(Media “sugar daddies” aren’t new, but they are everywhere, including in scholarly publishing)
The richest people and their media, according to the 2021 Forbes 400:
- Jeff Bezos — owns the Washington Post
- Elon Musk — poised to own Twitter
- Mark Zuckerberg — owns Facebook
Numbers 4-10 include the founders of Microsoft and Google, and the owner of Bloomberg.
In scholarly publishing, proxy billionaires — large funding entities with endowments in the billions and run by a few people who use the perceived power projected by these huge sums — have been warping the market for years.
With a skeptical eye, OA can be viewed as a way to turn publishers into the marketing arms for major funders, ensuring that funding gambles more reliably pay off in publications funders can tout to secure more donations and increase their perceived efficiency.
Billionaires don’t like accountability and scrutiny. In the case of media accountability and scrutiny, two of these billionaires — Musk and Zuckerberg — want to lower the number of controls on what is said, tilting power back toward what they have, which is money. They don’t portray gatekeeping by experts and moderation by professional editors as customer service, but as censorship.
These two in particular believe they can behave as nation-states, and speak of their platforms in terms like “public square,” while they keep the gains in private accounts.
While we watch the larger media space, it’s worth remembering that we’ve also allowed the proxy billionaires in our midst to distort our purpose, undermine our editorial and moderation practices, and flood the zone with so much mediocre, bad, and dodgy information that the trust level has fallen across much of the “literature,” whatever that is these days.
Every predatory publisher has as its “origin story” the APC, which a number of billionaire funders pushed. Every preprint on bioRxiv or medRxiv that leads to vaccine skepticism or self-poisoning – or just a general exhaustion of professional attention — has CZI and Zuckerberg funding its existence.
We have our own “sugar daddies.”
The issue of “sugar daddies” in science and publishing is something I’ve discussed at length before, with a scientist at the MIT Media Lab calling out Jeffrey Epstein’s involvement back in 2019. You might recall Epstein has since died/committed suicide, his sidekick faces 65 years in prison (Musk was well-acquainted with her), and the head of the MIT Media Lab was forced to resign after attempting to conceal the fact that he’d taken $800,000 of Epstein’s money.
Is scholarly publishing party to this? Do we get funding from billionaire’s philanthropies, and look the other way? Do we have initiatives (preprint servers, for instance) that only exist because of sugar daddies? Do we let billionaires fund and manage journals?
The problem of “sugar daddy science” is apparent in many places, including how and where results are published. Plan S is an explicit appeal to the power of funders, with its main architect admitting as much in January:
Who holds the key to the solution? . . . the funders, the ones who hold the purse. Because the one who holds the purse can change the system, of course.
Funders aren’t saints. That’s rarely been so clear as it has become this year. In addition, the one who holds the purse can distort the system, ruin competition, and corrupt people and organizations. In a time when income inequality is so extreme, and elitists like those behind Plan S and massive Internet companies increasingly bend the world to their wills, should we actively spurn the sugar daddies?
So much power in so few hands is a problem we need to solve. That includes the proxy billionaires in scholarly publishing who are issuing mandates, demanding concessions, and driving consolidation.
It’s hard to speak truth to power when those in power work hard to hide the truth in a storm of nonsense, all under the guise of “free speech.” Their interpretation of “free” is that they, the billionaires, should be free of accountability, skepticism, or checks on their power and words. And that kind of freedom holds us all down, leaving money as the only power that ends up making a difference.
Diversity in the workplace has been found to have myriad of benefits, from accelerated innovation and discovery to better decision-making.
The Sustainable Development Goals from the UN stress the need for gender equality and reduced inequalities. As the scientific endeavor works towards solving these goals, it is particularly important that the workforce represents all countries, and that authors from diverse backgrounds are represented in scholarly publishing and journals too, in order to reduce inherent biases and enable a complete and global picture of the challenges we face.
In this ISI Insights paper, we combine self-identification data from the U.S. Census with the uniquely structured and curated Web of Science™ data to examine the issue of diversity in authorship of scientific publishing in the U.S.
- defining a methodology for identifying the ethnicity of authors of STEM research articles
- identifying gaps in ethnic diversity in research
- discover the trends underpinning participation and inclusivity of authorship across disciplines
- understanding if and how the research landscape is changing, and whether there are changes in the levels of authorship of underrepresented minorities.
A documentary about the art of living outside of conventions, in deep integrity with one’s essence.
Featuring Michael Behrens.
By the team that brought you https://www.TheWisdomOfTrauma.com .
As a rising star in the field of abstract mathematics, Michael discovered that he could see beauty and pattern where others could not. But his path was not to be inside academia, or even inside society. He went on a grand adventure to unify his Buddhism with his ability to see an expanded view of reality. He created beauty in a place where nobody else would, and made his friends amongst dolphins.
Zaya and Maurizio went to Hawaii a couple of years ago and, on a remote beach, met Michael. After a short while it become apparent that Michael was not an ordinary man… We spoke about quantum physics, Buddhism, spirituality, art and he then invited us to his house after he made sure we had “good enough shoes”…
Soon after we parked the car on a remote road we understood why…
Michael lives in the middle of a thick jungle, 20 minutes from the road in a plot of land he cleared himself. …by hand!!!
He brought all material on his shoulders, and built an amazing garden based on sacred geometry. An amazing place devoted to beauty and impracticality…
The house has no inside running water, only a shower outside and no electricity.
Michael recently bought a small solar panel so he can continue his research and communicate via his computer with other mathematicians and the world.
It was an honor and a joy to go back and shoot this film and we hope you enjoy it.
Science and Nonduality is a community inspired by timeless wisdom, informed by cutting-edge science, and grounded in direct experience. We come together in an open-hearted exploration while celebrating our humanity.