Scientists dare to be free

We had written, in the dimly-recalled days Before Edelman, of the breathtaking avarice and crimes against scholarship of academic publishing cartels.

Well, some professors aren’t all that absent-minded after all, and they’re holding up a sign that says UNION.

  1. Scientists demand free science journal access”: “The Public Library of Science has two aims. It wants free access to back issues of scientific journals and an Internet search engine uniting information from all journals”
  2. Scientists threaten journal protest”: “But the call to set up the library is meeting resistance from publishers and academic associations, which are keen to protect their copyright on scientific papers.” Oh, but kids, it isn’t your copyright, which belongs to the authors (or their institutions) and is merely licensed. Now, is the license fair? Does it demand a transfer of all or effectively all rights for the mere privilege of being published? Is that extortion in drag?
  3. PLoS response to Science magazine”: “It is ironic that the Editors charge the NLM or PubMedCentral with monopolistic ambitions, since it is journal publishers, including the publishers of Science, who currently exercise a permanent monopoly over the distribution and use of every research article they print. At present, no one can compete with Science [et al.].... One journal’s archives cannot substitute for another’s, so the multiplicity of journals does not undermine this monopoly control over access.” Oligopoly (rule by a family) is the appropriate term here; we also like cartel. “It seems very unlikely that biomedical scientists would cancel their subscriptions to Science or their favorite specialty journals based on the knowledge that the primary research reports can be read for free six months after publication! Most scientists want to hear about the work even before it is published; that is one major reason why they attend conferences and research seminars”
  4. Publish Free or Perish”: Despite, in its title, yet another metastasis of the self-evident pun this topic brings to mind, a real gem of a story here.

Maybe content online does not pay. Maybe it ought to – the commercial kind, the retail kind. But scientific publishing is too important to be left in the hands of Elsevier, Springer-Verlag, and the other “legitimate businessmen” protected by heat-packing, high-forehead homunculi deep inside black limousines. It is too valuable for the kinds of prices they’re asking.

Posted on 2001-05-02