're using the Open Journal Systems software and LOCKSS data security model, in which university libraries maintain local copies of open content in order to assure its permanence. So I am greatly reassured on that front.

Therefore, as Samir exhorts us, get those SoCG papers into a journal. And now that we finally have a noncommercial alternative to DCG, CGTA, and IJCGA, let's support it by sending our papers there.


None: Don't accept their terms
I now have a policy of signing a different form from the ones that the publishers send me. They end up with a form in hand but its terms are different from the terms that they offer. I do not draw their attention to my revision of the terms but I have never had a problem with a publisher refusing my revised terms which replace copyright by license to publish.
At least one of my papers was with a publisher with such ridiculous terms that I refused to sign their copyright form at all. They published it anyway (with no indication that it wasn't under their own copyright), which I think is an acceptable outcome: my paper gets published, but they have no leg to stand on if they try to tell me not to make preprints available. But I'm not sure what fraction of the time this would work and what fraction of the time they would tell me no signature no publication.

Did you actually tell them explicitly that you refused to sign, or did you just do nothing and let them publish the paper while they expected that your form was in the mail? I'd be worried in the latter case (although I'm not a lawyer), that by letting them publish the paper without objecting to the terms you were implicitly agreeing to them.

This is definitely the way it used to work many years ago. Various journals had policies saying that by submitting a paper, you were implicitly transferring copyright if the paper was accepted. I suspect this might have ended when the US signed the Berne convention in 1989, but once again I'm not a lawyer.

It was actually an edited collection (a book) rather than a journal, and I'm pretty sure we discussed this with the collection's editor, but I don't remember the details.
None: Refusing to accept their terms
I had a case (with Elsevier) where I explicitly refused in e-mail to sign their form and they published the paper anyway with their copyright on it.
11011110: Re: Refusing to accept their terms
Since I've been so down on Elsevier lately, I should point out that my situation of this type wasn't with them, but with a different publisher, Marcel Dekker. The sticking point was that they wanted me to agree that my paper was a work for hire.
None: Re: LOCKSS

Thanks for the plug David.

One point about LOCKSS: It's not just for open content. Some (semi-)commercial publishers support LOCKSS on their journals:

Here's a list of LOCKSS participating libraries:

If your library doesn't run a LOCKSS box, you should consider suggesting to someone in charge that they do so. It's a tiny investment (less than the cost of 1 year's subscription to many journals) and will ensure continued access to lots of resources.

Unfortunately, the LOCKSS access policy, which can be summarized as "if you had a good copy of the data in the past you have the right to restore that copy in the future" is a little too open for some commercial publishers, who seem to have come up with their own system named CLOCKSS.

There are fees for everyone (libraries and publishers) involved. It's not clear if it's even online yet, but please don't confuse it with LOCKSS.

Pat (Morin)

11011110: Re: LOCKSS
You're welcome! And thanks for the additional information on this system.
Do you think that the dissertation version of our tree drawing paper and/or my simultaneous source location paper might fit into the Graph Algorithms journal? And if so on our tree drawing paper, would it bother you to see me submit it?
Yes, they should both fit well, I think. Sounds like a good idea.
None: Poetry DOES NOT pay!

"system works without problems" -- oh really?

I have a degree in Mathematics from Caltech, and a degree in English Literature (primary Poetry) from Caltech. I publish a lot in each field.

Poetry DOES NOT PAY as a publishing genre. There are fewer that a dozen poets making a middle-class living or better in the USA from Poetry publishing as such. Songwriting doesn't count. Being "Writer in Residence" doesn't count. I mean making a living by royalties of book sales, or magazine publication.

You don't need to believe me. Check with the National Writers Union. They have the numbers.

In a civilized country, a major poet can fill a soccer stadium for a reading. In the USA, one can win awards (I have) and have hundreds of publications (I have) and still earn no more from publishing poetry than pays for the pstage stamps to submit poems to magazines and anthologies.

In conclusion: "system works without problems" -- Yeah, right!

-- Prof. Jonathan Vos Post

11011110: Re: Poetry DOES NOT pay!
Are you claiming that it's possible to make a living writing scientific journal articles? Holding a faculty position, sure, but that's a different thing. If you're not claiming that, then in what way is poetry a bad example of a system where publication is more for fame than for money but the copyright system works?
None: "Crime doesn't pay -- enough!"; Re: Poetry DOES NOT pay!

For the economically rational Mathematician or Scientist, there MUST be significant value in having a scientific publication for which one is not paid and, indeed, may have had to pay from grant or departmental resources ("Page charges.") My friend professor Geoffrey Landis (Hugo & Nebula Award winning author, NASA scientist) agrees that the value is probably approximately $5,000 per paper, in increased likelihood of getting promotion, tenure, research grant. Note that this applies even if one is currently NOT embedded in an academic institution. I am between professorships, and took a 4 year detour through teaching High School, where the students so fiercely needed me. Freelance Scientist is a real niche, as in Freelance Poet. The scientist is orders of magnitude more likely to reap financial reward for her work.

-- Prof. Jonathan Vos Post

None: Re: "Crime doesn't pay -- enough!"; Re: Poetry DOES NOT pay!

Dr. Landis emailed me to clarify:

Actually, I think that the number I'd heard was more like 50 thousand dollars. It varies significantly between minor publication and major publications, of course, and the first dozen are worth a lot more than any following ones.

Here's a back of the envelope calculation. For a newly-minted PhD, I'm guessing that the dividing line between a community-college instructor gig at maybe $40K per year and an assistant professorship at a research institution at maybe $60 K per year is something like five publications in respected journals.

If that difference in salary holds for, say, a ten year period (after ten years that assistant prof had better produce some more...), then (ignoring npv calculations), those five publications were worth $40K each.

Assistant professor at $60K per year to tenured professor at, say, 100K per year might be another ten publications. Assume that the salary difference is effective for twenty years, and that comes to $80K per publication.

Once the professor has tenure, they don't need to publish, so additional publications beyond that have a marginal value of zero. Not really quite true, of course-- professors continue to move up the ladder to full professor, endowed chair, etc., and can also move to a higher-paying institution. But at this point it's probably more about the quality of the work (i.e., getting famous) than the mere existence of papers).

I may be way off in my guesses about what professorships pay these days-- probably not orders of magnitude wrong, though.

Your mileage may vary.

-- Prof. Jonathan Vos Post