Better living through project management. part 1

The maximizing of participation and creative output is a complex multidimensional process, however the rewards can be difficult to quantify. To some that means they do not exist. To others, those are the reason that they themselves exist. That might seem odd, but it is not a self-referential paradox. It is in fact an indicator of what are often unconscious beliefs, the subconsciousget beliefs lead to the development of biases that are typically culturally associated with those subconscious beliefs, of which the individual expiring them, may be entirely unaware. So instead of confronting the deep philosophical issues, MBAs prefer tactics more similar to nepotism to enforce conformity, because the cognitive dissonance which can arise in the work place, can have an even larger impact than poor unchallenged justifications which are a result of power dynamics instead of merit. So don’t ask me how that relates to the “productivity” as measured by GDP. Because I don’t want to have to explain voodoo economics right now, that is outside the scope of this brief and incomplete introduction to project management.

Ultimately, the process of maximizing creative output is not solely an issue of the project managers, or the team members themselves. It is a combination of these factors, which are generally summarized as “fit” which incorporates both that the parts of the team fit together, and that is what creates the overall fitness of the team. The only meaningful conclusion to draw from that, is that issues can originate from the project manager, team leader or team member. The problem, which is not the same as a mistake, can also be addressed by any of these roles, however the responsibility for solving those problems, is very domain specific. Without those domain specific limitations, what tends to happen is that the most skilled members are punished for having skills because the bulk of work gets redirected to them. This happens when you have people on the team who are either lazy or dumb, the reason this can be difficult to differentiate is that lazy, angry, passive-aggressive, hurt, overworked, and several other behaviors all are presented as ignorance. This is because as a part of some anti-intellectual cultural stereotypes, ignorance is often the get-out-of-jail free card for people who are deceptive. Both maliciously and incidentally. This can become a real annoyance when it is combined with the dunning-Kruger effect, where you have an idiot, who has convinced themselves that they are a genius and just pretending to be an idiot to be lazy. And then proceeding to get stuck on a treadmill of hedonistic imperative, while failing to develop as a person. They then proceed to move through the ranks of an organization based entirely how long they can keep these dysfunctional traits from conflicting with the goals for pure profit. This is where bad managers come from, a combination of privilege and purely self-serving beliefs (selfish beliefs).

At this point you might be thinking “What the &*[email protected]# does any of this have to do with project management?” and the point is mostly so that project managers begin to understand their position. It is not a matter of simply conducting meetings and delegating work. Though it does seem that way sometimes, especially in agile, where it’s mostly expected that the lead developer be the project manager, because somehow, they didn’t have enough responsibilities and work already. So this might be where value judgments (concepts of value, of which economists love to lie about because math. (and sometimes combined with amphetamines, lol stock market crashes. AI still does it better than self-proclaimed super humans, who were rewarded with all the money, which isn’t in of itself value, see: bitcoin) but seriously, it’s philosophers who are the stuck up self-important but fundamentally deluded pro-claimers of “the truth” /sarcasm) in the budget come in, but rest assured you don’t need to worry about that as a project manager it is entirely outside of your control.

If you feel dumber after reading that, don’t worry, that is normal for economists, which are just mathematicians who suck as math. Mathematicians who are good at math go into physics. So yes, neo-classical economics actually does make you dumber. So truly they deserve to guide the global economy. Those failures that occur every 8-10 years are the fault of the people! Just don’t ask which people. Sorry, got a little off track there.

So the moral of the story is that project management has as much to do with people skills as it does with process skills. Good teams are able to see their project manager more like a 2nd level of HR dept. In poor management environments, such as highly rigid process and hierarchy, all interpersonal queries are redirected to a separate HR dept. I bring these issues up because they are KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) which are seldom considered.

There are a lot more things to be said about managerial processes and behaviors when interacting with team members, however it is outside of the scope of this article.

Fortunately for the more technically minded among you, project management isn’t all touchy and feely.

There are many different methods of project management and each method often has a different goal than another. This is the first lesson in complexity, and project management itself is mostly managing and assessing the complexity of projects, so that they are able to follow a well thought out map.

It is important to see it this way, because most people think project management is about the specifics of some process and others feel like processes are more like guides than rules. Both can be true based on the complexity, but they are not interchangeable. That is the first lens to use when trying to determine the proper method of project management to apply in a given situation.

Now the most important thing about this whole article is known along with the bias that undermines it, which is the 2nd reason there are so many shitty project managers too. Why is that important though ?

Well, as far as skills which are transferable to other areas in your life, having the ability to recognize and organize complexity, is really the only way to have a meaningful relationship with technology. The kind that ensures we guide it and not the kind that just makes it a reflection of our fears while guiding us. That applies to both humans and “AI”.

But will this knowledge make me happy ? Because in my country it is tradition to believe that ignorance is bliss. The underlying assumption is that the less you know about pain, the less you will be able to emulate it, which is a part of empathy, and the less you are used to emulating it, the less it will hurt when you actually feel it. This is rooted in this confusion of identity between the body and the mind within each individual. However this ignores the existence of complexity, because that is difficult to quantify. When did math get so hard ? See, if we were just a little more ignorant, we could just pretend it’s magic or some force outside of karma and in doing so, make it whatever we want.

Seriously, objective reality is a joke, it’s a simulation so all you have to do is change your mind. so I want to congratulate some jackasses for successfully finding a way to justify self deception. No wonder they are so good at predicting things. But WAIT! If you can predict things, isn’t that like, controlling reality ? Because if you know what is going to happen, then you can change it, which stops it from happening. Does that mean everything is pre-determined and it doesn’t matter why anything happens because you have no control of it anyway. When you put it that way, it doesn’t even sound like a contradictory paradox. But they do base their idea of their own agency in the world on it. Subconsciously of course, so does that really matter ? Like you never really think about it, so you have no idea, life Is always a surprise!

Ok ok, maybe, but here is the thing. Are those good surprises or bad surprises ? If ignorance is bliss, why are drug addicts always trying to kill themselves, and smart people successful, even though they do not themselves know how to define success, they just believe it is whatever they are told it is. See ? Just change your mind, it works just fine! But does it ?
This is why so many people hate their jobs.

What is the difference between people who love their jobs and those who hate their jobs ?
Well, poor people are told that it is how much money they make, which determines their value.
Smart people however, figure out or are just lucky enough to have smart enough parents, that it is actually mastering skills, aka a certain level of self improvement which is focused on intellectual development in some area. When that happens, as seen with open source developers, is that they are mostly paid in pride in their own work. That is why they are able to be not just productive, but creative. Creativity is the lifeblood of innovation, which is the second engine of the economy, after power generation.

Why should the economic power of a company matter to me ? Well, in a more democratic and meritocratic management style, it would correlate, but not directly, with financial compensation.
In classically managed companies, there aren’t only promotions which generate additional income. It’s often stock, which is a different problem which is outside the scope of this article. However that system is only loosely based on merit and typically prone to being structurally undermined by being undefined. What all of that means is, that the quality of the economy is actually a side effect of the open source model. When profit is what is quantified and valued above other factors like quality of good project management and happy employees, which would basically be interpreted as infinity if placed in a math problem inappropriately, are discarded. Then economy is a zombie which actually stops taking human life into account. That is why individualism is important, which is literally the only argument for capitalism that exists, because it posits that other forms of government are unable to create that kind of freedom, which is bullish for “I just don’t feel like explaining the contradictions in my beliefs.” or a straw man argument.
So all of that shit, is entirely because they are optimizing for “individuality” instead of “self actualization” which as the name implies, is the process of creating the self, which is a unique identity.

It was formalized by Abraham Maslows as a pyramid, much like the food pyramid, which is an important distinction between that and a triangle, because there is vastly greater internal volume per level of the pyramid. It was determined that by trying to achieve those goals in those proportions, would maximize the ability to create an identity which is what the concept of the self consists of.

People are like, just really attached to their identities sometimes.

However there is a bridge that is too far for even Maslows hierarchy to reach, which seems to contradict what some popular but wrong psychologists who were pretending to be philosophers believed, they weren’t able to prove their ideas well enough to call it a science, but they like to think it is, for the same reason that economists suck at math actually. Funny how that works.

Anyway, the bridge was too far because it was just a sphere that turned back in on itself, a 4D sphere if you will, built on the hedonistic imperative. Chasing this type of “happiness” is why people have drug addictions, so considering that most people who believe that have a much higher rate of suicide, it probably isn’t the answer. But considering that some people don’t even trust science about vaccination, what chance does a concept like this have ?

Real philosophers know, true fulfillment, is the fullest realization of the self. Sounds like selfishness doesn’t it ? Here is the thing though, right after they tell you that, they say “because there is no self”
How the heck does that works ? How do I maximize nothing to feel a deep satisfaction with my self ?

Then there is some vague hand waving and incoherent babble about transcendence or enlightenment or woo or qi or whatever is the flavor for your area.

There is a legend however, that maslow died before finishing his great work, the end boss of the pyramid of self actualization, was actually an amalgamation of the environment in which the thinking entity exists. How can this be the “true self” ? I am pretty sure MY self is inside MY body, see its the sense of ownership. If you think you can just dissolve private property and turn me into just another number in a calculation I would loose my identity, and my identity is very important, if you take it, I just might kill you to get it back.

How can self actualization fit inside of such a frame work ? What possible glue would you have to use, because there are just too many twists to this logic. Well I can see why that could seem confusing and frustrating. This all sounds like just some more complicated bullshit that doesn’t mean anything, just word games. Does it make your head hurt ? Maybe heart beat faster ? Ignorance sounds so much more fun right now. Because then my agency can be whatever I want whenever I want and it’s all about me anyway, I am the only one I have to live with for the rest of my life. Really ? Is that really true ? Then you don’t need these rules because you do not need society. Good luck finding a forest to live in though, because then you would have to adopt the culture of indigenous people, and who wants that fight ? Damned if you do, damned if you don’t I suppose. At least for some people.

For others, they believe in karma. More importantly though, they believe that karma is not magical. It is actually just the result of complexity which emerges from chaos theory. Only by truly integrating that into your internal identity, will you be able to create simulations where all the other people are not just generalized with a few stereotypes, like a poorly written story, you don’t have any agency anyway, everything is pre-determined. Isn’t that what karma means ?

No, no it doesn’t. I am trying to figure out if this is willful ignorance (trolling) or you actually still don’t understand. Karma isn’t a magic force, all it means is that for every action there is a reaction, sometimes those actions mirror and amplify into a standing wave, other times they multiply and diversify. Most things occur in cycles, so if you can figure out where in the cycle you are, it is possible to “control your own fate” by which I mean directing the cycle. The cycle, is not too dissimilar from riding a bicycle, you carry out a few repetitive actions, however your experience every time is different because the environment is always different. Imagine you bicycle to work every day, do you wear the same clothes all year every day ? No, even though the actions are repetitive, the environment itself is different each time, similar maybe, but never the same. These confusions arise because people tend to think that even chaos theory is predictable simply because it is not “quantum”, but that is like saying there Is a limit to the number of sentences you can invent just because there are only 26 letters in the alphabet. I am pretty sure both of these mistakes arise out of a combination of people not understanding scale in an intuitive sense instead of a mathematical one, and misapplication of the symbol known as infinity in math, which is just what people do anytime they are trying to decide if something exists or not, and people mistake it for size, because those are easy to manipulate with math. Which is the language of the universe! Or maybe just a measurements of ratios which sometimes appear related at different levels because of the fractal nature of true complexity. And not objective reality itself, but a feature of reality, because we are at the same time both familiar and unfamiliar with it, because it is the substance that creates our own mind, without actually being our own mind at the same time, there is a barrier somewhere … I can almost feel it .. it feels like …. the edges of my identity.

That is what really lasts after you die, both in the form of karma, but also legacy because by some crazy coincidence, those are somehow interchangeable. So don’t you want an identity to be proud of ?

That is what makes self transcendence the final boss of the pyramid, it doesn’t sit on top of it, it is actually the tip of the spear. There is a saying about acting: “You can either act, or you can really get into the part” the difference is only in what identity the entity making decisions decides to assume. And that depends entirely on weather or not the entity feels like it has agency in the world. Nice try with the simulation arguments though, those were suitably annoying. That miiiiight be why part of the reasons that astronomers and physicists disagree on the nature of reality itself. As usual, somehow, these difference seem to come down to the role math plays in the individuals life. At least it seems that way, but really math just biases people towards determinism. It’s not like being totally wrong about that, and claiming to be right because “math is the language of the universe” so people confuse math for the universe itself, while other people, who aren’t as good at math are wrong because they can’t present their ideas purely in the language of math, the purest language!
Also if you tell them how often they are wrong, it threatens their ideological perfection which plugs all the holes in their identity, just like they plug infinity into math. Can’t imagine why everything seems like magic to them, after all, it’s a simulation in which you have no control, so just maximize pleasure because nothing else realllly matters. See, ignorance IS bliss, and bliss is enlightenment, so I guess it’s all just nothing. Nothing exists instead of being the negation of existence, BECAUSE WORDS!
See, you can do that with words too, but we will have to talk about detailing the logic of the trolley problem some other time. I mean, following the ridged tracks laied down by “pure logic” which is logic rooted entirely within math to reach inevitable conclusions, and that is how you control fate, because free will is not real, it’s just an idea, like everything about you that actually means anything objectively.
However also objectively, ideas don’t exist. So I guess you don’t exists. Go ahead cling to your “I think therefore I am” it doesn’t solve all the other paradoxes of choice, which may or may not exists, but if it does, it’s only in your mind, and honestly, you are quite crazy, so good luck with that.

What does all that mean ? Don’t worry, because project management can actually make you happy, unless there is paperwork …. all happiness is fleeting after all. *#$$%*^ infinite hamster wheel! I hear the internet is powered by like, 11 of those. That is where the series of tubes leads to, hamsters in one end and memes come out the other. If you want to hear a good by imperfect description of how memes drive cultural evolution you learn that it is totally fine to use them for the economy too, though honestly I think the 4th industrial revolution would be more sustainable than thet because of its reliance on electrons instead of memes, those are just easier to count when doing the accounting for all of this, which is a major part of project management which was skipped over with all that jibba jabba about complexity.
Maybe in the next lecture on project management. Who knows ? I mean, if the world is perfectly deterministic, then you can calculate that can’t you ? So don’t bother asking me, I suck at math. Which has been willed by the universe!
That or I am just lazy sometimes. Who can know ? Beause somehow with all this perfection that totally exists, and facts are entirely relative, which are unlike perfection of math, words aren’t related to reality or … something.

Why economy broke ? I bet it was hackers. The true terrorists. So please leave your rights, privacy and security at the border. You don’t need them unless you are a terrorist! You know, like wikileaks.

Seriosuly, did anyone read the memo about rotating SSL keys and certs ?

Common misconceptions about neo-Buddhism

On paper, Buddhism looks pretty good. It has a philosophical subtlety married to a stated devotion to tolerance that makes it stand out amongst the world religions as uniquely not awful. We in the 21st century have largely sensed something a bit depressing about Buddhism, but nothing more sinister than that. It is a result of viewing Buddhist belief as being a single homogeneous belief system. But if we start looking a bit closer, it is possible to discover that some versions of Buddhist belief in practice are corrupted (there have been attempts to control it via a false panchen lama as well), there is a lurking darkness there, quietly stated and eloquently crafted. This is not a single Buddhist tradition but a drift that has occurred across several different traditions. neo-Buddhists refer to these traditions collectively as QB. See if you can spot the differences.

For nine years, Dale DeBakcsy worked as a science and maths teacher at a small private Buddhist school in the United States. And it was a wonderful job working with largely wonderful people. The administration, monks, and students knew that I was an atheist and had absolutely no problem with it as long as I didn’t actively proselytize (try and find a Catholic school that would hire a moderate agnostic, let alone a fully out-of-the-closet atheist). The students were incredibly sensitive and community-conscious individuals, and are his dear friends to this day.

However, Dale had no doubt that Buddhist religious belief, as it was practiced at this particular school, did a great deal of harm. Nowhere was this more in evidence than in the ramifications of the perverting the belief in karma. At first glance, karma is a lovely idea which encourages people to be good even when nobody is watching for the sake of happiness in a future life. It’s a bit carrot-and-stickish, but so are a lot of the ways in which we get people to not routinely beat us up and take our stuff. Where it gets insidious is in the pall that it casts over our failures in this life. I remember one student who was having problems memorizing material for tests. Distraught, she went to the monks who explained to her that she was having such trouble now because, in a past life, she was a murderous dictator who burned books, and so now, in this life, she is doomed to forever be learning challenged.

Not, “Oh, let’s look at changing your study habits”, but rather, “Oh, well, that’s because you have the soul of a book-burning murderer.”

To our ears, this sounds so over the top that it is almost amusing, but to a kid who earnestly believes that these monks have hidden knowledge of the karmic cycle, it is devastating. She was convinced that her soul was polluted and irretrievably flawed, and that nothing she could do would allow her to ever learn like the people around her. And this is the dark side of karma – instead of misfortunes in life being bad things that happen to you, they are manifestations of a deep and fundamental wrongness within you. Children have a hard enough time keeping up their self-esteem as it is with every botched homework being a sign of lurking inner evil.

This conception is to assume that people have no choice about what is within themselves. If this little girl was actually Hitler in a previous life, should she live this one without any consequence? If that were to occur, then what was overcome? Why would there be any reason to be a better person or overcome hardship?

If Christianity allows anyone into heaven for repenting on their deathbed, why should anyone follow christian rules for their whole lives, when they only need to for the last 10min before they die?

Why would Buddhism allow terrible people to start a new life without any negative consequence? Karma is a result of an individuals choices, not their inner nature. Even inner nature can be changed, but only though choice. It is possible that this book-burning murderer needs to live life as one of the people they condemned to death. So that the experience becomes so ingrained that they do not do it again.

However the vast majority of karma is not a result of past lives. It is a result of your choices in this life. If you do good things in the face of adversity, that has helped not only yourself but others as well. Once it becomes a virtuous cycle then eventually there will not be any negative karma remaining. Culture of a civilization can only evolve when it goes beyond the individual level and is adopted by the society though it’s laws and traditions. The better the society the better the individual, the worse the society the worse the individual. That is karma. It’s not all about you or any individual, it is about everyone.

As crippling as the weight of one’s past lives can be, however, it is nothing compared to the horrors of the here and now. Some people belive Buddhism’s inheritance from Hinduism is the notion of existence as a painful continuous failure to negate itself. This conception only exists for those who do not understand the nature of desire. What is desire but discontent over not having something? It is a sort of hunger on the emotional level. Is hunger pain? If you think it is not, then try starving for a while. So it is for many emotions, this is not good or bad, it is just the nature of being. The only way to overcome this pain is enlightenment, and the first step on that path is contentment. Once you realize that contentment is the first step to overcoming emotional pain, you will understand both pain and the shadow of enlightenment. A hint about the 2nd step, it has to do with attachment.

The wheel of reincarnation rumbles ruthlessly over us all, forcing us to live again and again in a horrid world until we get it right and learn to coexist. Even if it takes yet another mass extinction.

Now, there are legitimate philosophical reasons for holding to this view. Viewed from a certain perspective, the destruction of everything you’ve ever cared about is inevitable, and when it’s being experienced, the pain of loss does not seem recompensed by the joy of attachment that preceded it for those who do not practice contentment. And that yawning stretch of impermanence outside, so the argument goes, is mirrored by the fundamental non-existence of the self inside.

Meditation, properly done, allows you to strip away, one by one, all of your merely personal traits and achieve insight into the basic nothingness, the attribute-less nature of your existence. Those are all interesting philosophical and psychological insights, and good can come of them. Being hyper-sensitive to suffering and injustice is a good gateway to being helpful to your fellow man and in general making the world a better place.

There are two central claims here: that our own fundamental essence is non-existence, and that the nature of the outer world is impermanence.

One way to interpret this is the idea of the void-essence of self is one arrived at through meditation, through exercises in reflection dictated by centuries of tradition. That’s enough to give us pause right there – it’s not really a process of self-discovery if you’re told the method, the steps, and the only acceptable conclusion before you’ve even begun.

This is the primary method by which Buddhism has been undermined. Increasingly strict rules and just-so methodology which are designed to morph Buddhism into something more akin to Hinduism for the purposes of justifying something akin to a caste system. Replete with a gatekeepers to enlightenment, or at least profit.

In neo-Buddhism which is a revival of ancient Indian Buddhism, meditation has no such restrictions on mediation. Neo-Buddhism is the Buddhism of the Laughing Buddha, Walking Buddha, Laying Buddha. These are references that one can meditate like the Buddha when walking, laying or even laughing. Mediation is a state of mind, not a state of body.

If the buddhism that you are taught limits the freedom of inquiry as much as it does the meditative posture. Or a rigidity of method has infected the structure of belief, ossifying potential explanations of existence into dogmatic assertions mechanically arrived at. Then sorry, you have been exposed to what neo-Buddhist call Q-Buddhism, status-quo Buddhism. It is Buddhism with Confucian characteristics.

In neo-Buddhism, the void-essence of self is a perspective of the self from outside the body, it is inherently empty because it is detached from the self but attached to everything else. This is the nature of the void-essence, which can be translated to mean spacetime. It is a sort of 3rd person perspective without the person.

The impermanence of the outer world seems solidly founded. Five billion years from now, I’m pretty sure that this novelty cup next to me is not going to exist in any sort of recognizable novelty cup form. Nothing in this room will functionally persist as long as you only admit my Use Perspective as the only relevant lens of observation. The matter and energy will both still exist, but they won’t exist in the configuration which I am accustomed to. The conclusions that Buddhism draws from an impermanence theory of the external world supposes that I cannot hold in my mind at the same time both an appreciation and attachment to an object or a person as they stand in front of me right now AND a recognition that my use of a particular configuration of matter and energy at the moment doesn’t determine how it will exist for all time.

Some people feel Buddhism’s approach to use-based impermanence attempts to force us into a false binarism where we must either be the slaves of attachment or the cold observers of transience. This is because they are viewing concepts such as contentment or detachment as occurring separately and not at the same time.
Buddhism says that desire is suffering, in the same way as unrequited love, and even if you gain your desires, the impermanence of the world ensures it will eventually be lost. Some may view this through the lens that the only way to overcome that suffering is to not be attached at all, which is wrong. Detachment is about letting go of things instead of being stuck forever in the state of unrequited love, by fully grasping the fundamental nature of impermanence instead of trying to place blame for the loss. It’s about being happy when you can be, and not getting stuck in the “trap of wanting” which is known as “Hedonic treadmill” in the west.

At the end of the day, it’s still true that Buddhism is not a single belief system, but has many traditions which are not typically incorporated into the name of the practice. Unfortunately quite a few of those traditions are being corrupted to create complacency and inaction because that supports a status quo and keeps Buddhists uninvolved in party politics. QB (Q-Buddism) has the drive to infect individuals with an inability to appreciate life except through a filter of regret and self-blame is perhaps even more dangerous for being so very much more subtle. As for Dale DeBakcsy’s experience with the student who had a learning disability, it exemplifies the difference between QB and neo-Buddhism. While in both cases it is true that she will have a learning disability for her whole life, QB tells her that it is the status quo and she has no one but herself to blame. In neo-Buddhism they would empower her with technology and techniques to work around her limitations and change study habits.

Gratitude

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” ~ Melody Beattie Buddhist Temple, Lhasa, Tibet

Academic publishing is broken. Here’s how to redesign it

The world of scholarly communication is broken. Giant, corporate publishers with racketeering business practices and profit margins that exceed Apple’s treat life-saving research as a private commodity to be sold at exorbitant profits. Only around 25% of the global corpus of research knowledge is open access, or accessible to the public for free and without subscription, which is a real impediment to resolving major problems, such as the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

Recently, Springer Nature, one of the largest academic publishers in the world, had to withdraw its European stock market floatation due to a lack of interest. This announcement came just days after Couperin, a French consortium, cancelled its subscriptions to Springer Nature journals, after Swedish and German universities cancelled their Elsevier subscriptions to no ill effect, besides replenished library budgets. At the same time, Elsevier has sued Sci-Hub, a website that provides free, easy access to 67 million research articles. All evidence of a broken system.

[Source Images: Paperkites/iStock, hynci/iStock (pattern)] 

The European Commission is currently letting publishers bid for the development of an EU-wide open-access scholarly publishing platform. But is the idea for this platform too short-sighted? What the Commission is doing is essentially finding new ways of channelling public funds into private hands. At the same time, due to the scale of the operation, it prevents more innovative services from getting a foothold into the publishing world. This is happening at the same time as these mega-publishers are moving into controlling the entire research workflow–from ideation to evaluation. Researchers will become the provider, the product, and the consumer.

A global community to coordinate and regain control–to develop a public open-access infrastructure–of research and scholarly communication for the public good is long overdue. The issues of governance and ownership of public research have never been clearer. Another isolated platform will simply replicate the problems of the current journal-based system, including the “publish or perish” mentality that perverts the research process, and the anachronistic evaluation system based on corporate brands.

Researchers are still forced to write “papers” for these journals, a communication format designed in the 17th century. Now, in a world where the power of web-based social networks is revolutionizing almost every other industry, researchers need to take back control.

 

The European Commission has called for full, immediate open access to all scientific publications by 2020–something often mocked for being unrealistic, and that current growth trends suggest we will fail to achieve. But it is unrealistic only if one focuses on the narrow view of the current system. 

If we diversify our thinking away from the superficial field of journals and articles, and instead focus on the power of networked technologies, we can see all sorts of innovative models for scholarly communication. One ideal, based on existing services, would be something much more granular and continuous, with communication and peer review as layered, collaborative processes: Envisage a hosting service such as GitHub combined with Wikipedia combined with a Q&A site such as Stack Exchange. Imagine using version control to track the process of research in real time. Peer review becomes a community-governed process, where the quality of engagement becomes the hallmark of individual reputations. Governance structures can be mediated through community elections. Critically, all research outputs can be published and credited–videos, code, visualizations, text, data, things we haven’t even thought of yet. Best of all, a system of fully open communication and collaboration, with not an “impact factor” (a paper’s average number of citations, used to rate journals) in sight.

Such a system of scholarly communication requires the harmonizing of three key elements: quality control and moderation, certification and reputation, and incentives for engagement. For example, it would be easy to have a quality-control process in which instead of the closed and secretive process of peer review, self-organized and unrestricted communities collaborate together for research to attain verification and validation. The recklessly used impact factor can be replaced by a reward system that altruistically recognizes the quality of engagement, as defined by how content is digested by a community, which itself can be used to unlock new abilities within such a system. The beauty is that the incentive for researchers switches from publishing in journal X to engaging in a manner that is of most value to their community. By coupling such activities with academic records and profiles, research assessment bodies can begin to recognize the immense value this has over current methods of evaluation, including its simplicity.

How will we fund scholarly publishing? Well, it’s a $25 billion a year industry: I’m sure libraries can spare a dime. Making a more just system of scholarly communication open-source means that any community can copy it, and customize it to suit the community’s own needs, driving down costs immensely. Furthermore, initiatives such as the Global Sustainability Coalition for Open Science Services (SCOSS) or a recent proposal for libraries to set aside just 2.5% of their budget to support such innovative systems, offer paths forward. The possibility is real for creating something so superior to the present system that people will wonder how publishers ever got away with it for so long.

All of the technology and traits to build a hybridised scholarly commons infrastructure already exists. It is up to academic communities themselves to step away from their apathy and toward a fairer and more democratic system for sharing our knowledge and work. That is, after all, what research is all about. The question of publishing reform is not theoretically or conceptually complex. The future of scholarly communication depends more on overcoming social tensions and the training to defer to a powerful system embedded in global research cultures than on breaking down technological barriers.

Members of the academic community ought to hold themselves accountable for the future of scholarly communication. There are simple steps that we all can take: Many have already done so:

Sign, and commit to, the Declaration on Research Assessment, and demand fairer evaluation criteria independent of journal brands.This will reduce dependencies on commercial journals and their negative impact on research.

Demand openness. Even in research fields such as global health, 60% of researchers do not archive their research so it is publicly available, even when it is completely free and within journal policies to do so. We should demand accountability for openness to liberate this life-saving knowledge.

Know your rights. Researchers can use the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Rights Coalition (SPARC) Author Addendum to retain rights to their research, instead of blindly giving it away to publishers. Regain control.Support libraries. Current library subscription contracts are protected from public view by “non-disclosure clauses” that act to prevent any price transparency in a profoundly anti-competitive practice that creates market dysfunction. We should support libraries in renegotiating such contracts, and in some cases even provide support in canceling them, so that they can reinvest funds in more sustainable publishing ventures.

Help to build something better. On average, academics currently spend around $5,000 for each published article–to get a PDF and some extra sides. A range of different studies and working examples exist that show the true cost of publishing an article can be as low as $100 using cost-efficient funding schemes, community buy-in, and technologies that go a step further than PDF generation. We can do better.

Use your imagination. What would you want the scholarly communication system to look like? What are all the wonderful features you would include? What can you do to help turn a vision into reality?
It is feasible to achieve 100% open access in the future while saving around 99% of the global spending budget on publishing. Funds could be better spent instead on research, grants for under-privileged students and minority researchers, improving global research infrastructure, training, support, and education. We can create a networked system, governed by researchers themselves, designed for effective, rapid, low-cost communication and research collaboration.

Scholarly publishers are not just going to sit back and let this happen, so it is up to research funders, institutes, and researchers themselves to act to make a system that represents defensible democratic values, rather than rapacity.

Jon Tennant is a palaeontologist and independent researcher and consultant, working on public access to scientific knowledge. He is based in Berlin, Germany. This article was republished under a Creative Commons license from Aeon. Read the original here.

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