6 Corporations Control Most Scientific Publications
AN OLIGOPOLY OF 6 CORPORATIONS OWN THE MEDIA AND CONTROLS THE MAJORITY OF ALL SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH PUBLISHED IN THE WORLD AND IT IS AFFECTING THE WAY SCIENTISTS CHOOSE WHAT TO STUDY.
The world of scientific academia is incredibly competitive, with high standards that supposedly lead to better research and greater discoveries. Getting published in a reputable journal is the desired goal for an aspiring scientist – a benchmark for anyone wanting to make a name for themselves. With funding for that research often coming from universities or government grants and peer review being voluntary, the system can appear to be ostensibly immune from corporate interests and the typical symptoms of capitalistic greed.
At one point in time this might have been the case. But today, 6 corporations own the media and control the majority of scientific journals and they have created a multibillion dollar oligopoly, controlling the flow of what scientists choose to study and charging the very people who fund the research, to see the results.
John Perkins on Corporatocracy
WHO ARE THE 6 CORPORATIONS WHO OWN THE MEDIA?
The six corporations that own the media — also known colloquially as “the Big 6” — are:
- Time Warner
- News Corp
These corporations control as much as 90 percent of all the media in the United States. Consequently, this creates a sort of echo chamber in the media world, from television to radio to news.
A Paradigm Shift in Publishing
It was once the case that scientific papers were published in whichever journal was the most fitting. All research and its implications became part of a collective body of scientific work with relatively equal importance. But a shift occurred when a scientific journal out of MIT, called Cell, started a trend in publishing scientific research that told a broader story. Importance was placed on showing the implications of the research as part of a greater picture and therefore bigger, more profound discoveries were given greater value, while the more mundane research was deemed not as exciting.
This competitive nature has created a system in which scientists feel the need to publish groundbreaking stories, in the most prestigious journals to be considered relevant. And this is essentially the only significant value in publishing with one of the big six corporations– clout. Despite their exorbitant profits, these publishers don’t provide much in the way of standards or scrutiny in the peer-review process. In fact, there have been numerous instances of research with shoddy methods and inaccurate results that have been published in some of the more astute journals. Instead of investing in carefully vetted, quality research, their M.O. is quantity. In fact, there have been scientists who have intentionally submitted phony research to see if it could pass the peer-review process, and it often worked.
Despite the fact that the internet has made publishing easier and more efficient, it has only increased big publishers’ profits. While one might assume that the cost for access to scientific publications would decrease, due to the physical cost of printing going down, the opposite has instead become the case. At the same time, these publishers have significantly increased their market share of all scientific publications, buying up various journals and bundling lesser publications with high-demand publications.
A Cyclical Profit Scheme
This system that has lined the pockets of the six corporations who own the media is cyclical and should essentially be considered theft. Scientific research is generally government funded or bankrolled by universities. Their subsequent research is then given to a publisher in hopes of it actually being published. The peer-review process is done by volunteer scientists and then publishers sell the work back to universities of scientists and researchers where the work essentially originated. The product that these publishers are selling is basically being created by their customers at little to no cost to them. And once an article is submitted and accepted to a journal its content is essentially owned by that journal – scientists are not allowed to submit their work to multiple journals.
The one publisher of the big six that has reaped the most profit is Reed-Elsevier. One study found that during the 90s, in the midst of the rise of the internet and a period of massive consolidation in publishing, Reed-Elsevier’s revenue doubled, while its profit margin rose almost 10%. By 2013, the company’s profits reached $2 billion and it now controls more than 28% of the market. The total global revenue today for the entirety of the scientific publishing industry is $19 billion, and the top 6 publishers increasingly control the majority of it.
Unsurprisingly, as the profits of the corporations have risen, so has the cost of accessing their publications. Individual studies can cost hundreds of dollars, while subscription prices for individual publications can cost thousands of dollars. At one point Elsevier increased their subscription fees by 30% over five years. This system is unsustainable even for universities that pay millions of dollars a year to allow students access to this research, while also funding the research itself. Between 1986 and 2004, universities have seen a 273% increase in the amount of money being paid for subscriptions.
What is the Solution?
This issue is part of a greater, systemic problem in both the scientific and economic world. But without an anti-trust lawsuit or comprehensive government regulation, how can we solve this issue? Some have resorted to piracy, while others see a more pressing need for reform in the peer-review process.
Some countries have enacted policies to combat the extortion of big publishers, like denying them the ability to charge for both publishing fees and subscription access. One solution that has laid the groundwork for reform, is the Public Library of Science, or PLOS. This online science library has created an open access forum for scientific research and is gaining significant traction. It has become a de facto leader in the push against the big publishers and heavier government regulation in scientific publishing.
Originally relying on donations from foundations, the company now charges a publishing fee from the author or their funder, allowing open access to anyone who wants to read it. PLOS allows for post-publication peer review, which allows for the scientific community to accept or reject research, rather than a sometimes-ambiguous peer review process before publication. PLOS’s new model has been referred to as an open access megajournal, and unsurprisingly it was recently surpassed in size by a competitive model owned by one of the big six publishers.
But the pushback from Springer’s megajournal, Scientific Reports, looks like it could be detrimental to the success of PLOS. The megajournal is doubling its output of published articles while also improving the measured quality of its articles. Meanwhile, PLOS has seen its number of published articles decline and has a lower quality rating than Scientific Reports.
Is this a sustainable model for reforming the publishing process and allowing public access to scientific research? Or will large multinational corporations maintain their grip on humanity’s collective knowledge?
True Corporate Citizenship
Did the Philadelphia Experiment Really Happen?
The World War II-era is notorious for mysterious Nazi experiments involving weapons and strange esoteric technology. But the U.S. also conducted its fair share of tests on new and nefarious weaponry and wartime tactics. Some of the most famous minds of the time, including Nikola Tesla and Albert Einstein, were even employed to execute the military complex’s will, occasionally leading to some perplexing stories.
One of the more bizarre accounts involves the supposed attempt of the Navy to develop a technology that could make an entire ship invisible to the naked eye. But these experiments had some unintended consequences that led to the project being shut down and buried until a man who claimed to have worked on the project blew the whistle on its cover-up. The stories that ensued became the inspiration for a 1980s, sci-fi movie and the Netflix series, Stranger Things, but could these stories actually have some validity to them?
The Philadelphia Teleportation Experiment
A man named Al Bielek is a central figure in these stories and his account has been ridiculed as simply being contrived nonsense, but the historical context and his detailed narrative are intriguing and possibly part of a true story, shedding light on clandestine government operations, one of which was known as the Philadelphia Experiment.
According to Bielek, in the late 1930s, the Navy was working on a project using electromagnetism to essentially develop an invisibility cloak for its warships. Around that time, Bielek said that Einstein was directing a program of degaussing ships by wrapping them in electromagnetic coils, to protect against magnetic mines planted by the Nazis. Tesla purportedly took this technology and parlayed it into the cloaking experiment, having some initial success with a small boat. After failed attempts with larger ships, Tesla gave up and the project was handed over to Dr. John von Neumann, who also worked on the Manhattan Project.
Von Neumann eventually succeeded in making the U.S.S. Eldridge, a Cannon-class destroyer escort, invisible for a short period of time on the first occasion. According to Bielek, one of Tesla’s inventions, a Zero Time Reference Generator, lent itself to this success. This device supposedly locks the Earth’s magnetic fields and acts as a cosmological reference with the electromagnetic fields at the center of the galaxy.
Bielek said that Tesla gave von Neumann a cryptic warning about a “personnel problem” that might occur in their experiment, but he continued anyway and the Navy trained a crew specifically for the operation. Then on August 12, 1943, they ran a second test. After being shrouded in a “green, ozone-laden haze” the ship purportedly disappeared for several hours, during which it traveled through time and then rematerialized. Upon its return, sailors were reported to be violently ill, some engulfed in flames, and others molecularly bonded with the ship. Bielek, however, said he and his brother, who was aboard the ship at the time, jumped off during the time warp and remained in 1983 on Montauk, Long Island at another secretive government facility also experimenting with time travel, known as the Montauk Project.
Bielek gives an intriguing explanation for how his time travel was possible, relating to Tesla’s Zero Time Generator. He said that Tesla’s device was the key for the ship to return back to its original location. According to Bielek, we live in a five-dimensional reality, with time being the fourth and fifth dimensions. He said that every human is given a set of locks that lock them in a point of time from which they came, but that the experiment ruptured those time references, upon returning to Philadelphia.