Wednesday 16 March 2016

The High Price of Open Access

We've been chatting about open access journals, and how surprisingly expensive it is to publish in them. Obviously there are costs involved in publishing, but given it's all digital and a lot of the labour remains free, why is it so high?

Because we are clearly just floating along in the zeitgeist and completely, if subconsciously, attuned to the academic universe, it turns out this question arose the other day on Twitter. Andrew Kern started with this tweet and then continued to dig (full Storify of the tweets here).
The answer, it turns out, is that the very large amount of money that PLOS makes goes into all kinds of surprising things; huge (but unfortunately normal) CEO salaries, investments in stocks etc, building up reserves, and investment in the company and it's infrastructure (in particular a new submission system). Michael Eisen then came back with some useful context (full Storify here) which addresses some of these issues; much of the investment in the company is around open access advocacy, etc).

PLOS created open access, and proved it could be done and make money. This is a remarkable achievement done in a pretty small amount of time. They are strong advocates for open access and this advocacy requires time, people and money to advertise, attend conferences, lobby and more. All of this is important work and I really do appreciate it - open access simply must be the future of scientific publishing.

I am, however, still not convinced that I should be paying for that activity via my article processing fees.

Monday 7 March 2016

Affordance-based control (Fajen 2005, 2007)

The most commonly studied tasks in the ecological approach involve the perceptual control of actions such as interception and steering. These models all involve perceiving some variable and moving so as to null the discrepancy between a current value and an ideal value. However, none of these approaches involve the perception of affordances; specifically, none of them address how people work to keep the required corrections possible, given their action capabilities. Fajen (2005, 2007) proposes affordance-based control, an ecological research framework that brings these questions to the fore and leads to the discovery of new, affordance based control strategies that account well for the data and solve the problems of simple information-based control models. 

My current sense is that Fajen is absolutely correct in his assessment of the problems and has done sterling work developing an ecological solution. What follows is a brief description of the problems and his solutions; in the future I will blog some thoughts as I work to align my throwing affordance work with this framework.