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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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Opportunist (166417)

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

      • by sycodon (149926)

        I'll sign on to that.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          The following snippet is your share of the collected data based on the proportion of research you have paid for:
           
           

          7

      • 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 hedwards (940851)

          Indeed, but the salient point is really why government grants are being used for research which isn't available for free to the taxpayers. I can understand privately funded research not being available for free, and I can understand why the underlying data isn't available for free, but I don't see why government funded papers should be allowed to be hidden behind paywalls.

          It's a real problem if you're going to a smaller school which can't afford to subscribe to the relevant journals placing such institutio

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by nbauman (624611)

            Indeed, but the salient point is really why government grants are being used for research which isn't available for free to the taxpayers.

            The Bayh-Dole Act. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayh%E2%80%93Dole_Act [wikipedia.org]

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

              He asked for a reason. Not an excuse.

            • by Phillip2 (203612)

              Actually, most of the worlds scientific research doesn't come from the US, and therefore this isn't really an answer.

              The real answer is because we have a overly expensive and nonsensical publishing system that costs a vast amount to both author and reader, and provides very little back. The scientific publishing industry current costs around 2 billion a year. Wikipedia costs around 10 million to run.

              It is a pity that it takes illegal activity to draw attention to this, but ultimately, we need competition in

    • NIH agrees with you (Score:5, Informative)

      by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Sunday June 26, 2011 @04:24PM (#36578108) Homepage Journal

      Taxpayer funded research should not be behind pay walls or restricted in any other manner

      The largest funding source for biomedical research in the US is the National Institutes of Health (NIH). They recently passed a rule requiring NIH-funded work to be published in an accessible manner [nih.gov]. This has had some interesting results, as now journals such as Nature and Science have ways to release articles to the public so that they can be in their high-impact journals and accessible freely.

      Of course, this only applies to grants that are approved 2010 and onwards; work funded by older grants does not need to worry about this. However, grants that are were issued originally prior to 2010, and are being renewed, do.

      In other words, less federally funded work is published behind paywalls now than ever before.

      • by tgibbs (83782) on Sunday June 26, 2011 @06:03PM (#36578766)

        The regulation requires that any paper supported to any extent by NIH and published after April 2008 be made accessible to the public, with free links from the publicly accessible Pubmed database. NIH enforces this be requiring grant applicants to submit evidence that they are in compliance for any of their own papers that they cite. Journals can request at most a 1-year window of exclusivity before the requirement goes into effect

      • by hedwards (940851)

        It's a good start. I can understand why they can't do it retroactively, but I really do wonder why it was ever the case. I guess, these rules were probably not needed when the primary way of publishing information was in a journal and the journals cost money to publish.

    • by Surt (22457)

      It's usually not, but it's only searchable on the major databases (journal compilations), and it's the databases/journals that are private. 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.

      • 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 Runaway1956 (1322357) on Sunday June 26, 2011 @05:55PM (#36578726) Homepage Journal

      I'm still forming opinions on academic paywalls - but you most certainly have a good point right there.

      I get SO aggravated when I'm trying to chase down some bit of data, that often enough is trivial in nature, but all the leads send me to a freaking paywall. Hey, I don't expect copies of textbooks, nor do I expect access to "trade secrets". There is plenty of stuff that the average person probably shouldn't have access to, unless he's willing to pay. But, FFS, I've run into paywalls when reading about psychology, chemical reactions, even HISTORY!

      How in hell does Academia and their suppliers corner the market on some trivial history fact, anyway? (BTW - don't even ask what I was searching for in particular. I've forgotten now. I only remember that I hit the pay wall, and exploded. I ranted to an empty room for a good 15 minutes, LMAO!)

    • by Fnord666 (889225)

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

      Similarly universities should not be able to patent or commercialize anything where the research done to develop it was funded with taxpayer dollars. It should automatically be in the public domain available to everyone.

      • Why shouldn't they be able to commercialize it?

        I get not locking down knowledge with paywalls and patents, although patents are a bit funny because the whole point of functional patents is to encourage making knowledge freely available, via the mechanism of legally-enforced limited exclusivity on products. But I don't see why it's a problem to sell stuff enabled by new knowledge?

    • by nbauman (624611)

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

      Can somebody who follows this more closely help me with this?

      The National Library of Medicine compiled an internal database of almost every significant medical journal article. With encouragement from Al Gore, they made it free on the Internet as PubMed (on the theory that the public should have free access to the product of tax-funded work). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?db=pubmed [nih.gov]

      Either the NLM or another government agency also created a database of articles about chemistry. They also wanted to

    • by bryan1945 (301828)

      The whole 'pay to read' research thing bugs me. Even in grad school (where I paid fees for access), some databases required extra payment for articles. Even as a member of IEEE I need to pay extra for various database on IEEE.
      If you have published your article, why do I have to still go and pay for it? Yeah, sure, I'm going to track down a physical copy of Scientific American from 1967 somewhere. It's not really the payment itself (there are costs involved, I realize that), but how friggin' expensive it

  • No Tears (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 26, 2011 @04:08PM (#36578010)

    The only people with the right to keep scientific knowledge closed-source are those raised by wolves without so much as even a hint of the nature of linguistics and any thought upon how IT might have evolved. As Newton said: "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." - it applies no less to someone so nameless their only affiliation with science is the selling of other people's methods.

    • Re:No Tears (Score:5, Informative)

      by RobinEggs (1453925) on Sunday June 26, 2011 @08:11PM (#36579564)

      As Newton said: "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."

      Newton was merely quoting when he said this; the original source predates him by 500 years. John of Salisbury [wikipedia.org] first wrote it in 1159. I know it seems pedantic to waste a post on quote attribution, but it's an extremely widespread quotation in nerd circles and not even 1 in 100 people seems to know where it actually came from.

      Not to mention that Newton wrote the famous saying in a letter to Robert Hooke, a man with a slight build and severe spinal defect (although these didn't make him especially short), and some authors think it was actually a cutting insult rather than an expression of humility.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by dakameleon (1126377)

        Good Wiki quoting.</snark> As pedantic as you're being, you might as well point out that even John of Salisbury was giving attribution to someone else (Bernard of Chatres); naming Newton as the source of the quote isn't out of place, since he did say it, and in the form recognisable today.

    • Nowadays it's:
      "If I have seen further it is by stealing the intellectual property of giants."

      and before you congratulate me let me be the first to say I stole that from someone's sig.

      But seriously, scientific knowledge paywalls are evil, in that they are a barrier to the advancement of science. Ok maybe some kind of six month exclusivity for organizing the editing and reviewing of the damn thing, but anything more is highway robbery.

      How do you know the next Einstein isn't some teenager in Africa, who would

  • 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 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 @04:14PM (#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.

    • I can drive to the local Cal State campus, pull the journal off the shelf, and photocopy this paper for 50 cents.

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

      • Major universities have a lot of computers available; it would not take a tremendous effort for those universities to host archives of peer-reviewed papers, paid for with tuition dollars. If tuition dollars can be spent replanting the grass on Ivy League campuses year after year (yes, I have seen numerous schools simply tear up old grass and replant it during the summer), why can't tuition dollars be spent making knowledge available to the world? Peer review is often done by volunteers, and so the only ju
      • 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 Lehk228 (705449)
          That quart of milk was also paid for partly with taxes in the form of farm welfare^H subsidies
      • by MacTO (1161105)

        Not really. Libraries are increasingly ditching subscriptions to print journals. They may not want to do so, but the realities of purchasing, storing, and maintaining print collections leave them with very little choice. They are also reluctant to provide access to electronic journals to outside users, either due to agreements with the publisher or cost-per-access. (They can do that because individual articles are still subject to copyright.)

        So no, it's not convenience they're charging for. They're sim

      • by Ihmhi (1206036)

        Working at a community college? Well, $25 will probably be 4 or 5 hours of his time.

      • 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.

      • That's if the library subscribes to a paper copy of the journal. If they use SciFinder, you'll find it difficult.

      • They're selling convenience.

        Since it's more convenient of going to the trouble of pirating the paper, I don't think they're selling it very well.

    • by Surt (22457)

      I'm pretty sure you have a misunderstanding of fair-use there. Care to cite the copyright code that allowed you to do that?

      • Care to cite the copyright code that allowed you to do that?

        US Code 17 U.S.C. Â 107 [cornell.edu]. Specifically, exceptions to copyright are allowed when the copying is for "teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research." Assuming the OP is doing it for one of those purposes (and he is faculty at a community college), he falls within fair use.

      • by Surt (22457)

        For all those claiming I'm wrong, please read this first:

        "reproduction by a teacher or student of a small part of a work to illustrate a lesson;"

        Not a whole work. A small part. Who says this?
        The copyright office.
        http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html [copyright.gov]

        • by Dahan (130247)
          Read it. You're still wrong. How about you read the other posts that have explained why you're wrong?
          • by Surt (22457)

            I read them, they're clearly wrong. Sorry that I take the US copyright office over random incorrect slashdotters.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      "I can drive to the local Cal State campus, pull the journal off the shelf, and photocopy this paper for 50 cents. "

      You can bring a digital camera and copy it for free.

    • APS Journals (1893-Present) are available free of charge for public libraries.
      http://publish.aps.org/public-access-announcement [aps.org]
  • 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.

    • Web sites are not so good for long term archives. I shudder to think what would be lost if publishing to web sites became the norm.

      • I shudder to think what would be lost if publishing to web sites became the norm.

        What the parent likely mean was some sort of website backed by a database which properly indexes, links and cross references the paper in such a way that it can be queried, referenced and excerpted as needed. Care should be taken not to confuse the data storage model with the view(s) of that data when discussing such concepts.

      • by Phillip2 (203612)

        This is why we have systems like LOCKSS, or any of the many archiving systems around the world.

        In one sense, digitial information is more secure because the cost of archiving per paper drops year on year, as storage space gets cheaper. This is why I can now archive all my email since 1995 for less than it costs to archive my CD collection. The former just gets moved around between hard drives and machines as part of my normal work practice. My CD collection needs dusting, sorting, takes up space, weighs aro

  • by Tasha26 (1613349) on Sunday June 26, 2011 @04:36PM (#36578168) Homepage
    For years now, I've been meaning to view those video lectures of Great Theoretical Ideas [cmu.edu] in Computer Science from CMU. But all I get is a wall asking for my WedISO login. Btw if u have it, post it here! :)
  • Web server logs (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I run a small webserver inside an .edu domain -- looking at my error logs I see daily attempts from Chinese IP addresses to connect to Science Direct and other subscription-only services, presumably looking for open proxies or connections to subscription only services accessible from users within my machine's IP block -- and this presumably explains why.

    • by wulfmans (794904)
      Chinese ip's scan every ip on the internet, you are not alone. Install fail2ban and problem solved. Unless you run windows.
    • Hell, that was probably me, an American taxpayer. $36 for a single article is a lot of money when a university professor is making about $300-$600 per month. And there is no way I can expect my students to pay that much for one article.

  • My local community college has some access to scholarly journals. My vo-tech high school had a limited selection as well. One thing I can say for sure is the selection and the search mechanic were pure shit. A broad search returned full articles that weren't even remotely relevant. A search that was even slightly refined would only turn up abstracts and citations. My school boasted having access to EBSCOhost(apparently the Google of scholarly journals) but I found it to be the least helpful of our resources
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I work for one of those educational / journal publishers and I can confirm that they are antediluvian leeches that contribute absolutely nothing to the sum of human knowledge and they simply want you to pay for content again and again and again and are NO different than the record companies we've, um, smashed. Seriously, they help inflate the cost of education with their insane pricing models and generally crap technology. I say put them all out of business and let each university manage their publications
  • You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
  • by moglito (1355533) on Sunday June 26, 2011 @05:33PM (#36578558)
    If everyone would just publish their papers on their web sites, as most computer scientists do (e.g., using bibbase.org [bibbase.org]), then this wouldn't be necessary. Of course, journals need to secure their funding, but I believe that with the web and the new open (peer) reviewing approaches, we don't really need journals all that badly anymore. Also, in computer science, e.g., it seems that there are now conferences that have higher standards of acceptance than the top journals in the respective fields. That is not to suggest to remove the concept of longer, more thoroughly reviewed articles though. They are important too, but could be reviewed and published in different ways (web). Print is so 19th century :-)
    • 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?

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        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 Chines

    • by hedwards (940851)

      Journals are even less justified in expecting to be paid than newspapers are. At least newspapers tend to contribute something of value in exchange for asking to be paid. Journals contribute little to no value to society, in the past that wasn't the case, but at this point, the cost of actually distributing papers is pretty trivial to the point where a $20 a year fee should more than cover the cost and by quite a bit.

  • Really, the only problem with journals now is regarding older material. The NIH is the largest government funding source for biomedical research in this country, and they set a requirement for results to be in open-access or accessible formats for NIH-funded work [nih.gov]. This means that new work funded by NIH grants, even if it is published in Nature or other notoriously expensive journals, will have its published results available free of charge.

    Of course, academics are aware of the problems getting to other
    • Certainly other people could make similar arrangements through friends, friends-of-friends, or similar.

      That's all very well, but in the 21st century, I think we should have a better system that Samizdat [wikipedia.org] for allowing access to research results.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...for the public. In most public libraries that I've been to (which, granted, aren't that many but there have been a few), library assistants can help you log in to various academic research journal databases for doing research.

    At one point about 4 years ago, I called my local library in El Paso, TX (where I lived at the time) and asked them some questions about this. The library assistant was more than eager to help, and he *gave me the username and password for the State of Texas' library system to logi

  • are full of crap anyway. Especially IEEE that has full of SCIgen-created papers.

  • 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 mcelrath (8027)

      It's common that you will be able to keep a computer account of some kind when you leave. Just set up an ssh tunnel to that computer and use FoxyProxy [getfoxyproxy.org] (Firefox) or Proxy Switchy [samabox.com] (Chrome) to set up rules to use the proxy when you hit particular journals. I do this now even though I'm at a university, because every library is reducing their library subscriptions due to increasing journal costs, my research is multi-disciplinary, and it's becoming more and more common to hit pay walls from within the univers

  • At MIT (Score:3, Informative)

    by guruevi (827432) <evi@smo k i n g c ube.be> on Sunday June 26, 2011 @10:48PM (#36580308) Homepage

    Login: rms
    Password: rms

    Really, most University library resources shouldn't have password protection as getting a credential at most University libraries requires practically no validation or identification. The problem however is when employees, students and others that are using other University resources share their credentials they may be getting more access due to lack of access control than the University or the donator is aware of.

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