Pub­lish­ers have been driven to des­per­a­tion

THE (Times Higher Education) - - LETTERS -

In the news story “Pub­lish­ers seek re­moval of mil­lions of pa­pers from Re­searchGate” (www.timeshigh­ere­d­u­ca­, James Milne, a spokesman for a group of five aca­demic pub­lish­ers that in­cludes El­se­vier, Wi­ley and Brill, says that “Re­searchGate is up­load­ing more and more ma­te­rial”. The truth is that those pa­pers were up­loaded by au­thors who be­lieved that they were ex­er­cis­ing their right to dis­trib­ute pre­print ver­sions of their ac­cepted manuscripts “via their non-com­mer­cial per­sonal home­page or blog” (quote from El­se­vier’s article-shar­ing pol­icy). Re­searchGate may want to make a profit, but the au­thors are em­ploy­ing it sim­ply as a host­ing plat­form for non-com­mer­cial uses, with no profit mo­tive. It is the au­thors’ rights that gov­ern article-shar­ing, not Re­searchGate’s. Re­movals of ar­ti­cles re­sult­ing from this law­suit will be in­ter­preted by many au­thors as a di­rect at­tack.

Fur­ther­more, Milne’s state­ment that “[Re­searchGate] put noth­ing back into the process for gen­er­at­ing and val­i­dat­ing and cu­rat­ing all that ma­te­rial” is a case of the pot call­ing the ket­tle black. Aca­demics gen­er­ated (wrote), val­i­dated (re­viewed) and cu­rated (by post­ing to pub­lic col­lec­tions such as Re­searchGate) those pa­pers. The pub­lish­ers do not com­pen­sate aca­demics for this labour; they just pro­vide dis­tri­bu­tion. Print­ing and dis­tri­bu­tion was once a valu­able ser­vice; with the in­ter­net, it is now a cheap com­mod­ity. The aca­demic journal busi­ness model car­ries on mostly through in­er­tia, and at­tempts to main­tain it through co­er­cion of aca­demic au­thors (who are both the pub­lish­ers’ cus­tomers and their sup­pli­ers) just draws at­ten­tion to its ob­so­les­cence. Pub­lish­ers would be bet­ter served by adapt­ing to chang­ing con­di­tions and build­ing new tools to help re­searchers in their daily work, not by get­ting in their way. jpelo­quin Via timeshigh­ere­d­u­ca­

It is un­true to say that Re­searchGate and do not pro­vide value-added cu­rat­ing ser­vices to aca­demics. Both have in­vested sub­stan­tially in con­struct­ing dis­tri­bu­tion plat­forms that are use­ful to re­searchers and of­fer a chance for one’s work to be made avail­able to oth­ers. It is easy to follow the work of peo­ple in your ar­eas of in­ter­est in ways im­pos­si­ble through con­ven­tional aca­demic pub­lish­ing. If Re­searchGate can earn a profit by mak­ing avail­able to oth­ers my mod­est but use­ful body of re­search pub­li­ca­tions, that is won­der­ful.

We are in a crit­i­cal tran­si­tion phase in the evo­lu­tion of the dis­tri­bu­tion of re­search knowl­edge. It is not going to be made eas­ier or more ef­fec­tive by the in­tran­si­gence of pub­lish­ers so wed­ded to old mod­els that all they can do is dig in their heels. Those mod­els have failed to cope with the pro­lif­er­a­tion of new stuff and can­not be re­sus­ci­tated. Pub­lish­ers have choices, but they amount to “con­trib­ute to the changes or die”. I would not be sur­prised to see them opt­ing for the lat­ter.

DrEvel1 Via timeshigh­ere­d­u­ca­

Au­thors are em­ploy­ing Re­searchGate sim­ply as a host­ing plat­form for non-com­mer­cial uses

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