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How Scientists Are Circumventing Journal Paywalls (bbc.co.uk) 204

Bruce66423 writes: Some academics are fighting back against publishers of academic journals by providing copies of papers to researchers who don't have access. For some reason, the publishers aren't happy! Cognitive scientist Andrea Kuszewski said, "Basically you tweet out a link to the paper that you need, with the hashtag and then your email address. And someone will respond to your email and send it to you." That begins the conversation, and then the scientists cover their tracks: "Once contact is made, all subsequent conversation is kept off of social media — instead, scientists correspond via email. The original tweet is deleted, so there's no public record of the paper changing hands. Kuszewski and others say the method is necessary to get up-to-date research in the hands of academics from developing countries, and her and other scientists say they consider the pirating 'civil disobedience' against a system that includes for-profit publishing companies."
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How Scientists Are Circumventing Journal Paywalls

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  • Aaron Swartz (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2015 @10:18AM (#50773461)

    Due to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act law he was looking at $1 million in fines and / or 35 years in prison. And he took the suicide way out.

    Now with the TPP things can be just as bad or worse.

    • Re:Aaron Swartz (Score:4, Insightful)

      by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2015 @10:38AM (#50773687) Homepage Journal

      First of all, the choice he made was his. So it's perfectly okay that he made that choice, no question other choices were available to him (including not being disobedient in the first place) and his choice, too, was a form of resisting and inconveniencing the system.

      But it doesn't mean others will take the same path. One of the things about civil disobedience is that it not only makes a public case and presents risks to the disobedient person(s), it costs the system money and time and energy to deal with. Staying alive furthers those effects, so someone who actually cares about this might well specifically choose to do that. Probably should, if they think the issue can actually be resolved, because the possibility exists that whatever they did will be forgiven if a correction to the faulty legislation is brought to bear.

      Secondly, the choice described in TFS - to disobey and hide the behavior - is, like many others we have seen around this issue, not really civil disobedience. If it was, it would be practiced in the open, so that others in society could see the problem, the resistance to the problem, and the costs of the problem to society and make new and different choices if that seems to be the thing to do. When this kind of act is done by simply sneaking around, a lot of those things (not all) fall by the wayside. What you have instead is a lot more akin to run of the mill crime than to civil disobedience with a positive social intent.

      I actually agree that the copyright and patent system is not functioning well. I also agree that civil disobedience is a socially acceptable and potentially effective way to work against the problems when people feel they simply must act.

      But just taking IP without permission or compensation and hiding the act? No. There's a very good reason we provide the opportunity for improving one's economic standing via IP, one I have yet to hear a decent argument against as long as we are living in a more-or-less capitalist economic society. If we're to address the failures in the current legal system as it relates to IP, sneaking around and hiding what is being done about it seems to be to be entirely the wrong way to go about it.

      • Re:Aaron Swartz (Score:4, Insightful)

        by buck-yar ( 164658 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2015 @11:15AM (#50774081)

        He didn't take anything, the original data is still there. If he'd taken it, it wouldn't be there anymore. He copied data.

        • by fyngyrz ( 762201 )

          Information costs time and/or money to produce. The copyright and patent systems provide mechanisms (albeit rather dysfunctional at this time) for information creators to be compensated for that production. When people make end runs around the compensation by copying it without recompense, then the reward is reduced or eliminated, and the motivation for that producer, and other producers later on and elsewhere who might also have made that choice is reduced or eliminated.

          Pretending that copying without comp

          • Re:Aaron Swartz (Score:4, Informative)

            by chilenexus ( 2660641 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2015 @12:12PM (#50774715)
            >Information costs time and/or money to produce.

            The information you speak of wasn't produced through the time or the money of the journals, but of the researchers that performed the studies. The "information creators" you speak of get zero compensation for their works being sold by the journals.
          • You don't get this at all, do you? We don't chose to "take" the data. The data wants to be free, and so it uses us to get there. We basically don't have a choice the matter, and you are laughable to assume that we do.
            • by fyngyrz ( 762201 )

              The data wants to be free, and so it uses us to get there.

              Information is information, just like rocks are rocks and clouds are clouds. These bits of reality don't "want" anything. They don't "use" anything. We want things. We use things. And that entire meme is: you, wanting to use something at no cost -- no matter how much work it took to get it into a state where it would be of use to you.

              And the people who spent the time and money in order to produce that thing you want to use? They want to eat and

          • Re:Aaron Swartz (Score:4, Insightful)

            by bigfinger76 ( 2923613 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2015 @12:16PM (#50774761)
            You probably should include the fact that taxpayer money pays for a lot of this research.
          • by xarragon ( 944172 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2015 @12:27PM (#50774823)

            My understanding is that a lot of scientific work are funded via public money, yet the copyright gets assigned to private entities. In the context of copying vs. 'taking', their behavior is closer to 'taking' than what the researchers are doing. Simply because they prevent access to it by others.

            If viewed as a public "investment", limiting access to the knowledge actually reduces the "payback" by not spreading the findings to anyone who wants it. This in turn probably lowers overall quality by having fewer (and perhaps less qualified) people examining the findings.

            The above arguments hinges on it being publically funded research.

            Personally I value that the researchers are more interested in spreading knowledge and solving real problems than adhering to something as byzantine and riduculus as the current copyright laws. "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts" was their stated purpose; when they are clearly retarding progress what is the solution? Reform them? Or get your work done, for the benefit of all of humanity?

            Maybe at the very least we need an exception, like fair use for scientific purposes?

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              The National Institutes of Health now requires that future papers funded through their coffers to be publically available via their own publication repository called PubMed (see the policy here [nih.gov]), though the copyright of the manuscript does not change (see this FAQ [nih.gov] on the matter). All in all, I can't say the change has been a bad one. If you will pardon the expression, the state of biomedical research is evolving rapidly thanks to significant advances in instrumentation and processing capability. With next g

            • by jc42 ( 318812 )

              My understanding is that a lot of scientific work are funded via public money, yet the copyright gets assigned to private entities. In the context of copying vs. 'taking', their behavior is closer to 'taking' than what the researchers are doing. Simply because they prevent access to it by others.

              If viewed as a public "investment", limiting access to the knowledge actually reduces the "payback" by not spreading the findings to anyone who wants it. This in turn probably lowers overall quality by having fewer (and perhaps less qualified) people examining the findings. ...

              A number of historians have made a similar argument. The idea is that the "scientific method" is hardly new, and can't account for the rapid development of modern technology over the past few centuries. We have plenty of evidence that the scientific approach has been widely understood since prehistory, everywhere in the world. But new knowledge has generally been closely held by small "guilds" that keep it secret, so the only knowledge is what's in the mind of the current members of a small group. The

              • by lgw ( 121541 )

                he idea is that the "scientific method" is hardly new, and can't account for the rapid development of modern technology over the past few centuries.

                Rapid technological improvement was a direct result of the rise of capitalism. Once people could make vast sums of money by making things more efficiently, the started spending vast sums of money on doing just that. "Technology" isn't iPhones, it's any improvement in the efficiency of producing and delivering goods and services.

                But you were talking about scientific progress, which is something different.

                Technological progress, while necessary for scientific progress, is nowhere near sufficient (and vice v

          • I'm curious, you mention a compensation mechanism that is broken. Do you have any ideas how we can fix it? Can you elaborate on how these downloads might somehow diminish compensation to the authors?

            The labor and intellect that goes into creating these scientific papers is a burden not borne by the people who profit the most from keeping the information sequestered. As somebody who has been published in a periodical, I am in no way harmed when somebody emails a PDF of my paper to another researcher. Frankly

      • But just taking IP without permission or compensation and hiding the act? No. There's a very good reason we provide the opportunity for improving one's economic standing via IP, one I have yet to hear a decent argument against as long as we are living in a more-or-less capitalist economic society. If we're to address the failures in the current legal system as it relates to IP, sneaking around and hiding what is being done about it seems to be to be entirely the wrong way to go about it.

        Because for every single person or entity that chooses to not purchase rights to an IP (and simply forgoes the use of it rather than pirating it), there is a nonzero economic loss. For a product with zero marginal costs, if someone gets any value out of it, then there is economic gain from them having access to the IP.

        Especially in international matters like this one, where someone in a dirt poor country probably won't be able to afford the relatively expensive IP from first world countries. If it comes do

    • Aaron's intention was good. He just killed the wrong person.

  • by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2015 @10:21AM (#50773497)

    We must stamp out this blatant sharing of important scientific information lest the poor publishers go broke, and end up in the street, naked and hungry and homeless!

    • Better, legal way (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Roger W Moore ( 538166 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2015 @10:33AM (#50773625) Journal
      Speaking as a scientist this activity has a certain whiff of hypocrisy about it though. If we all published our papers in open access journals, which is now almost ubiquitous in particle physics, there would be no need to smuggle copies of papers to anyone and then even those who lack the contacts or are concerned about legal repercussions can read the papers too. It also helps to undermine the increasingly oppressive copyright laws which governments are foisting on all of us.
      • I can understand the rationale behind the copyrights on books and movies and music*, but in my opinion scientific research like this should always be free and open. I'm not talking about a specific recipe or process for making a particular drug, but the basic scientific research and results.

        I understand the need to recoup the cost of development**, but in my view the basic research should be available to all as a way of spreading and improving scientific understanding and knowledge. Scientific facts should

        • So you are saying that a pharmaceutical company will have the choice of stopping research when the quantity spent hits a certain amount, or carry on the 'bet' further. And of course 'per dose' is imprecise; do you mean 'per course of treatment', 'per pill, or per daily dose', or quite what?
          • by mjm1231 ( 751545 )

            Considering that pharmaceutical companies spend 2 to 3 times as much on advertising than they do on research, I'm sure there are other ways to make the calculation you are proposing.

          • So you are saying that a pharmaceutical company will have the choice of stopping research when the quantity spent hits a certain amount

            They do this anyway if they don't think the drug will be profitable. This could be ameliorated significantly if the government was able to help fund the research as it would probably bring all sorts of useful drugs to fruition that otherwise would never see the light of day. For as much as it costs to develop and text a drug, government is one of the few entities that could do it without worrying about what the shareholders would say about the profitability.

            And of course 'per dose' is imprecise; do you mean 'per course of treatment', 'per pill, or per daily dose', or quite what?

            I think we can settle on whatever term you'd like.

      • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2015 @10:48AM (#50773791) Homepage

        "High value" journals in biology aren't all that common. So the actual situation is likely to be different depending on the field. Some more obscure corners of the science room are entirely covered by for-profit journals.

        And then there is the Nature / Science / Cell issue. If you want to be famous....

        But this all sounds very retro. In the Days Before Computers, you called (or wrote or faxed) a quick note to the lead author. They would mail out a re-print and you would shortly receive a shiny copy of the paper, neatly bound. If you were close to the author, you might even get a series of pre prints. This really sounds like the 21st Century version of the same concept.

        • Re:Better, legal way (Score:4, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 21, 2015 @11:00AM (#50773931)

          In the Days Before Computers, you called (or wrote or faxed)

          One day we were cleaning up some old office rooms and we found a stack of pre-formatted postcards for this purpose. The cards were formatted like this

          _____(date)
          Dear _____,

          Would you please send me _____ (number) reprint[s] of your paper titled _____, published in _____(journal, volume, pages)? Thank you!
          Sincerely yours,
          _______
          (Address, PO Box ____)

          No wonder we've switched to something better than snail mail since then ;)

        • This still very much happens, over email, or perhaps LinkedIn. The only case where I can see Twitter being useful is in a specific (bordering on the bizarre) set of circumstances where:

          The requester doesn't have the author's email

          AND The requester sucks at google too bad to find the author's email OR the author is so obscure/technically backwards that no email is available

          AND The requester has a Twitter account despite being technically inept

          AND The obscure/technically backwards author happens to have an a

          • by RDW ( 41497 )

            I guess the idea is you don't have to wait for a response from the author, who might now be working in a top secret underground facility with no contact with the outside world / driven insane by the terrible implications of their latest discovery / not inclined to honour requests from ignorant fools without journal subscriptions / abducted by North Korea to work on the Dear Leader's superweapon / chained to the bench by their psychotic head of department with orders to produce another Nature manuscript if t

            • True, I guess if the idea is that you're trying to get any random schmuck to pirate something for you, Twitter makes a certain sort of sense. But that's also, literally, holding up a public sign saying "please help me commit a crime!" It would be trivial for any journal that really cared to gain proof that these people were looking to pirate.

              But then again, it seems like Twitter and discretion rarely associate with one another, so I shouldn't be surprised.

      • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

        In my field, open access journals charge $2000-$3000 per paper. Do you want to go to an international conference? Fund the top up for a trainee for a year? Collect some pilot data for that next grant? Or publish a single open access article?

    • You fail to present what's bad about this.

      • You fail to present what's bad about this.

        Hmmmm....ya got me there. After careful consideration, I can't find anything. In fact, this is probably one of the better outcomes. :)

  • by PvtVoid ( 1252388 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2015 @10:24AM (#50773525)

    Now if somebody could put together an open-source tool to automate this. The tricky part would be making sure that the requester doesn't get twenty thousand copies of the paper she asked for...

    • by kbg ( 241421 )

      If only there was some kind of network system where everyone could share files and everyone would help in seeding the files. We could even call it something like "stream" or "flooding" or maybe "torrent"?

      • "Seeding". Sounds ultimately sexual in nature. Sounds rather morally repugnant. I think you're going to go blind.

        • Sounds like it would keep the creationist idiots from pretending that their bunk is science and participate in the whole process.

          I fail to see the downside.

    • How about posting it on line? That seems to work for a lot of things.

      Would there be costs? Yes. Minor. Instead of $200+ for a journal subscription one could get access to all journals for what? $10.00 a yr?
      • Re:Awesome! (Score:4, Informative)

        by reve_etrange ( 2377702 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2015 @04:21PM (#50777023)

        Instead of $200+ for a journal subscription

        Hah! If only they cost $200...last year my current institution paid something like $4500 for two physical copies of Nature.

        Most of the other subscriptions are actually provided in packages which cover a large number of journals (~50 - 100) and cost > ~$100,000 / yr.

        Here's some info on UC's costs [ucsf.edu], the average cost for a life sciences journal is $1,700.

    • "Now if somebody could put together an open-source tool to automate this"

      That's great, but i fear that by doing that you'd open yourself for some kind of DMCA perversion of interpretation. As-is, it's just people talking and sending emails, not an automated, dedicated system facilitating the "theft" of copyrighted works from starving publishers.
    • It's called a search engine. Most journals permit the author to put a copy of the paper (sometimes only a preprint, before the journal's formatting is applied) on their own web site. Anything published by the ACM has a nice way of doing this where they even host it. Their author-izer service allows you to generate a link into the ACM digital library that, if the referrer header shows that it came from your web site, will allow anyone to download the paper. Most of the time, if you search for the paper t
  • by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2015 @10:25AM (#50773539) Journal

    I posted my preprints to arXiv just prior to submission and any published papers I put on my website. A journal has never complained at me.

    • by mrvan ( 973822 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2015 @10:36AM (#50773661)

      Same here. I think any researcher who wants her/his work to be found does this. Most publishers even allow it in the pre-published form (with review corrections, but without journal typesetting) and/or after a certain time. Researchgate also has a "request full paper" button that allows the researcher to respond by sending privately or by uploading. I've not heard of a single case of a researcher being sued for publishing his own work on his own homepage. It helps that the Netherlands copyright law doesn't allow for punitive damages (imho it's an abomination to have "punitive" anything in civil law, that's what criminal justice is for), so the max they can sue for is demonstrable missed earnings.

      What's more, funding agencies are finally pushing against the paywalls and more and more grants demand open access publications. The libraries are also getting involved, and if I've been informed correctly, the Dutch university libraries have a deal with Springer that in return for continuing their $$$ subscriptions, all research published with a corresponding author from a Dutch institution will be automatically open access.

      I think the end of paywalled research is finally coming, and the publishers would be wise to find their role and business model in that world rather than trying to stop it (looking at you, Elsevier!)

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I think the end of paywalled research is finally coming

        Legislation is the last refuge of useless middlemen.

      • Researchgate also has a "request full paper" button that allows the researcher to respond by sending privately or by uploading.

        This is the most annoying thing. ResearchGate is as bad as LinkedIn for spam. I've never signed up to them, but I get 'X has requested a copy of your paper' emails from them every couple of pages. If you type the title of any of the requested papers in a search engine, the PDF will be one of the top links. Some people apparently are too lazy to do this, yet feel that I should bother to do this work for them.

        • by mrvan ( 973822 )

          This is the most annoying thing. ResearchGate is as bad as LinkedIn for spam. I've never signed up to them, but I get 'X has requested a copy of your paper' emails from them every couple of pages. If you type the title of any of the requested papers in a search engine, the PDF will be one of the top links. Some people apparently are too lazy to do this, yet feel that I should bother to do this work for them.

          Yeah social networks that you don't use can be annoying. If you mark it as spam I guess your mail client should rid you of this, no?

          I actively maintain my researcher profile on google scholar and researchgate, but I guess as more such sites spring up you can maintain all of them. It's a shame that there is no sort of researcher API / linked data standard that scholar/researchgate/etc all understand so they I can just publish everything once...

    • In case the casual reader is unaware, google scholar picks these up from many university personal pages and links them to its index of the paper. It's not that you just have a bunch of personal websites with papers and no way to find them.
  • I was under the understanding that, at least in the US, papers resulting from public funding should already be in the public domain.

    • by PvtVoid ( 1252388 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2015 @10:29AM (#50773583)

      I was under the understanding that, at least in the US, papers resulting from public funding should already be in the public domain.

      This is only now starting to be mandated by funding agencies. Previously, even publicly funded research was routinely paywalled behind incredibly expensive journal subscriptions.

    • by sims 2 ( 994794 )

      Wow that would be nice!

      • It would not only be nice but also aid science by allowing others to build on previous research instead of having to reinvent the wheel.

        But it seems we're not allowed to have nice things if that gets into the way of the all important profit.

        • by sims 2 ( 994794 )

          Every brand of pen has its own in house designed mechanism for the clicker.
          I'm sure they are all very glad that they spent thousands of dollars on patents so other companies would reinvent the clicker instead of paying a cent in royalties.

    • by Luthair ( 847766 )
      Given a paper isn't the entire publication and they're for use in education wouldn't fair use apply anyway?
    • by flink ( 18449 )

      If the scientists were actually employed by the government and their contract specified that the research would be owned by the USG, then yes, the research would be public domain because the USG is prohibited from holding copyrights (could still be marked CLASSIFIED or FOUO though). If, on the other hand, the government gave a grant to a private institution and did not stipulate that the work product would belong to the government, then the institution will usually get to keep the IP.

  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2015 @10:28AM (#50773575)
    On some university website,e.g. MIT, Harvard Stanford. Timely means within one year of a journal publication, as compromise for journal companies and busy professors.

    The chief drawback of this system is that important papers are scattered all over the place. If you are looking something specific you can find it with a search engine. But if you are periodically browsing the literature to catch up on ideas you may not see these articles unless someone ahas constructed an index.
    • by mrvan ( 973822 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2015 @10:39AM (#50773693)

      The chief drawback of this system is that important papers are scattered all over the place. If you are looking something specific you can find it with a search engine. But if you are periodically browsing the literature to catch up on ideas you may not see these articles unless someone ahas constructed an index.

      Yes, this is exactly the problem.

      My field is (applied) text analysis. I want to be able to treat the body of literature as a data source. I want to be able to search through, visualize, topic model and classify the literature. I don't want to apply the search tools of the various publishers, I want the data. On my hard drive. Now.

  • I've worked at several research universities over the years. The "official" way to get articles for journals you don't subscribe to is usually to make an interlibrary loan (ILL) request. In theory it works similarly to what was just described, in that the request is out to a large pool of libraries and then one will (usually) reply fairly quickly with the article.

    The problem though is the inconsistent quality. The optimal method is for the library to download the article themselves and then send along the PDF unaltered; some do this. Others see this as a violation of the subscription terms and will only respond by scanning a print journal if they have it, and sending the scan, this is slightly worse. Even worse yet I have had some where the library "loaning" the article will download it, print it, then scan it in grey scale on some awful scanner from the 80s, add their cover page, then send that as a PDF. (Note that the libraries never need the article to come back from "loan" as it is all digital.) This process usually takes 1-3 working days depending on availability, motivation, trade winds, phases of the moon, etc.

    If this system worked better there would be less need for researchers to directly circumvent the system through twitter. Even better of course would be if fewer journals were paywalled at all.
    • This explains why I keep getting poor quality scans of papers that logically never needed scanning because they started out in Latex before landing as PS and PDF.

      • Ugh. Academic research, paid for by a grant, needs to be peer reviewed (author pays for this) and published (pay again) and is then inaccessible to non-subscribers, unless you can find a library wealthy enough to have a subscription, which may still deny you access if you're not a member of the community they serve.

        Here we are in the 21st century, with gigabits flowing freely through the Intertubes, and the dissemination of scientific articles is stuck in the mid-20th century, and sinking fast (costs going

        • Ugh. Academic research, paid for by a grant, needs to be peer reviewed (author pays for this) and published (pay again) and is then inaccessible to non-subscribers, unless you can find a library wealthy enough to have a subscription, which may still deny you access if you're not a member of the community they serve.

          Here we are in the 21st century, with gigabits flowing freely through the Intertubes, and the dissemination of scientific articles is stuck in the mid-20th century, and sinking fast (costs going up, number of library subscriptions decreasing) and Elsevier trying to gain control of as many journals as possible.

          Anyone else see a problem with this? A major overhaul seems way past due.

          Setting up a large virtual library that offers individual memberships cheaply with some method for those who can't afford even a low fee to get their memberships covered, which basically splits the cost over as many people as possible of paying for those subscriptions, would do it. The ultimate aim ought to be to eventually eliminate that middle-man and have them owning & underwriting the peer-reviewing and publication process as directly as possible, but that would take much longer than just organizin

    • There are a number of mailing lists for librarians in various fields. I'm on multiple ones for the type of science that I support. (some more specific than others). Most of ones I'm on will get you a PDF within a day, often within an hour or two.

      Mind you, there's also the rare cases of trying to track down articles when you don't have the full reference, or trying to find translations of articles ... those don't always come through. Or when the 'official' version being distributed is a scan, and they ne

  • Eh? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TechyImmigrant ( 175943 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2015 @10:33AM (#50773627) Homepage Journal

    The abstracts are available. You can find who wrote it. If I need a paper I email one of the authors and they send it.
    People email me asking for papers I wrote.

    Why the need for tweeting?
     

    • Why the need for tweeting?

      Because you can get the paper from somebody other than the author.

      • Why the need for tweeting?

        Because you can get the paper from somebody other than the author.

        Perhaps I should go and get more coffee. My brain isn't working this morning.

    • The abstracts are available. You can find who wrote it. If I need a paper I email one of the authors and they send it.
      People email me asking for papers I wrote.
      Why the need for tweeting?

      I'd guess that tweeting it provides a way for others to get notification of the paper's existence or where it can be obtained; kind of another way of making those in the same scientific community aware it it.

    • The abstracts are available. You can find who wrote it. If I need a paper I email one of the authors and they send it.
      People email me asking for papers I wrote.

      Why the need for tweeting?

      Methinks the author might possibly have something else to do besides answering requests for papers all day.

      • The abstracts are available. You can find who wrote it. If I need a paper I email one of the authors and they send it.
        People email me asking for papers I wrote.

        Why the need for tweeting?

        Methinks the author might possibly have something else to do besides answering requests for papers all day.

        That's somebody else's problem. The 2 or 3 people who read my papers don't represent a major load on my work day.


  • Telegram is one of those chat apps that is very secure, compared to WhatsApp etc.

    Then create a secret chat from the group discussion to facilitate other proceedings and delete the chat (and evidence of it by default) once you're done.

    Article? what article?
    • You might not even have to keep it secret if you choose a service that allows you to upload a copy that everybody can attach comments to--of course you had to share a copy, how else could this work online? You certainly can't easily manage to point out which part of the paper you're discussing easily otherwise, and in quite a few cases the original authors taking part in a virtual discussion would be of a great amount of use to all parties.

      After all, while my experiment ran pretty well in my nice near-sea-

  • Think of the children! This paywall loophole in unacceptable in any decent society.
  • So you're telling me there's a "scientist" somewhere who wants to restrict knowledge pervasiveness to the elite that can pay for academic journal subscriptions. And here I was thinking journals were just a curation service for good science, and that all good scientists pursued human development among all other things. For someone who already knows the title of an article, I'm guessing there's no longer a need for the "curation" - the requester is only asking for what the article, in essence, had to go throu

  • by xeos ( 174989 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2015 @10:53AM (#50773833) Homepage

    The abstracts are always available, and nearly universally include the author's email address. I've yet to meet a scientist who wasn't enthusiastic to email a copy of their article to me. And I've had plenty of requests for my own papers that I've responded to, usually within hours or minutes. I don't think that the amount of delay incurred materially slows down the pace of scientific research. Frankly, I've got a pile of papers on my desk I'm meaning to read, all of which are days old, if not older. While this method of dissemination may be slightly annoying, it works very well for modern papers. Something published decades ago can be a lot harder to find via email, but generally it's a lot more useful to read current research than older results.

    • That depends on why you're trying to read older results--for example, I once overheard a rather interesting conversation by a grad student whose main question was "Why was this line of research abandoned?" I never did find out, but it is a good question and seems a reason to have a serious journal dedicated to recording such things when there was a good reason. A Journal of Strange Results, perhaps, covering those experiments that somehow managed to do something else entirely instead of disprove or prove

  • by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2015 @10:54AM (#50773843)

    This isn't limited to the scientific community, although the insanely expensive journal subscriptions magnify the problem in that area. The problem is that content is increasingly not "printed" and therefore the journals' role is less relevant now. This happens with interlibrary loan of things like eBooks and media, as well as journals. The problem is that wherever you get it from, and whatever DRM timebombs the content, some library has to buy the journal subscription to get the content in the first place.

    I'm not sure what the solution is. It's another one of those disruptive things that could put a lot of people out of work and change the scientific landscape. If everyone just publishes whatever they want, where's the quality bar set for research? Don't the journals curate content submissions? This would also force academics to be graded on a different scale for tenure, etc. if "number of accepted submissions" doesn't mean anything anymore.

    • This would also force academics to be graded on a different scale for tenure, etc. if "number of accepted submissions" doesn't mean anything anymore.

      Yeah, they would have to be graded using another criterion, like ... oh, I don't know ... the significance and originality of their work, perhaps?

  • One far simpler way is to have a tech-report on the web with the same title, and basically the same contents. At least in the CS field, you can more often than not get something very close to the published version by simply googeling the title.

  • If it helps society (science/education), I'm all for piracy. I think free information is good for society. It costs close to nothing to share information, so artificially trying to charge for it seems shady.
  • by sugarmatic ( 232216 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2015 @11:28AM (#50774207)

    Journals were once curators of information relevant to a subject for areas of interest outside the reach of traditional library curation.

    Library science has been quietly and revolutionarily been relegated to obsolescence in the age of the internet.

    Journals would be functionally relegated to the same fate were it not for an additional value they add to academia...the constant search for prestige and citation that academia demands.

    A Nature pub simply offers more social intangibles than Arxiv.

    More societal benefit might be derived from other open access alternatives, but those alternatives offer no career and personal intangible benefits in the way that Nature offers.

  • The goal seems to be to eliminate the journal publishers. Why not cut them out now? If this catches on they'll get out of the business eventually anyway.
    • The role of newspapers, scientific journals and even bloggers is to decide what their audience is interested in from the mass of data that the person who is the editor has coming across their desk. In effect you are buying that service when you pay for a journal. On a good day the journal will only publish what it regards as high quality research (as determined by the people doing peer reviews) and is a genuine advance in the field. The highest reputation journals get to be the most picky etc etc. Given the
      • by tomhath ( 637240 )
        Exactly my point. They need the publishers, but they want to get rid of the publishers.
        • by Uecker ( 1842596 )

          But the publishers do not decide what's worth to see. The editors and reviewers do this job. So no, the publishers do not contribute much and we (scientists) are indeed in the progress in cutting them out. The reason why it takes so long is simply momentum: The journals with high reputation get to pick the good submissions because it is important for (especially young) scientists to publish in journals with high reputation. The journals with high reputation are most of the time old journals which are publis

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