Re: PostGutenberg Copyrights and Wrongs for Give-Away Research

From: Fytton Rowland <J.F.Rowland_at_LBORO.AC.UK>
Date: Tue, 26 Jun 2001 10:55:32 +0100

At 09:40 PM 6/25/01 -0400, Albert Henderson wrote:
>on Fri, 22 Jun 2001 Alan Story <> wrote:
>> As soon as someone suggests " you know it really is a crazy system under
>> which commercial publishers acquire, at no cost, all intellectual property
>> rights to the work of authors which is produced by the often-unpaid labour
>> of academics (because they love their subject area) and by the money of
>> taxpayers (academic salaries, fellowships, libraries, prior education,
>> and student tuition fees" you get accused of taking "clearly an
>> anti-science position."
>> Not at all clear to me, Albert, just as it was not clear to a lot of people
>> some centuries that the earth was flat just because people said it was.
> Also not clear is that saying that unpaid authors give
> away their copyrights doesn't make it true.
> Money is not the only token of value. One of the key
> fallacies that burdens this forum is the failure to
> recognize the economic exchanges that course through
> the research communication process. Publishers exchange
> recognition and dissemination services for the copyrights
> of the articles they publish. Every economist I know agrees.

The recognition comes from the journal's editorial board and referees --
themselves academics and researchers -- who maintain the high standards of
the journal, not from the publishing company, who provide administration of
the quality-control process and (admittedly) dissemination. Referees, like
authors, are usually unpaid; academic editors usually receive a modest
honorarium. The Internet provides a much cheaper and quicker medium for
dissemination than paper did. But libraries pay for these journals (paper
and electronic versions) in large amounts of hard cash. which in turn lead
to large profits, even to the not-for-profit sector of scholalrly publishing.

I therefore make two suggestions -- one frivolous, one serious. If the
publishers wish to maintain the argument advanced by Henderson above, then
they should give their journals free of charge to the libraries in return
for "recognition" -- the library could put up a large sign by the issue
desk (and on its website) saying "The following high-quality journals taken
here are published by the admirable Reed Elsevier group".

More seriously, taking Henderson's point about "economic exchanges that
course through the research communication process", I suggest that
Elsevier, Springer, Taylor & Francis, etc., and also the American Chemical
Society and other large "not-for-profit" publishers, should each set up a
Foundation into which the put a large proportion of the profits from their
scholarly publishing activities. These Foundations would then support
research in a wide variety of academic disciplines, competed for in the
usual way by academics submitting grant proposals. This would bring the
companies concerned well-deserved "recognition", and would also return to
the academic community some of the hard cash taken out of it by exorbitant
journal prices.

Fytton Rowland.

> By the same token, the value of self-publishing is of lesser
> value because it is unselective and offers little archival
> promise in spite of the mis-use of the word by Harnad and
> Gisparg.
> Thanks for helping me clear this up.
>Albert Henderson

Fytton Rowland, M.A., Ph.D., F.I.Inf.Sc., Lecturer,
Deputy Director of Undergraduate Programmes and
Programme Tutor for Publishing with English,
Department of Information Science,
Loughborough University,
Loughborough, Leics LE11 3TU, UK.

Phone +44 (0) 1509 223039 Fax +44 (0) 1509 223053
Received on Wed Jan 03 2001 - 19:17:43 GMT

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