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LIBLICENSE-L  March 2016

LIBLICENSE-L March 2016

Subject:

Re: SciHub

From:

LIBLICENSE <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

LibLicense-L Discussion Forum <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 3 Mar 2016 18:50:42 -0500

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From: "Jean-Claude Guédon" <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Thu, 3 Mar 2016 17:10:10 -0500

In principle, researchers can publish wherever they want, etc. In
principle, yes!

Their evaluation committees, or the juries granting research funds
tend to think differently, however: they tend to think that an article
is worth not so much by what it contains, but by the journal title
under which it appears. As a result, researchers flock to the journals
that carry the strongest "logo" effect. That logo effect is largely
the product of the impact factor.

Regarding the freedom of scientists to publish wherever they want, the
February 29th issue of the New Yorker contains an interesting article
about some of the behaviours induced by extreme competition in the
area of stem cells. When you read this article, where one researcher
even ends up committing suicide, you know that the agency of a large
fraction (probably a large majority) of researchers is severely
limited. See http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/02/29/the-stem-cell-scandal.

As for the issue of civil disobedience that Jim O'Donnell raised anew
in a separate message, let me reiterate a number of points:

1, It is not what OA advocates support, at least not this advocate;

2. However, the presence of such sites is symptomatic of a systemic problem;

3. I tend to treat it as a form of civil disobedience because, so far
as I know, Sci-Hub is not trying to make any money from their Robin
Hood attitude;

4. Civil disobedience always looks ambiguous until well after the
event. I alluded to the civil rights movement precisely because that
was the case: Martin Luther King was being followed by the FBI. In the
film "Suffragettes", women are breaking shop windows in 1912 London,
blow up mail boxes, and even a minister's house under construction,
all this to attract attention to their cause. In both cases, laws were
broken (and, in both cases, some people died), but, retrospectively,
we know they were bad laws. Sci-hub also breaks laws, copyright laws,
but if it is only to point out that there is something deeply wrong
with the present system of scientific communication, and point out
that it needs to be made right, then the hypothesis of civil
disobedience can be defended. This is why I also mentioned Aaron
Swartz, a remarkable young man that I did meet on a couple of
occasions. He too died.

Documents produced in the process of scientific communication should
not be covered by the same laws as novels, cooking books, etc. Which
is not to say that they should not be covered at all by any law.
People trying to deal with bad copyright laws are doing so in a
variety of ways.


Jean-Claude Guédon

Professeur titulaire
Littérature comparée
Université de Montréal

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