#NoFeeScience #MarchForBetterScience
[This is the English translation of a manifesto originally published for a Francophone audience. The text has been modified slightly to make it more relevant to a global audience. The original text can be read here: https://t.co/CBVuz4Pynf?amp=1 ]

Objective: This "manifesto" is addressed, first and foremost, to fellow scientists and researchers, our peers and colleagues. Certain recent movements, such as #MarchForScience and #NoFakeScience [1, 2], both widely shared and discussed in traditional and social media, have the merit of emphasizing how much we need, not only the trust, but also the cooperation of the general public in order to face the global crises that are defining this present moment in history. However, these movements fail to mention one scientific consensus which the scientific community still cannot, in good conscience, be said to share: the credo that "knowledge belongs to humanity". For this idea to reach consensus status, it would first be necessary for scientific knowledge to be made fully and freely accessible to one and all.

If you agree with this principle and are prepared to support it, you are invited to add your signature at the bottom of this manifesto. At this precise moment in time, as climate strike movements around the globe are hammering home the fact that we don't have time to wait for resisters and deniers, that it's necessary we act now, the same urgency applies to the open science movement: the time to act by reciprocating the trust which we, scientists, require of the general public, the moment to finally open science, is also now! And maybe this idea needs to be hammered home in the media too...

Principal ideas:

1. As scientists, we cannot in good conscience allow ourselves to criticize how mainstream media communicate the fruits of science if, at the same time, we persist in publishing outside of channels that would grant the public free access to our original work. Rectifying the latter situation once and for all must be our community priority.

2. It is the scientific enterprise itself which, even today, props up and feeds a system of publication whose business model consists, in large part, in preventing the public from having access to science in its "pure state."

3. How can we allow ourselves to criticize the media’s marketing oriented overinterpretation of scientific knowledge (so-called “fake science”) when what dominates within science is a scientific publishing system that pushes researchers to overinterpret their own results precisely so that these will be more "marketable"?

4. Young researchers, concerned for their careers, find themselves trapped by this system, since publishing in a "prestigious" journal (very often not freely viewable) is unfortunately still considered the most effective way of demonstrating the value of one’s research.

5. The scientific enterprise has accumulated a shameful lag with respect to the democratizing potential the internet offers to communication of knowledge. Worse: it actually supports and funds those actors who are most engaged in the combat against this democratization.

6. "Science knows no country, because knowledge belongs to humanity" (Louis Pasteur). However, it is not the media who hold the key to this heritage, not the media who can give it to humanity: it falls to us, to scientists, to do so.


We, concerned humanist and democratic scientists, raise the alarm on the availability of scientific information in the public sphere, and on the place our economic models oblige this information to occupy in our society. At a time when distrust of science and the establishment is climbing to a peak, we call for a profound re-evaluation of the entire chain of information in order that subjects of scientific interest may be fully explored and analyzed by one and all, unhindered by economic or social obstacle, thus creating the conditions for a solid and lasting trust between scientists, sharers of knowledge, and citizens.

From a democratic perspective, human knowledge can be understood only as a production rooted in the combined activities of the human species as a whole. The scientific method makes the production of reliable knowledge a possibility, but it is the support of the entire society which provides the economic and structural conditions that enable science to be done. Understood in this way, the very existence of the scientific enterprise constitutes an implicit requirement of public trust. However, breaching with any genuinely democratic worldview, this trust is not reciprocated.

Indeed, at present, the public still does not have free and legal access to the sum of reliable knowledge produced via the scientific method, not even in the considerable percentage of cases where this production has been entirely financed by public money. Moreover, just as much of this public money - entrusted by taxpayers to the scientific enterprise - is destined to line the pockets of private interests as to fund the common good. If we, scientists, are truly concerned about the sometimes distorted vision a non-specialist public possesses of our knowledge, our first reflex should not be to accuse, as many supporters within science have done, a source external to the scientific edifice, such as the media. If education has not sufficiently developed the general public’s critical mind - which is what the observations of all those criticizing “fake science” in the media astutely, albeit implicitly, lead us to believe - then, beyond urgent revision of our present and future educational methods, it is our responsibility as scholars and academics to open the doors of the scientific edifice, the doors to the shrine to critical thinking, in order to lead by example.

Yet, in stark opposition to this ideal of virtue, it is precisely us, self-interested scientists, who have long supported a system of publication that imposes a market-driven logic on the process of transmitting human knowledge. A logic which places the primary sources of our work (the scientific articles in which appear the hypotheses, methods of experimentation, data, interpretations, and discussions which are the very essence of the scientific enterprise) behind over-priced paywalls. While we may now finally be seeing the beginning of a switch to open access science (notably with Plan S at the European level [3, 4]), profit-based publishing groups will be allowed adapt their fees and continue, unchecked, their work of funnelling public money into private interests via the imposition of charges to authors for their articles to appear in open access (so called APCs, article processing charges). And this is without even mentioning the spanner many scientists threw into the works of Plan S on the charge that it apparently constituted an attack on their “academic freedom”[5]!

Let us be clear: of course scientific knowledge cannot be treated like a supermarket where we pick and choose. But it also can’t be erected as a luxury department store where only the best-funded producers can afford the privilege to have their products appear in the most coveted windows or pay the entrance fee that has to be coughed up to get in the door and properly inspect the other wares on offer. For too long, the “big brands” of scientific publishing have literally decided what are the currently “hot” subjects in science, which techniques are the “sexiest” this season. There is therefore no metaphor when we say that it's a logic of marketing, rather than any kind of rational research logic, that dominates over what kind of science gets done today.

However, within such a model, the driving necessity is that all products (namely, scientific studies) be marketable. Thus, studies may be planned and are very often written in accordance with the brand image requirements of the targeted prestige journals. Worse still: this market-driven logic exerts its influence even during the process of project funding selection (allocation of public money), because the more a team has previously proven its ability to publish in the "best" journals, the more it is valued by the juries of these highly competitive project grant applications (such as the ANR at the national French level [6] or the ERC at the European level [7]). By knock-on effect, this same logic raises its head again when it comes to the recruitment of new researchers by laboratories, thereby creating a vicious circle which traps even those who are most opposed to the system, especially true for young researchers who are under the most pressure to get their early career results displayed in the best venues.

As a result, success in science has become more synonymous with knowing how to please publishers than with deepening human knowledge of nature and enriching our cognitive experience of our universe. So, yes, experimental results get overinterpreted along the chain of information, but the ultimate source of this trend is certainly not journalists. Rather, it begins at the very heart of the scientific edifice, rooted in the obligation that all results be marketable if they are to be published. Indeed, this is a very grave and diverse problem that has been the subject of repeated internal criticism in the world of science [8].

However, many laboratories - even in the “West”, but especially in developing countries - simply cannot afford to pay the prohibitive publishing costs of these major journals. Result? As with every other domain where a market-driven logic dominates the landscape, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, both figuratively (in terms of number of publications in the "best" journals) and literally (in terms of public funding grants). And, echoing this from the perspective of a reader, the overwhelming majority of the general public could never afford the subscriptions required to access all of human knowledge.

If ever a member of the public feels something may be amiss with the mainstream media description of some study that is not published in open access, well too bad for her if she doesn’t have the subscription required to access the original study or if she is not lucky enough to work at a research institute that could have paid the exorbitant annual fees to have access to it (and note here that even many universities do not have the means to pay these fees, not even for their science students [9]). This is the price that we, proud scientists dependent upon, if not to say addicted to prestige, are prepared to pay and have paid for us so that we can see our names appear in those journals which today control science down to its very image in the public eye.

Indeed, at a time when the only recourse for curious members of the public is being taken away from them, country by country, by court decisions to block access to so-called "pirate" websites such as Sci-Hub [10], it’s not the media we need to urgently address but rather those who support the publishers who actively fight against free access for all to the ultimate public good that is human knowledge. And isn't it just the height of absurdity to have to “pirate” a good that is financed by public money? Shouldn't we look at people like Alexandra Elbakyan, founder of the Sci-Hub site, as a kind of “Robin Hood” of knowledge? (That said, in an economically and epistemically fair world, there would be no need for Robin Hoods and no need for sites such as Sci-Hub!)

Internet, itself the result of scientific progress, was supposed to become the ultimate tool for the democratization of information. Now, not only has science fallen behind in the best (i.e. best for the benefit of all humanity) use of this exceptional opportunity, it has also and above all collaborated in blocking this instrument of democratization of human knowledge through the installation of digital paywalls; actual barriers separating the public from knowledge, set up with the full approval of the scientific enterprise! Yet, there is no shortage of alternatives to the current publishing model, should the scientific enterprise ever decide to make up for this shameful delay [11, 12, 13]! There is also every reason to believe that scientific progress itself would benefit most from such a change [14, 15].

While in France, Belgium, Sweden, Russia and the US we have already given in to the "sheriffs" of scientific publishing by banishing the "Robin Hood" of knowledge, who will step up and be our Martin Luther? Who will communicate the "reformational" idea that it is not only an elite, a privileged and enlightened class, who should have the right to freely quench their scientific curiosity? The idea that criticizing only the intermediaries who interpret and retransmit knowledge doesn't go far enough, that we must go deeper and break the vicious monopoly we have built up around this knowledge? Only then would the path be opened to everyone, granting every human individual the right to absorb, at its source, the genuinely scientific mindset: the same exact mindset which is the only truly effective protection against the kind of distortions of science spread by the media.

Indeed, we pragmatist scientists in no way deny the fact that journalists and the media have a central role to play in the continuous creation of a richer and more robust epistemic society. We deny only the suggestion that they constitute the most urgent and insurmountable obstacle currently preventing the public from accessing human knowledge in an unadulterated form. We, grateful scientists, unequivocally praise the work of science popularizers, without whom many of us would never have become scientists in the first place. But, like the greatest of these popularizers, we categorically oppose any form of censorship. For what is it, if not censorship, when we consider the combination of prohibitive digital paywalls and the blocking of democratized access sites such as Sci-Hub, under pressure from publishers whose driving motivation is private profit rather than public good? We don’t suggest getting rid of intermediaries and other popularizers, because scientific studies are indeed often esoteric to non-specialist eyes. On the contrary, it is by moral principle that we can never allow ourselves to use the impenetrability of certain studies as an excuse to block “laypeople” from accessing what the sciences have been able to decipher of our cosmos.

If, echoing the movements mentioned above, we must speak of scientific consensuses, let us begin with what should be the most basic of them. "Science knows no country" said Louis Pasteur, but this is "because knowledge belongs to humanity, and is the torch which illuminates the world." So, before any other action aimed at illuminating the world, let us first entrust the key to this heritage to all of humanity, and then let us stop feeding this market-driven logic which is a parasite on the grandest and most laudable human enterprise that has ever been: the scientific enterprise. If we really want to restore the trust the public should place in science (and, in the face of our current global crises, we believe this to be an absolute necessity), then we have to begin by dismantling all the barriers which prevent them from freely tasting of its fruits. Following in the footsteps of the scientific revolution of method, it’s high time we moved on to the cultural reformation of its practice.

*** If, as a researcher, you want to move your own scientific production towards the principles and practices of #openscience, we strongly recommend that you enroll in the excellent Open Science MOOC training course here: https: // eliademy.com/catalog/oer/module-1-open-principles.html ***

[1] https://marchforscience.org/
[2] https://nofake.science/tribune
[3] https: //fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plan_S
[4] "Science Without Publication Paywalls: cOAlition S for the Realization of Full and Immediate Open Access"
https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnins.2018.00656/ full
[5] "Open Access: a new version of Plan S, more realistic and applicable"
[6] https://anr.fr/fr/
[7 ] https://erc.europa.eu/
[8] "" Publish or perish ", when science puts researchers under pressure"
https://www.letemps.ch/sciences/2017/09/19/publish- gold-perish-science-met-researchers-pressure
[9] "" Open science "challenges the largest scientific journal in the world"
https://www.wedemain.fr/L-open-science-defie-la- plus-grande-revue-scientifique-au-monde_a433.html
[10] "Access to Sci-Hub and Libgen blocked in France after a court decision"
https: //www.actualitte.com / article / world-edition / l-access-a-sci-hub-and-libgen-blocks-in-France-after-a-decision de justice / 94132
[11] "When a preprint becomes the final paper"
[12] "Beyond open access: visions for open evaluation of scientific papers by post-publication peer review "
https://www.frontiersin.org/research-topics/137/beyond-open-access-visions-for-open-evaluation-of-scientific-papers-by-post -publication-peer-review # articles
[13] "Why thousands of AI researchers are boycotting the new Nature journal"
https://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2018/may/29/why-thousands-of- ai-researchers-are-boycotting-the-new-nature-journal
[14] "Ten Hot Topics around Scholarly Publishing"
[15] "A proposal for the future of scientific publishing in the life sciences"

Once you have signed the manifesto, don’t forget to share it!
Contact: nofeescience@gmail.com 
Twitter: @NoFee_Science

The full list of signatories can be viewed here:

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