December 2, 2014 weblog
Some can jump research paper paywall thanks to Nature group
Great things happen when scientists share, collaborate, build on one another's work. Big frustrations occur when walls prevent that from happening easily. Another generalization is in order: Where there's will there's way.
"Scientists routinely share papers from journals that require a subscription with people who haven't paid up. It's easy: A subscriber just downloads a PDF copy and e-mails it out, or drops it into a shared Internet folder," said John Bohannon, contributing correspondent to Science, who also writes for Wired and other magazines. On Tuesday, a significant turn affecting a prestigious member of the publishing world, Nature Publishing Group, was announced that will mark a turn in no-sharing roadblocks. Macmillan, the NPG parent, announced on Tuesday that "Subscribers to 49 journals on nature.com can now legitimately and conveniently share the full-text of articles of interest with colleagues who do not have a subscription via a shareable web link on nature.com." Nature reporter Richard Van Noorden said, "All research papers from Nature will be made free to read in a proprietary screen-view format that can be annotated but not copied, printed or downloaded." In addition to Nature, other well-known journals affected include Nature Physics, Nature Genetics, and Nature Medicine.
Under the policy, subscribers can share a paper through a link to a read-only version of the paper's PDF that can be viewed through a web browser. Personal subscribers get access from 1997 on. There's more: An initial group of 100 media outlets and blogs will be able to share links to read-only PDFs (though they cannot be printed). PDFs can be saved to a free desktop version of ReadCube, backed by Digital Science, a division of Macmillan Publishers and a sister company of Nature Publishing Group. ReadCube software is focused on making research literature accessible and connected; in this initiative, the ReadCube platform will be used to host and display the read-only versions of the articles' PDFs.
Why the move to make sharing easier and now? Timo Hannay, managing director of Digital Science, a division of Macmillan, said, "We know researchers are already sharing content, often in hidden corners of the Internet or using clumsy, time-consuming practices." Steven Inchcoombe, CEO of Nature Publishing Group, said, "In today's global, internet-enabled world, we think we can meet the needs of science and society better. We know researchers are already sharing content, but not always optimally."
This is, after all, a much wider, always beckoning, Internet-sharing knowledge universe, and publishers are confronted with new discussions on how to stay responsive but viable. Bohannon wrote in Science that the "initiative seeks to provide an alternative to—and potentially end—so-called dark sharing, a practice that some scientific publishers find problematic."
Annette Thomas, chief executive of Macmillan Science and Education, was quoted by Van Noorden as saying that the publisher intended the policy as a pilot and will be evaluating it over the coming year. According to Macmillan's announcement, the "content sharing principles and a new policy to support this sharing initiative" released by NPG "will be refined based on usage and community feedback over a one-year period." Inchcoombe said, "We are conducting our own 'experiment' to understand how best to help sharing of knowledge in a sustainable way. Working with authors, readers, libraries and journalists, we hope to learn a lot."
Stephen Shankland of CNET commented on Macmillan's news on Tuesday: "It's an important shift for a community that has struggled to balance the restrictions of the publishing business with a centuries-old scientific culture based on information sharing."
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