January 16, 2012
JSTOR Opens Up A Little On Public Research And Congress Wants To Close It Down A Lot
Several stories are popping up on JSTOR’s Register and Read program which will allow non-affiliates to have limited free access to some of the content in JSTOR, with emphasis on the word “limited.” Signing up gives one access to a 70 journals, though that could be expanded once the beta of the program ends. Users can store up to 3 articles in a digital locker and view them over a 14 day period. No downloads will be allowed though there will be options to purchase some of the articles at the usual high prices. It’s likely that the content publishers see this less as a giveaway than another way to expand their market beyond academic subscribers. I don’t know if there will be any attempts to defeat screen captures or taking photographs of screens. I think if any goes to that effort to get content then they probably deserve it irrespective of the screams of piracy coming from wood paneled offices.
The article in the Chronicle of Higher Education notes that the 70 journals in in beta program represent about 18% of the annual turn-away traffic on JSTOR. The total annual turn-away is about 150 million attempts. Alexis Madrigal writes in The Atlantic that this represents 150 million lost chances to improve the Internet. Perhaps. One comment to his article takes the position that “Information doesn't want to be free. Cheapskates want information to be free.” Other comments point to the high prices charged to non-subscribers for individual articles as a barrier to access. I would agree that publishers see more worth in individual articles than the buying public. JSTOR has a short video presentation on the program at YouTube.
While we are on the subject, let’s not forget the latest attempt to restrict access to publicly funded research articles, the proposed Research Works Act (H.R. 3699). The legislation would end the requirement that research funded by any federal agency be made freely available without prior consent of the publisher. Elsevier is particularly fond of the legislation according to a post on the Scientific American web site.
The Act is a short one. Here is the text:
To ensure the continued publication and integrity of peer-reviewed research works by the private sector.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the `Research Works Act'.
SEC. 2. LIMITATION ON FEDERAL AGENCY ACTION.
No Federal agency may adopt, implement, maintain, continue, or otherwise engage in any policy, program, or other activity that--
(1) causes, permits, or authorizes network dissemination of any private-sector research work without the prior consent of the publisher of such work; or
(2) requires that any actual or prospective author, or the employer of such an actual or prospective author, assent to network dissemination of a private-sector research work.
SEC. 3. DEFINITIONS.
In this Act:
(1) AUTHOR- The term `author' means a person who writes a private-sector research work. Such term does not include an officer or employee of the United States Government acting in the regular course of his or her duties.
(2) NETWORK DISSEMINATION- The term `network dissemination' means distributing, making available, or otherwise offering or disseminating a private-sector research work through the Internet or by a closed, limited, or other digital or electronic network or arrangement.
(3) PRIVATE-SECTOR RESEARCH WORK- The term `private-sector research work' means an article intended to be published in a scholarly or scientific publication, or any version of such an article, that is not a work of the United States Government (as defined in section 101 of title 17, United States Code), describing or interpreting research funded in whole or in part by a Federal agency and to which a commercial or nonprofit publisher has made or has entered into an arrangement to make a value-added contribution, including peer review or editing. Such term does not include progress reports or raw data outputs routinely required to be created for and submitted directly to a funding agency in the course of research.
I like the part about ensuring the integrity of peer reviewed research works by the private sector. As if. It’s your government at work. [MG]