[ASC-list] Restriction of knowledge

JCribb jcribb at work.netspeed.com.au
Mon Jan 30 21:34:18 UTC 2012

Just trying to make a buck - the justification used by every highwayman,
pirate, con-man, middleman, mafioso and pickpocket since time began.... The
Guardian's comments column makes it clear that scientists' sympathies are
not with the publishers on this one.

The fact is academic publishers make a private buck out of a public resource
(a) when they charge the researchers to publish and (b) they charge the
public to view published research which it already owns.

They are thus double-dipping on something which is public property and does
not in fact belong to them at all. Unlike the music, book or film
industries, science publishers have no proprietary rights over the original
science - yet they behave as if they do and continue to tighten the screw.

Until the advent of the internet, legal publishers used to do something very
similar.  The law is now online, for all to see (http://www.worldlii.org/). 

It's high time science was also.

If you're serious about science communication, please support an open access
world archive of science online, similar to WorldLii.

Julian Cribb FTSE
Julian Cribb & Associates
ph +61 (0)2 6242 8770 or 0418 639 245

If you EAT, you should follow: http://twitter.com/#!/ComingFamine

-----Original Message-----
From: asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au
[mailto:asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au] On Behalf Of Susan Kirk
Sent: Tuesday, 31 January 2012 5:14 AM
To: asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au
Subject: [ASC-list] Restriction of knowledge

We're just trying to make a buck...publishers appeal.


Susan Kirk   
B.comm Journalist
Member: Australian Science Communicators (ASC)
Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA)
& Horticultural Media Association (Qld)  (HMAQ)
tel: +61 7 5478 6761 | mobile: 0414 645 953 | email: susan at susankirk.com.au
www.susankirk.com.au |  Skype: susanakirk | Tweet: susanakirk

> Niall -
> Elsevier are the main actors, sure, but there are many publishing houses
> assert exclusivity over the outcomes of research which not they, but the
> public, has paid for. Try downloading any major scientific paper, funded
> the Australian taxpayer, off any major scientific publication and see if
> can do it for free. They wish to charge you for something you, as a member
> of the public, already own.
> There is a broader principle at stake. Before the internet came along it
> also practically impossible to have access to the law in any country (ie
> even read legal acts and judgements) without first hiring a lawyer.  This
> was the issue which Bentham objected to in the C18th. To govern people
> laws to which they are denied free access is a simple infringement of
> rights.
> I argue that Bentham's reasoning applies equally to publicly-funded
> Historically, both the Royal Society and Academie Francaise were
> with the specific ideal of freely sharing scientific knowledge among
> humanity for the general good - ie for science communication.
> In the recent century this ideal has been polluted and encroached on by
> various middlemen (including academic publishers and IP lawyers) who have
> asserted a right to ownership or control over this public good, and a
> to tax the public for access to it, for their own private profit. This
> amounts to a restraint of trade on human knowledge.
> As most scientific journals have very small circulations and charge very
> high fees, they constitute a hindrance to the widespread dissemination of
> publicly-funded scientific knowledge in the age of the internet -
> that is vitally needed for human society in dealing with issues such as
> disease, climate change, poverty, safety, loss of biodiversity,
> contamination, hunger and so on.
> Since knowledge, more than any other thing, defines the prosperity and
> of progress of society, it follows that the more obstacles, levies and
> rip-offs you place upon it, the less effectively it will be disseminated
> used. This is injurious to society and against its best interest.
> In essence, it is simply a case of private greed v public good. I don't
> expect your average academic publisher to agree to this, but it is not in
> their financial interests to do so, is it? It is the modern academic
> publishing model which is sick - not the actual publication of science.

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