As you know, I am doing my PhD and am now in the process of writing my thesis. I have collected, throughout the years, hundreds of articles that provide the background to my research and help me explain my findings or any other aspects related to my work. That’s how science works. We share our work with each other so that we’re not all reinventing the wheel at every step. This way, I do something that can advance the existing knowledge and hopefully provide a bit more information for others to add a bit more in the future.
I have articles mostly in pdf format. I got the majority of them through the electronic platform of the libraries of the Universities I attended. They have paid thousands of pounds a year for the accessibility to sites such as ScienceDirect and EBSCO. Often, they don’t need many of the journals offered on those sites but they have to buy the whole package if they want their students to access those they really need.
Sometimes, I wasn’t able to access the article I was looking for. Perhaps it was in a journal not published by Elsevier or such big publishing houses who manage places like ScienceDirect, and therefore not in the expensive package the library was forced to buy (possibly exhausting their budget, preventing them from acquiring publications not included in those packages).
And there I was thinking science was supposed to be free and accessible to all!! In those cases, I resorted to emailing the authors directly and asking for a copy.
But today I couldn’t find a couple of articles anywhere. And perhaps because I am feeling the pressures of writing up this thing, or because I am just tired of years and years of time wasting and want things a bit quicker, or really just because I am generally against anything or anyone who gangs up on others and oppresses them in some way, I felt things really have to change and I have to find a way to do something about it.
The product of scientific endeavour has been kidnapped by the publishing houses and we, the researchers, those who actually have the power should stand up to this nonsense! What kind of culture have we created here where we convince ourselves that our work is not worth anything unless some faceless entity puts a price tag on it?!
Journals and publishing houses say we need them to assure quality is maintained. But should I remind you all of Stapel or Hwang Woo-Suk? How many Stapels and Hwan Woo-Suks have made it to the best journals across all sciences? It doesn’t seem like Journals are immune to certain social pressures and the cult of the persona that reigns in academia. This sounds a bit like they aren’t as impartial as they want to make us believe. In academia, you are judged by your peers at all times. We can do that with or without publishing houses. They need us, not the other way around people…Own it!
The internet is a wonderful tool and it allows us to share our work easily, rapidly and with minimal financial costs. Why would we let publishing houses such as Elsevier gang up on us and prevent us from exercising science freely?
While thinking about these issues, I saw a tweet about a recent article on The Economist just on this topic. Their main point is that results from research funded by the taxpayer and charities should be available without charge. Seems like pressure is starting to mount. I hope so. I do want to make a name for myself as a researcher, have an academic career, bla bla bla, etc etc, but like hell will I be part of some oppressive system! Like hell!
There must be a better way!