Perverse incentives: How the reward structures of academia impede scholarly communication and good science




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There is widespread agreement that our practices of scholarly communication are a long way from being optimal, and that this has become particularly true in the last twenty years. In principle, the internet should make dissemination almost free and allow for new forms of communication such as "grey literature" and the sharing of data. And yet, while the internet has undoubtedly changed all our lives for the better, articles in conventional and extremely expensive journals continue to be the dominant means of communication, and it has proved to be very difficult to change the system to take advantage of the new opportunities. I shall discuss the various incentives that give the current system its robustness, and make a few suggestions for how they can be weakened. To do this I shall draw on my own experiences of campaigning for change, and also report on some important changes that have already taken place in the communication practices of mathematicians.



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Author Biography

Timothy Gowers, University of Cambridge

Timothy Gowers is currently a Royal Society Research Professor and also holder of the Rouse Ball Chair in Mathematics. In 1998 he was awarded a Fields Medal, and in 2012 he was knighted for services to mathematics. In addition to his research, he has a keen interest in open science, especially as applied to mathematics, organizing a large-scale open online collaboration that quickly led to the solution of a significant open problem. In recent years he has campaigned for the scientific literature to become more open and for the cost of journals to reflect the greatly reduced cost of disseminating information in the internet age. As part of that effort, he was a founding editor of Discrete Analysis, an arXiv overlay journal with running costs that are a tiny fraction of those of a typical traditional journal.




How to Cite

Gowers, T. (2017). Perverse incentives: How the reward structures of academia impede scholarly communication and good science. Septentrio Conference Series, (1).