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The Media Science

Half of All Research Papers Published In 2011 Already Free To Read 82

ananyo writes "Search the Internet for any research article published in 2011, and you have a 50-50 chance of downloading it for free. This claim — made in a report produced for the European Commission — suggests that many more research papers are openly available online than was previously thought. Previous best estimates for the proportion of papers free online run at around 30%. Peter Suber, director of the Office for Scholarly Communication at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, says the report confirms his optimism. 'When researchers hit a paywall online, they turn to Google to search for free copies — and, increasingly, they are finding them,' he says."
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Half of All Research Papers Published In 2011 Already Free To Read

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  • by Wycliffe ( 116160 ) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @09:41AM (#44630005) Homepage

    If I was a real researcher with a real budget, I would be happy to fork over a couple bucks to read an
    article I needed to reference in my research but I would guess that there are alot more non-researchers
    like typical slashdot reader than actual real researchers. I also turn to google when I hit a paywall
    because it's usually more of a passing interest and I'm not going to pay $5 to $35 to read an article
    that I might only understand half of anyways but it would sure be nice if there was a way to give
    access to the non-professional general public as a way to pass on useful knowledge instead of hiding
    it behind a paywall where only a select few people in the same field are willing to pay for it.

    • As a side note, I wonder how much of the money exchanging hands in these paywalls is just
      going back and forth between different people in the same field. By eliminating paywalls, the
      information is available to more people and researchers can stop trading money to read each
      other's papers.

      • by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @09:54AM (#44630177) Homepage
        Very little. You don't generally get paid for papers. The money from the journals in almost all fields goes to the publishers, not anyone in the field.
        • by Tsiangkun ( 746511 ) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @10:59AM (#44631057) Homepage
          we generally pay to be published in the glossy covered journals. The direction of travel for the money is from the researchers to the journals.
        • by brillow ( 917507 )

          Generally? How about ever.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by 91degrees ( 207121 )
      There's a question of convenience.

      I was doing some reasearch at work into computer vision systems. I could have asked for them to allocate a certain budget for buying the papers, but that would involved going through several laers of bureaucracy to authorise this. It was easier to seach for the authors.

      There's also the fact that it's not always possible to tell whether this is going to be useful from the abstract, and most people have an aversion to wasting money.
    • by blueg3 ( 192743 ) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @09:52AM (#44630151)

      Academic researchers rarely pay for articles (in my experience). However, their institutions often have access through subscriptions purchased by the library.

      They also frequently use Google Scholar to find free copies of paywalled articles that the don't have access to. It's a great approach. Another solution is to find the contact e-mail of the lead author and politely ask him for a preprint copy.

      • Most articles can be had in a few minutes for those who have even remedial social skills. FB post " Can someone send me this article ?" wait 10 minutes.
    • by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @09:59AM (#44630245) Journal

      If I was a real researcher with a real budget, I would be happy to fork over a couple bucks to read an article

      No, you wouldn't. You see, 80% of everything is crap. Actually it's more like 99%.

      Given the wildly misleading titles and abstract, sometimes because they are just bizarrely off the wall, sometimes because thy overinterpret the results and sometimes because they are just optimistic or badly written, most papers you can dismiss before you read the whole thing.

      Of the ones that remain and are actually genuinely relevant, 80% are crap.

      Sure $2 for a useful paper wouldn't be too bad, but you have to read beyond the abstract in perhaps 10 or 20 papers. The cost rapidly mounts up. And the faff and annoyance.

      You'd start to get really pissed off really fast if you kept spending $2 on utter wastes of time.

      Actually, very many researchers want their work to be freely avaliable, and almost all of them stick the work somewhere it can be freely downloaded, such as on their website. If you don't, then you lose citations and that is important.

      • Researchers at universities generally have access through their host institution. This is still annoying as your university then has to waste millions of dollars subscribing to every crappy elsevier journal out there, using money from your grants. And there will still be an interesting-sounding article in a journal your university decided not to pay the toll for. And if you're at home, you have to log in via VPN to read it.

        All because researchers prefer to focus on their research rather than shaking of
        • All good points, but:

          All because researchers prefer to focus on their research rather than shaking off parasites.

          Research is not an easy career. I tried it and it is amazingly stressful to try to build a career. You have to really care about it and to get a permenant job you have to work really, really, really long hours for very long periods.

          The only reason you do this is because you are so fundementally interested in the work that it seems worthwhile and you are driven to keep pushing.

          Not only that but if

          • I'm not suggesting we make it part of the job description, just that we avoid submitting to journals that are scummy, and demanding open access legislation.
    • Most laboratories have yearly subscriptions that give them access to all relevant publications.
      I've never seen a researcher fork over some of his own personal money to acquire a paper.

      • by mspohr ( 589790 )

        You are right that those in the academic world generally have access via an institutional subscription.
        However, the rest of the world doesn't generally have access.
        It's not a good thing to exclude so many potential users and contributors of knowledge especially when you consider that academic worlds tend to be closed in a kind of "group think" and that real innovation tends to come from people who "think different".
        As a physician without a current institutional sponsor, I am confronted with this problem dai

    • If Google with the title of the paper and filetype:pdf fails just email one of the authors. So far I have been able to get papers that way.

      For example I am interested in scorpions and am in contact with several professionals who answered in the beginning my questions and helped me to ID species I encountered. Now, years later, I have found a few new species and we've been on field trips to collect those. But before that I was already on a mailing list to which new papers where mailed on a regular basis befo

  • Now how many of the "free" copies crawled by Google are actually free, and how many are just "pirated", e.g. posted by an instructor as reading material for a class, without permission from publishers?

    Will this finding lead to some DMCA takedown notices?

    • Re:Free copies? (Score:5, Informative)

      by blueg3 ( 192743 ) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @09:53AM (#44630165)

      A very large fraction of them are preprints posted by the authors. Usually legally.

      • by godrik ( 1287354 )

        Most of it is true. Thought I must say that I never really understood all the legalese associated with paper publications. Most of the time, I am not sure whether it is ok to post a preprint or not. What I usually do is post a technical report on arxiv before I submit a journal paper.

    • It is legal for the author to post his article on his website as long as it does not include the publisher's editing.
      It is considered a working copy, a draft or a preprint.

  • Already? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @09:48AM (#44630111)

    Considering that in the EU a nontrivial amount of research grants are paid by taxpayer money, I'd say "already" is not the term I was thinking of. "only" would be more the qualifier that qualifies.

    • How about you and your mods RTFA?
      "The first report measures the availability of scholarly publications in 22 fields of knowledge across the European Research Area, Brazil, Canada, Japan, and the United States, between 2004 and 2011."

      Just because the survey was done by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research and Innovation does not mean they considered only EU-funded research. And yes, there is a large push for open access for EU-funded research, but they have not made it a requireme

      • If it's not a requirement yet, than "already" is even more off than I thought. In other words, if it's not ALREADY a requirement to tell ME the results of what MY money funded, something is really wrong here.

    • I think "already" was used in the sense of "the transition is further along than we thought it was."
  • Sadly, half of them are also probably wrong (yes, I work in the life sciences).
  • Which half? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TentativeFate ( 2588155 ) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @10:22AM (#44630547)

    Half of all research papers are not worth the paper they will never be printed on.
    How many peer-reviewed papers are free to read?

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      Half of all research papers are not worth the paper they will never be printed on.
      How many peer-reviewed papers are free to read?

      My thoughts exactly. Or not even that - how about the papers you want to read? It doesn't matter if 99% of the papers are available for free if the one you want is paywalled only!

      And it assumes that it's an even distribution - that in all fields, a paper you want has a 50% chance of being free (or you can find an equivalent for free). Depending on the field and the article, this a

  • In other words, 50% of papers are pirated copies downloaded by researchers. (*) This is not a good thing in the long run, because it doesn't help solve the journal problem.

    (*) the pirates who distribute them are often the original authors (**)

    (**) the original authors are not the copyright holders.

  • Many of these papers are obtained from authors personal web pages. That's great for current papers but won't help in 10-20 years when those web pages are gone. The legal long-term solution is for authors to publish their papers in preprint repositories, like the arxiv, that will outlast them. Funding agencies should make this mandatory for all publicly-funded research.
  • There are journals that let you see their current articles for free, and then lock them up after 6 mos or a year. Even at my school there are online subscriptions which only let us see things back to like 1996, then if we want to see past that we have to pay (or the university could pay for a more deluxe subscription).

    In any case, there needs to be a concerted effort to download all this stuff and torrent it or something.

    • In any case, there needs to be a concerted effort to download all this stuff and torrent it or something.

      There are such efforts underway. Some sites have more useful collections of scientific articles than my own university's library.

  • (oops, just posted this as an AC. I thought I was logged in) Your submission, "" was accepted for publication in CCS'13 conference proceedings. You must assign publishing rights to ACM before ACM can proceed to production. There are several ways you may now assign publishing rights to ACM. You may ask ACM to manage your rights for you (including pursuit of plagiarism and clearance of third-party re-use permissions) by transferring the requested rights to ACM using either the traditional ACM Copyright Tr

APL hackers do it in the quad.