Friday, December 20, 2013
Commercial greed triumphs over scholarship
The shit is now hitting the fan in the matter of faculty posting their articles on university websites. My colleagues and I have just gotten a "takedown order" from our university. I'm not sure how I am going to handle this. I have always considered my publications page the heart of my scholarly career and the most important thing in my online presence. Pretty soon that page is going to be a mess, with posts of preprints instead of final pdfs, and links to (often locked up) journal websites. Whenever someone figures out an easy way to set up a quickie repository with a reprint button, I'll do that. In the meantime, I really hope that Academia.edu and Selected Works can withstand the pressure from the commercial publishers, and allow my pdfs to remain online at those places.
This round of scholarly regression was kicked off when Elsevier started patrolling its "property" in the form of journal articles posted on various faculty websites. Academia.edu was particularly hard hit. Elsevier hassled many universities, including Harvard, and, evidently, Arizona State University. I guess the one billion dollars in profit earned by Elsevier's journals division (yes, that is billion) was not enough for the company, and they felt they had to go after those profiteering professors who had the gall to want to distribute their research more widely.
The best recent article is:
"How one publisher is stopping academics from sharing their research" by Andrea Peterson, Washington Post, updated Dec 19, 2013.
"The Scholarly Clampdown" by Jill Emery on ALCTS Collection=Connection.
"Elsevier is also sending takedown requests to UK universities," by Ross Mounce.
My notification came through a mass email, forward to all faculty, from an administrator. It includes this statement:
"However, this recent flurry of demands [takedown demands by Elsevier] suggests the arrival of a new season of litigiousness among publishers. To reduce both the number of such requests and the associated administrative burden of responding to request after request, would you please ask your faculty members to review their websites to ensure that no direct reproductions of copyrighted material are posted or to obtain the required permission to post those materials as needed? Again, in most cases, simply linking to the journal or publisher website will be sufficient to direct the reader to an approved means of accessing the materials and will not invoke the ire of the publisher."
I'm sorry, but simply linking to a journal website will not do the job. I have found that I get a significant number of hits and article downloads from Mexico and Latin America. My colleagues south of the border do not have subscriptions to most U.S. or European journals. They need to get the full articles, preferably in final pdf format for proper citations.
My university likes to be in the vanguard of scientific, scholarly, and professional developments. But this time, it looks more like the rearguard than the vanguard. Commercial forces are steadily eating away at universities and at scholarship. I am getting sick of providing free labor so that commercial publishers can make a bundle and then turn around and steal my own scholarly production.
So I am waiting to see what happens to Academia.edu and Selected Works; they may have to bear the burden of my pdfs for a while. When this new wave of commercial greed is coupled with the ethical questions discussed by Kansa et al (2013), the combination might be enough to tip the balance and lead me to avoid publishing in commercially-owned journals (or reviewing for them). One reason I have been hesitant to make the plunge is that most things I have been publishing lately are co-authored with students. Students need the prestige of major journals to build their careers, and I am torn between supporting OA journals and supporting my students at traditional journals. Another reason for hesitation is the lack of high-quality OA journals in my fields.
I've been meaning to discuss the Kansa et al. paper for a while, so I think that will come up here soon. And looking forward, the opening Wednesday evening sponsored symposium at the SAA meetings in Austin will be a panel discussion on "Publishing in archaeology in the 21st century". It should be an interesting event. Sarah Kansa will participate, John Yellen, a bunch of journal editors, and a few others, including me.
Kansa, Eric C., Sarah Whitcher Kansa, and Lynne Goldstein
2013 On Ethics, Sustainability, and Open Access in Archaeology. The SAA Archaeological Record 13 (4): 15-22.
I'm not quite ready to sign, but I'm getting closer...... (from The Cost of Knowledge).