Winner’s Curse Effect: Biomedical Research in the Deep Web

October 12, 2008

Economic principles applied to publication systems for biomedical research reveal a publication bias, a winner’s curse. Elite high-impact scholarly journals continue to raise artificial publication barriers by underusing open access, neglecting negative data and publishing unrepresentative results of repeated samplings of real world. Access to our communal knowledge and memory through archives is essential to the democratic process.

read more Young, Ioannidis, Al-Ubaydli (2008), | digg story

Currently publicly-funded peer-reviewed academic research published in exclusive journals largely informs public policies on biomedicine, the economy, environment, education, justice, housing, etc. These journals now make articles available on-line at exorbitant prices. Contributors to these journals earn tremendous academic capital crucial to professional advancement. Password protection and high costs prevent the public from accessing the most recent relevant and accurate research. The number of publicly accessible sites are growing as search engines dig deeper in the Deep Web and the open access movement grows among some academics and scientists [2, 3].

In this concise, fact-filled, informative article published by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL)[1] (2003-05-04) the authors described how even five years ago librarians were concerned by the mergers in scholarly publishing which reduced the number of players and by rising journal subscription rates that severely eroded the purchasing power[6] of libraries, universities, and scholars requiring crucial publications for teaching, learning and research.

In February 2009 Jennifer McLennan, SPARC’s[5] Director of Communications encouraged all supporters of public access to taxpayer-funded research – researchers, libraries, campus administrators, patient advocates, publishers, and others to oppose H.R. 801: the “Fair Copyright in Research Works Act which was re-introduced in February 11, 2009 by Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee (Rep. John Conyers, D-MI). This bill would reverse the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Public Access Policy and make it impossible for other federal agencies to put similar policies into place.”The bill goes further than prohibiting open access requirements, however, as the bill also prohibits government agencies from obtaining a license to publicly distribute, perform, or display such work by, for example, placing it on the Internet, and would repeal the longstanding ‘federal purpose’ doctrine, under which all federal agencies that fund the creation of a copyrighted work reserve the ‘royalty-free, nonexclusive right to reproduce, publish, or otherwise use the work’ for any federal purpose. The National Institutes of Health require NIH-funded research to be published in open-access repositories (Doctorwo 2009).” HR801 would benefit for-profit science publishers and increase challenges for making the Deep Web more accessible. See also Doctorwo, Cory. 2009-02-16. “Scientific publishers get a law introduced to end free publication of govt-funded research.”

In 2000 The Open Archives Initiative (OAI) [4] focused on increased access to scientific research (Van de Sompel & Lagoze, 2000). Since then it has reached deeper into the Deep Web with is OAI-Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH). See Cole et al (2002).

Notes

1. In early 2002, Association of Research Libraries (ARL) Office of Scholarly Communication task force recommended that the Association promote “open access to quality information in support of learning and scholarship.” Society benefits from the open exchange of ideas. Access to information is essential in a democratic society. Public health, the economy, public policy all depend on access to and use of information, including copyrighted works.

2. UC-Berkeley Biologist Michael Eisen, Nobel Laureate Harold Varmus and Stanford biochemist Patrick Brown helped start the Public Library of Science, PLoS in 2000, a “nonprofit organization of scientists and physicians committed to making the world’s scientific and medical literature a freely available public resource” by encouraging scientists to insist on open-access publishing models rather than being forced to sign over their (often publicly-funded research) to expensive scientific journals. Wright (2004) cited Eisen, Varmus and Brown as examples of scientists who are making making some areas of the Deep Web more accessible to the public.

3. Alex Steffen (2003 [2008-09-04]) open source (OS) movement

4. The Open Archives Initiative (OAI) “develops and promotes interoperability standards that aim to facilitate the efficient dissemination of content. The OAI Metadata Harvesting Protocol allows third-party services to gather standardized metadata from distributed repositories and conduct searches against the assembled metadata to identify and ultimately retrieve documents. While many proponents of OAI advocate open access, i.e., the free availability of works on the Internet, the fundamental technological framework and standards of the OAI are independent of the both the type of content offered and the economic models surrounding that content (ARL).”

5. The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, (SPARC) launched in June 1998, is an international alliance of academic and research libraries working to correct imbalances in the scholarly publishing system.

5. SciDev.Net (Science and Development Network) “is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to providing reliable and authoritative information about science and technology for the developing world. Through our website www.scidev.net we give policymakers, researchers, the media and civil society information and a platform to explore how science and technology can reduce poverty, improve health and raise standards of living around the world. We also build developing countries’ capacity for communicating science and technology through our regional networks of committed individuals and organisations, practical guidance and specialist workshops.” SciDev.Net “originated from a project set up by news staff at the journal Nature (with financial assistance from the Wellcome Trust, United Kingdom) to report on the World Conference on Science, held in Budapest in 1999. This was warmly received, leading to discussions about creating a permanent website devoted to reporting on, and analysing the role of, science and technology in development. The initiative was endorsed at a meeting held at the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS) in Trieste, Italy, in October 2000. Immediately following the Trieste meeting, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) agreed to finance a six-month planning stage, starting in November 2000. At the end of this planning stage, sufficient funding had been raised from international aid agencies and foundations for a full-time staff and an independent office in London. The SciDev.Net website was officially launched on 3 December 2001. The website has expanded continuously since its launch. We regularly add dossiers, spotlights, ‘quick guides’ and ‘news focuses’ on specific subjects, in addition to a growing amount of regular news coverage. An enhanced and redesigned version of the website was launched in January 2008. Regional networks were launched in Sub-Saharan Africa (2002), in Latin America (2003), in South Asia (2004) and in China (2005), each bringing together individuals and organisations that share our goals and objectives. There are plans for future networks in the Middle East and North Africa, West Africa and South-East Asia. SciDev.Net held its first workshop, in collaboration with the InterAcademy Panel, on science in the media in Tobago in February 2001. Since then we have collaborated with partners to deliver numerous specialist science communication workshops for journalists and other professional communicators across the world (SciDev.Net History).”

6. “Expenditures for serials by research libraries increased 210% between 1986-2001 while the CPI increased 62%. The typical library spent 3 times as much but purchased 5% fewer titles. Book purchases declined by 9% between 1986-2001 as libraries sought to sustain journals collections. Based on 1986 purchasing levels, the typical research library has foregone purchasing 90,000 monographs over the past 15 years. In the electronic environment, the model has changed from the purchase of physical copies to the licensing of access. In general, libraries do not own copies of electronic resources and must negotiate licenses (rather than depend on copyright law) to determine access and use. Large bundles of electronic journals offered by major commercial publishers will force smaller publishers out of business. Multiple-year licenses to large bundles of content that preclude cancellations will force libraries to cancel titles from smaller publishers to cover price increases of the bundles. This diminishes competition and increases the market control of the large publishers. Lack of corrective market forces has permitted large companies to reap high profits from publishing science journals. In 2001 Reed Elsevier’s STM division’s operating profit was 34% while its legal division’s operating profit was 20%, its business division’s 15%, and education 23%. Mergers and acquisitions increase prices and eliminate competition. Research has shown that mergers exacerbate the already significant price increases of journals owned by the merging companies. While there were 13 major STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) publishers in 1998, only seven remained by the end of 2002 (ARL 2003-05-04:2).”

Webliography and Bibliography

Cole, Timothy W.; Kaczmarek, Joanne; Marty, Paul F.; Prom, Christopher J.; Sandore, Beth; Shreeves, Sarah. 2002-04-18. “Now That We’ve Found the ‘Hidden Web,’  What Can We Do With It?” The Illinois Open Archives Initiative Metadata Harvesting Experience. Museums and the Web (MW) Conference. Archives and Museums Informatics. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA. April 18-20.

Smith, Richard. 2008-10-07. “More evidence on why we need radical reform of science publishing.”

Steffen, Alex. 2008-09-04 [2003]. “The Open Source Movement.” WorldChanging Team.

Young, N.S,; Ioannidis, J.P.A; Al-Ubaydli, O. 2008. “Why Current Publication Practices May Distort Science.” PLoS Medicine. 5:10.

ARL. 2003-05-04. “Framing the Issue.” Association of Research Libraries (ARL).

One Response to “Winner’s Curse Effect: Biomedical Research in the Deep Web”


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