Dear EAGE we have to talk!

Dear EAGE,

you’re my professional society. We have history! Already during my Bachelor’s, I published an extended abstract with you. But you’ve changed. We need to talk about this.

Please don’t mistake me for having illusions. As you know, I run this website and some others, I know the costs of doing business online. I’ve run jobs on Amazon AWS, deployed on GCP and tinkered with the Azure cloud. Tech isn’t cheap at scale. Please don’t mistake me for not understanding what redundancy, on-demand, or all the other fancy enterprise-grade words are. I get, why under the hood you’ve switched to using EventsAir, maintaining an internal solution is a monstrous job.

On top, while I know volunteering on committees is essential, you maintain over 90 employees, possibly hitting a hundred soon. That is the reason why I got involved with committees and boards. You may remember even interviewing me on “Why I got involved” for a video project that is supposed to attract more young people into the society. And we both know that the industry at large, geoscience education, and the EAGE has a problem with attracting fresh minds more than ever.

Why then do you decide to implement a discriminative pricing structure agains early career researchers?

The New Price

So what’s the issue?
Let me give you the stage first, it is copied from your website.

In summary, all members of EAGE will retain a level of access, based on their recognition level. Even first year Green Members will be able to access the most recent two calendar years, and from the second year, upon becoming a Bronze Member, the most recent four calendar years will already be available, with our Platinum Members being able to access 19 calendar years of the archive. As you grow as a member, you will gain a deeper access to the archive, however should you need immediate access to the full archive for a year, a small contribution to support the new platform is asked, depending on your Membership Recognition level as per the table below.

EAGE EarthDoc Update (courtesy EAGE)

To get the full view, I’d like to discuss the following screengrab too:

EAGE Membership benefit (courtesy EAGE)

The main explanation for this change in pricing structure is changing to an updated EarthDoc platform, which will have nifty features and better user experience, possibly making EarthDoc competitive with the updated SEG platform and professional publishing platforms like Elsevier.

What’s the Problem

These changes sound amazing when I read the EarthDoc Update, the initial email and the email you sent me after discovering my LinkedIn post and Twitter post. I’m sure the announcement by the president in First Break will sound amazing too. I really do, those are well-crafted texts.

Didn’t make it hard to discover, I play fair, I tagged the EAGE in all posts.

The problem is that these texts hide the reality behind these changes. The direct consequence of these pricing changes. And mind me, none of these awesome inventions and improvements mean anything, if you’re limiting access to them based on membership years*. (That asterisk will become important later.) This pricing structure is discriminating against Early Career Scientists.

New students, with fewer funding, get less access and pay more to gain access.

This is not a membership reward.

Please visit the softwareunderground.org and my LinkedIn Post, where some esteemed members of the community make great points about “sunk cost” and penalization, it’s also where I initially learned about this.

What’s the Other Problem?

Unfortunately, there’s more. Quick personal anecdote: I’m a sucker for tiers, awards and recognition levels. I’m a gamer, what can I say. Furing the last EAGE Annual I was a bit weirded out, my first year of EAGE was in 2011, my membership should’ve been silver right? I should’ve gotten a pin, right? I didn’t.

The membership system is more complicated. Which is not clear from the EarthDoc Update website. You have to click through to the Membership Recognition Program site.

Membership recognition levels (courtesy EAGE)

This system penalizes breaks or rewards streaks. My break while I did not have funding during my Master’s knocked me down to Bronze instead of Silver.

I understand that you want to incentivize continued membership. Did you notice, that Silver starts right after you finish your studies, IF you joined in your first Bachelor year (laughable idea). Did you also notice that the Hardship program starts at silver?

It’s funny how this adds up. I finished my Master’s in the downturn. Do you believe that me, no experience, not finding a job, barely making rent would prioritize my EAGE membership? No, that’s right. So there goes my streak AND my access to prior publications.

Let’s revisit the statement from before

New students, with fewer funding, get less access and pay more to gain access and do not get access to support after finishing their studies, which diminuishes the access further.

I’m quite young, mostly healthy, and childless. So let me just allude to the implications of this policy to people that want to build a family and take time off. “No honey you keep the EAGE membership, you can’t break your streak. I’ll stay home and take care of the kid and never return to science.” (Let’s not talk about the survey about childcare that only members that already registered for the event without childcare could answer). Or mind you people that get sick for a prolonged time.
The return to EAGE is therefore penalized.

So we have a bias against Early Career Scientists, and people that do not put their job first in everything, even health and family. But is there more?

Is it Anti-Science?

I’m a geoscientist in machine learning. I read trends. I wrote for the website IFLS and others. I love it when OpenAI makes a new fancy video with a robot doing some incredible thing. But science journalism is plagued with the “Shiny New Object”-syndrome. That’s why we hear “chocolate saves you from cancer” and “wine makes you live longer”, they’re reading a single new study on it and write an article on it. (There’s good journalism, don’t get me wrong. But everyone has seen this type.)

Considering the EAGE has a huge number of FWI sessions every year. Do you think students should just read the last 2 years of shiny applications of FWI to a proprietary dataset? Or should they be able to read the fundamentals and break-throughs?

For my thesis, I’ve read over 300 papers and extended abstracts on applications of machine learning in geoscience alone. I have them in a spreadsheet. I don’t know how many 4D seismic papers I’ve read in addition. Imagine, I would be limited to 4 years, or pay.

I’d love to read the method sections at the coming EAGE Annual Conference “Machine Learning in Geoscience has a rich history within the two years.*”

If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.

Isaac Newton

Dear EAGE, we both know, who will pay extra for access to publications. We both know who will pay most for you being able to say “we have not increased our membership fees in years”.

It will come from the pockets of Early Career Scientists, whos fee you have just at least doubled and made harder to reimburse if that was ever an option.

The Alternatives

Let’s be clear here. With a bit of foresight, this could have been avoided. If you thought that the solution you bought X years ago would run forever, I have questions about that. There should have been a fund to update the site. As a scientific and engineering organization you have seen geoscience change from paper-based interpretation rooms to automatic seismic interpretation; From CDP to FWI. But instead of blaming, let’s talk about membership fees and money.

First Break

Look, I know we talked about this before. You’re sending me the First Break dead tree copy every time. Just like every post box is filled with the glossy paper no one reads. If I want an article, I’ll look it up. Who has the time?

We both know you don’t give an opt-out because advertisers pay good money for that sort of distribution. But I’d love to know if the advertisers pay enough for the ever-increasing printing and shipping costs, especially internationally.

Is my membership paying for that?

International Pricing

Why does every other organization recognize the different values of a Euro, but the EAGE does not?

Having an unequal pricing structure that does not automatically account for GDP or similar international inequality measures aggravates the effect on low-income countries. Maybe it’s time to rework that?

Even if you disagree on this, I don’t think we have to make this inequality worse by piling hidden costs on top, if they want to unlock a 3-year old article.

General Price Increase

Maybe be up-front about the blunder and don’t try to hide it in hidden discriminatory costs. Open honest communication that the technical debt of EarthDoc was becoming a significant Euro amount, would be more appropriate, no?

Why charge the scientists of the organization more, for the articles WE provide you with?

Let’s explore this further

I’m currently in Denmark. Definitely a high-GDP country. My Ph.D. is well-funded and I can reimburse most costs. 50€ is definitely way less than my weekly shopping. There’s funding for publishing and conferences even. You know who would not care about an international pricing schema that makes it cost an appropriate amount? Me in Denmark. I lived in Malaysia before, where I mostly ate out. 50 Euros would get me accommodation for a couple of days and nice food eating out every meal. When I was a student in Hamburg, Germany, I could definitely not reimburse the EAGE cost.

Money, support and reimbursements are very different from place to place. The places that need it care. The places that don’t need it can afford it.

With 19,000+ members, a 10 Euro increase would be ~200k. Is the software you’re getting much more expensive than that?

Ok another thought experiments, based on SEG pricing (but lower). Let’s say you keep the price for low-GDP steady and double the price for high-GDP. Assuming half the members are in the low tier and half in the high tier that’d be a nice half million euros. So maybe you wouldn’t even have to double it. Also maybe more than half of your members are high-GDP to be realistic.

I’m sure other folks have other ideas that are much better than my quick write-up.

Conclusion

You’ve taken a system that was meant to reward people and turned it against you newer members with less pull in the society.

You’re locking publications further down when alternatives like Diamond Open Access Journal Volcanica make publishing and reading free. Do you think your model has a future?

Do you think these changes make for a future-oriented society that is inclusive and strong in members with a reputation for good science?

I don’t. And I will rather break my streak than be complicit in a policy change like this.

The following two tabs change content below.
... is a geophysicist by heart. He works at the intersection of machine learning and geoscience. He is the founder of The Way of the Geophysicist and a deep learning enthusiast. Writing mostly about computational geoscience and interesting bits and pieces relevant to post-grad life.
Posted in Easy Reading, Personal Journey and tagged , , , , .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *