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Black Market Database Access To Scholarly Journals 209

Posted by timothy
from the or-join-the-texas-exes dept.
An anonymous reader writes "University libraries offer access to a vast array of valuable materials — if you have a login and password. Now people are buying and selling university credentials online, or giving them away on warez sites. They're used by upstart companies abroad who need access to the latest industrial compounds or other valuable info on databases like SciFinder."
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Black Market Database Access To Scholarly Journals

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  • by sycodon (149926) on Sunday June 26, 2011 @04:07PM (#36577994)

    Taxpayer funded research should not be behind pay walls or restricted in any other manner. Exception for information with military applications...mostly.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 26, 2011 @04:14PM (#36578038)

    These publishers have been nothing but parasites profiting from publically funded research, selling individual articles for $40 a pop (often being no more then 5 page PDF files!), can't say they didn't deserve this, they probably deserve worse.

  • by bcrowell (177657) on Sunday June 26, 2011 @04:14PM (#36578040) Homepage

    It doesn't surprise me at all that there's a huge amount of copyright violation. Here [aps.org] is the paywall page for a classic physics paper describing an experiment that tested a prediction of Einstein's theory of general relativity. The paper was published in 1960. They're willing to sell me the scans of this 5-page paper for $25. I teach physics at a community college, so I don't have free access to this journal online. If the price was something more reasonable, like $1 or maybe even $5, I might have considered paying. But at $25 it's not even an option. I can drive to the local Cal State campus, pull the journal off the shelf, and photocopy this paper for 50 cents. No, that's not copyright violation, because it falls under fair use.

    What's really ironic is that new physics papers are essentially all available for free, whereas old ones aren't. Today, almost everyone in the field posts their papers on arxiv.org, where anyone who wants to read them can download them for free.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday June 26, 2011 @04:15PM (#36578046)

    Well, technically, taxpayer funded research should be available to everyone who paid taxes. Which pretty much excludes anyone outside the country and corporations.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 26, 2011 @04:16PM (#36578064)

    It's absurd that research is funded by the tax payer, but when it's submitted to a journal, they want to claim the copyright - even the original author of the work doesn't have the right to re-publish it.

    In return for this, what does the journal do? Well, they have the submission checked out by a team of reviewers. Except none of these are payed for their services (which is probably as it should be, otherwise that could introduce bias). But the journal's not out of pocket there. Again, it's likely the tax-payer footing the bill.

    The other thing the journal does is actually publish the final, peer-reviewed articles. Except, these days, no-one in their right mind would bother with dead trees. It's a massive waste, both to produce and distribute, and much slower and less convenient for all concerned. So they just stick the papers on a website.

    I'm sure that any academic institution would be willing to host the papers for free.

    I'm all for anything that breaks the stranglehold these parasites have over the world of academia. Divulging login details isn't piracy, it's reclaiming rights that should never have been surrendered in the first place.

  • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Sunday June 26, 2011 @04:41PM (#36578202)
    Generally I have seen lower prices (around $25/paper) but otherwise I agree. It is disgraceful that publishers are doing this, especially considering the fact that a lot of the researchers who participate in the peer review process -- the whole point of having journals -- are volunteers who never see a penny of the proceeds. If we were still publishing journals by printing them, the fee might make sense, but in an age of electronic access there is absolutely no reason for these prices, other than greed on the part of people who contribute nothing to the research.

    As an alternative, I would propose that universities host archives of peer reviewed papers, and grant access to everyone. Put those tuition dollars to something worthwhile, instead of replanting the grass every year.
  • by bcrowell (177657) on Sunday June 26, 2011 @04:52PM (#36578286) Homepage

    They're selling convenience. How much does the gas cost? And how much at your hourly rate does your time cost?

    I don't object if 7-11 sells me convenience by charging me twice as much as Safeway for a quart of milk. But the last page of the Pound-Rebka paper has the following note: "Supported in part by the joint program of the Office of Naval Research and the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and by a grant from the Higgins Scientific Trust." This is research that was funded by federal tax money. There is absolutely no excuse for the American Physical Society to be charging such an exorbitant amount of money for access to taxpayer-funded research.

  • by s-whs (959229) on Sunday June 26, 2011 @05:37PM (#36578594)

    Well, technically, taxpayer funded research should be available to everyone who paid taxes. Which pretty much excludes anyone outside the country and corporations.

    Invalid argument as research is never done isolated, but it's almost always based on previous research, and/or discussed with/helped with individuals work from other countries.

    That's the whole point of academic research, it advances knowledge through open cooperation and open competition.

    Academic publishers served their purpose when publishing wasn't easy, they serve no purpose at all today. Not even as editors as the real editors are in peers who are not employed as editors but working in the same field. And raising the prices as much as they have done serves noone's purpose except the asshats (those publishers) who want money for doing zero useful work.

  • by bcrowell (177657) on Sunday June 26, 2011 @05:41PM (#36578628) Homepage

    To do what you'd like, we'd have to do in the journal system, and replace it with a government run journal, and I'm sure it would be impossible for centralized governmental control of publication to be any sort of problem for science.

    Others have already pointed out that for new research, the problem is already solved. NIH already requires research they fund to be published in accessible form, and it hasn't caused the medical and life science journals to go out of business. Almost all physicists post their papers on arxiv.org, and it hasn't caused the physics journals to go out of business. Your concerns about government control of science seem kind of silly to me, a bit like the infamous "keep your government hands off my medicare" picket sign. We're talking about research that is already funded by tax dollars. The journals are just parasites on a government-funded system; they have unpaid volunteers to do all the actual editorial work for them.

  • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Sunday June 26, 2011 @05:46PM (#36578658)

    journals need to secure their funding

    Funding for what, exactly? There is no reason journals need to print and bind paper copies (the only places you really see those is in the library of a research institution, and those places are entirely capable of binding things on their own if they need to), nor do we need journals to host archives of papers (which any big university is more than capable of doing). Journals do not pay for peer review, nor do journals fund research. So what money do journals need to secure?

  • by Raenex (947668) on Sunday June 26, 2011 @06:29PM (#36578902)

    They're selling convenience.

    Partially, but the vast majority of that cost is artificial scarcity due to copyright. Don't you think your parent poster would like to put his scanned copy up on his web page? There are a lot of seminal papers in science locked behind paywalls and copyright, many -- if not most -- made with public funding.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 26, 2011 @08:50PM (#36579776)

    Funding for what, exactly? There is no reason journals need to print and bind paper copies (the only places you really see those is in the library of a research institution, and those places are entirely capable of binding things on their own if they need to), nor do we need journals to host archives of papers (which any big university is more than capable of doing). Journals do not pay for peer review, nor do journals fund research. So what money do journals need to secure?

    While it is a common meme to deride the cost of academic publishing, there is significant benefits for journals in their current form. As science progresses the number of articles is exponentially increasing. For this reason journals in their current form primarily serve as gatekeepers, ensuring that the highest quality research, on average, is published in the top journals and filtering down. Compare the impact of articles published in for example Physical Review Letters to those published in the Chinese Journal of Physics. To ensure this quality top journals must pay significant numbers of editorial staff. As an example, Physical Review Letters utilizes 24 scientific editors to ensure the papers published in their journal will make a high impact in the physics community. No matter what your opinions of physics as a career are, 24 PhDs in physics don't come cheap.

    This is what separates the for pay journals from the arXiv, where anyone and their dog can "publish" articles.

  • I may have to use an account like this or else leave academia altogether.

    I am currently facing the prospect of being between jobs in academia, and while I am, I will no longer have university library access to digital archives. What this means is that I cannot read the many millions of papers being hoarded by academic publishers without paying around $30~$50 for each one.

    Effectively, without a recognised position at a university with good library access, or a substantial lottery win, I will not be able to research in any real sense, with all reasearch, even that which was publicly funded and published before World War 2 began. So much for access in the digital age.

    I would personally have no problem whatsoever in availing of one of these services if the price was right. Since the prevailing copyright regime directly impedes my ability to do my job professionally, I see no reason to support or abide by it in any way.

    I have work to do, and if turning to warez sites can help me do my job better, then I will turn to those sites without hesitation. I don't see why any professional should think otherwise.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday June 26, 2011 @11:28PM (#36580456)

    He asked for a reason. Not an excuse.

You know that feeling when you're leaning back on a stool and it starts to tip over? Well, that's how I feel all the time. -- Steven Wright

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