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Researchers Pull Out of Talks With Publishers On Text-Mining 67

ananyo writes "Disagreement between scientists and publishers has grown on a thorny issue: how to make it easier for computer programs to extract facts and data from online research papers. On 22 May, researchers, librarians and others pulled out of European Commission talks on how to encourage the techniques, known as text mining and data mining. The withdrawal has effectively ended the contentious discussions, although a formal abandonment can be decided only after a commission review in July. Scientists have chafed for years at limitations on computer-aided research. They would like to use computer programs to crawl over thousands or millions of articles and other online research content, extracting data to build up databases or to pick out patterns such as associations between genes and diseases. But in many parts of the world, including Europe (though perhaps not in the U.S. — the situation is unclear), this sort of use currently requires permission from the content's copyright owner. Even if an institution has paid to access a journal, its academics do not necessarily have permission to mine the text."
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Researchers Pull Out of Talks With Publishers On Text-Mining

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  • Sad ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @01:17PM (#43906323) Homepage

    The people who do the science and write the papers produce the content. Yet somehow the publisher controls how it gets used thereafter.

    Everyone is so damned beholden to copyright that it more or less constrains how you do anything.

    And they wonder why people are pushing for open access -- it's time to cut the buggy whip makers out of the equation.

    If you took public money to do this, it should be open. If you want it to be locked down and proprietary, don't publish.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It's a free market. Why don't they just stop publishing their papers with publishers that blanket pay-wall content? It's the institutions fault for contracting shitty publishers.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It's a free market.

        No it isn't. When your livelihood requires X papers published to be in a small set of predetermined circulars, you cannot simply stick a pdf on cesspits like arXiv.org.

      • There are several reasons.
        1) Prestige of specific journals
        2) Former need for actual printing presses, etc.
        3) Subscription-fee journals (i.e. with paywalls) do not charge submission fees (cost to publish is loss of copyright)
        4) Open-access journals charge expensive submission fees ($1,350 for PLoS One)

        Finally, institutions do not contract publishers to publish scientific content. Individual scientists submit their work to journals of their choosing, signing over copyright if necessary and paying any pub

        • academic culture and the academic generation gap.

          Hiring and tenure still involve large percentages of faculty that "came up" under the old system, and don't see the problem (don't have time to see the problem) that has emerged in academic publishing culture over the last couple of decades in particular. They don't see work published outside of the big name journals/publishers as "serious" or "academic" for the moment. So young academics wanting to build a career continue to support them and publish in them,

          • I don't know anyone, students and professors alike, who doesn't share this attitude about the big scientific publishers (at least in biology and computer science).

            The problem in my opinion is that the previous generation just isn't willing to act on these convictions. Instead of going to good (high impact) OA journals like BMC, PLoS, etc., which costs money, they want to sign over their copyrights and get it over with, not realizing that this is itself a very high cost.

    • Re:Sad ... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rsborg ( 111459 ) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @01:35PM (#43906547) Homepage

      Everyone is so damned beholden to copyright that it more or less constrains how you do anything.

      This is not just a failure of copyright, this is an institutional failure where the "publisher" gets to control the entire scientific debate and profit on all ingress and egress of data. Copyright is just the weapon the publisher is brandishing to force even more people to pay them.

      How is this even tenable long-term? What curation do these journals provide? Why are they regarded as anything more than leeches?

      • by Trepidity ( 597 )

        It damages the literature beyond access to papers as well, since publishers sometimes use copyright to interfere with papers themselves. I was forced to remove a screenshot from one paper because the publisher's official position on fair-use was extremely narrow and would not allow screenshots. Perhaps this is simply due to risk-aversion: it's easier to just restrict fair-use than worry about how close to the line to get. But a more cynical person might suspect it's in the publisher's own interests to push

        • Perhaps this is simply due to risk-aversion: it's easier to just restrict fair-use than worry about how close to the line to get.

          No, it's greed, pure and simple. Since the publishers and the copyright lobby don't believe in fair use, their position pretty much starts from there.

          These are the people who want photocopiers outlawed because someone could be copying their stuff, and people who fight that people have right of first sale on books.

          Pretty much uniformly, these guys all believe there shouldn't be f

    • If you want it to be locked down and proprietary, don't publish.

      While I agree with you mostly, one of the biggest problems they have (especially in medicine) is unpublished papers.
      Watch this: http://www.ted.com/talks/ben_goldacre_what_doctors_don_t_know_about_the_drugs_they_prescribe.html [ted.com]
      Over 100,000 people were killed in the United States due to 1 paper that went unpublished.

      • Over 100,000 people were killed in the United States due to 1 paper that went unpublished.

        Yup, the pharma companies have been well known to hide the parts that don't support their claims, and they've also been known to latch onto secondary effects if it doesn't pan out for the original intent.

        I've never understood how they can skip the step where they provide all of the data for an independent body to review.

        We know they're in it just for profit, and they've demonstrated they'll take short cuts (or outright

    • It's annoying, but it's rapidly changing. A decade ago, I'm not sure open-access was a thing most researchers had ever heard of. Today, any biomedical research funded by the NIH has to be open access within a year of publication. [nih.gov] I agree, it's time to cut the buggy whip makers out, but realize that is in fact happening right now.
    • by dwsobw ( 2723483 )
      But there is a simple solution. At my Institute (in Germany), we simply do not publish at journals and conference where we have to give publishers the exclusive rights to the paper. Either they accept that we do remove that clause from the forms we have to sign, or we do not publish with them. It is fairly simple. Even Springer seems to go along most of the time.
    • "Everyone is so damned beholden to copyright that it more or less constrains how you do anything."

      No, you are confused. The issue here is about monopoly and market abuse, not Copyright.

      Nobody says you have to sign your copyright over to a publisher. There's no law to that effect. It's just that a few publishers have locked up the market. That's monopoly (or oligopoly, if you want to get technical). It's not a matter of copyright, because the researcher can sell to whoever he wants to, or not at all. It's not a matter of capitalism, because monopoly is not part of a free market.

      Stop blaming the thi

  • Pulling out (Score:4, Funny)

    by ArtemaOne ( 1300025 ) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @02:08PM (#43906861)
    Pulling out is not an effective method of prevention.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      This joke may not be well understood by many of the people who frequent this website.

      Half of them will argue by what you mean by "prevention" as you've failed to identify what you are preventing.

      The other half will wonder what consititutes a 'pulling out' and will argue about the fine details involved.

      A small subset will argue that Bush didn't pull out, so why should Obama.

      Another small subset will argue that we need to pull Obama out because he isn't an american.

      An odd subset will argue that the last time

  • As an NLP Bioinformatics guy, I believe the real crime Aaron Swartz committed was being in the news.

    He isn't the first to have that dataset and he wont be the last.
    We write papers using massive NLP scans of publications rather routinely.

    Most of the time, the papers are downloaded from PubMed (public funded) so they can't even complain about bandwidth costs, etc.

    For anyone who didn't know already, most subscription Publishers don't **DO** anything.
    They are only slightly better than patent trolls, and in some

  • One of the concerns (read: lame excuses) given by the publisher side of this is fear that large scale downloads will cripple their web servers. Private torrent trackers for scientific work is the obvious solution. With university and institutional seeds, this solution would be efficient, equitable and fast.
    • by KPU ( 118762 )

      Torrents die if nobody seeds them. If I've got a few gigabytes of data that only ten people want, possibly years apart, torrents won't work.

      • I think in this scenario, institutional users of the private tracker would be required to seed for continued access. And you only need a few institutional seeders. When you torrent Ubuntu DVDs, for example, it's not fast because so many people are seeding but because Canonical is.
  • Come on. The description of research methods , procedures, tests and results scientific papers, exists for the betterment of humankind, not to make people who own it rich. Get rich by Making Stuff, not exerting a monopolist's control on Knowledge.

    How hard is this? All research and results conducted by higher ed should be available for free and the costs rolled into the tax base.

    This is as basic as it gets. Roads bridges security and advances in knowledge.

Who goeth a-borrowing goeth a-sorrowing. -- Thomas Tusser