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Free Access To Scientific Literature By Whom?

in computing & internet, digital rights, education, science & technology

The Journal of the Medical Library Association published a study called “The impact of free access to the scientific literature: a review of recent research” You can read the whole paper at the link provided, thus saving us all from laughing at the irony of a paper on open access locked behind a paywall. The study concludes:

Recent studies provide little evidence to support the idea that there is a crisis in access to the scholarly literature. Further research is needed to investigate whether free access is making a difference in non-research contexts and to better understand the dissemination of scientific literature through peer-to-peer networks and other informal mechanisms.

… Librarians who encourage scientists to publish in open access journals should be aware of the authors’ priorities and perspectives. Authors in the sciences tend to focus on citation impact, reputation, and accessibility to a specialized readership—not breadth of readership, copyright, or access status.

Let me get this straight: Researchers in the sciences do not see THEIR access to scientific literature as an especially important problem. But more research needs to be done to see if there is enough access by non-scientists, who probably made a large part of this research possible through their tax dollars, and if people are talking about material in scientific literature outside the ivory lab enough to warrant a crisis.

Doesn’t the whole Swartz-MIT-JSTOR debacle mentioned in my previous post provide a startling example of the hindrance to easy access even within the scientific research community?

Also, keep this study handy the next time someone waxes about the nobility of academia (not science, academia, sometimes have to emphasize these things for the anti-science trolls). All the publishing industry has to do is appeal to the essential competitive vanity of humans to keep their business model alive and well.

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