Posts tagged OA
Imagine, for a moment, if it were possible to provide access not just to those books, but to all knowledge for everyone, everywhere—the ultimate realisation of Panizzi’s dream. In fact, we don’t have to imagine: it is possible today, thanks to the combined technologies of digital texts and the Internet. The former means that we can make as many copies of a work as we want, for vanishingly small cost; the latter provides a way to provide those copies to anyone with an Internet connection. The global rise of low-cost smartphones means that group will soon include even the poorest members of society in every country. That is to say, we have the technical means to share all knowledge, and yet we are nowhere near providing everyone with the ability to indulge their learned curiosity
A researcher in Russia has made more than 48 million journal articles - almost every single peer-reviewed paper every published - freely available online. And she’s now refusing to shut the site down, despite a court injunction and a lawsuit from Elsevier, one of the world’s biggest publishers. For those of you who aren’t already using it, the site in question is Sci-Hub, and it’s sort of like a Pirate Bay of the science world. It was established in 2011 by neuroscientist Alexandra Elbakyan, who was frustrated that she couldn’t afford to access the articles needed for her research, and it’s since gone viral, with hundreds of thousands of papers being downloaded daily. But at the end of last year, the site was ordered to be taken down by a New York district court - a ruling that Elbakyan has decided to fight, triggering a debate over who really owns science.
For scholarly publishing, the secret sauce - the essential thing - is a mechanism for review. Even open archives like arXiv.org have review in the sense of only letting people who are endorsed by an existing community post, but here we’ll assume that we’re doing something more like traditional academic publishing - reviewing something called a paper (it could actually be code, or a figure, or a paragraph but let’s stick to papers as that’s easier to think about). Peer review at present is something that belongs to a journal; it’s a set of rules and procedures, written and enforced by an editorial board and supported by a lot of email and some fairly wonky software.
All research outputs from all fields of science are welcome. In the upload form you can choose between types of files: publications (book, book section, conference paper, journal article, patent, preprint, report, thesis, technical note, working paper), posters, presentations, images (figures, plots, drawings, diagrams, photos) and videos/audio. We do check every piece of content being uploaded to ensure it is research related.
In a memorable blogpost, Gowers announced that henceforth he would not be submitting articles to Elsevier’s journals and that he would also be refusing to peer-review articles for them. His post struck a nerve, attracting thousands of readers and commenters and stimulating one of them to set up a campaigning website, The Cost of Knowledge, which enables academics to register their objections to Elsevier. To date, more than 9,000 have done so. This is the beginning of something new. The worm has finally begun to turn. The Wellcome Trust and other funding bodies are beginning to demand that research funded by them must be published outside paywalls. Some things are simply too outrageous to be tolerated. The academic publishing racket is one. And when it’s finally eliminated, Professor Gowers should get not just a knighthood, but the Order of Merit.