Professional Publishers, Release the Legal Eagles

July 19, 2019

Most people don’t pay any attention to professional publishing. There are some folks who live and breathe the world of academics who write, fame loving lawyers who write essays about the “law”, and bright individuals who just want to share what graduate students have discovered. There’s also wonky papers cooked up so that the “authors” can attend a conference in Las Vegas, where some dreams can become reality.

Nature published “The Plan to Mine the World’s Research Papers.” The subtitle asks the question, “A giant data store quietly being built in India could free vast swathes of science for computer analysis — but is it legal?”

The answer may be, “Sure, the project is in India, a country which has taken an interesting approach to production of name brand pharmaceuticals.”

The write up is very long: Here’s a summary.

Copy journal, technical, and professional papers. Extract the text and images. Tag the content. Make the data available for data mining.

Simple enough.

DarkCyber noted this statement in the write up:

When Nature contacted 15 publishers about the JNU data depot, the six who responded said that this was the first time they had heard of the project, and that they couldn’t comment on its legality without further information. But all six — Elsevier, BMJ, the American Chemical Society, Springer Nature, the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences and the US National Academy of Sciences — stated that researchers looking to mine their papers needed their authorization. (Springer Nature publishes this journal; Nature’s news team is editorially independent of its publisher.)

How many universities, researchers, and editors working at professional publishing companies would find a use for this information when it is free?

Enough to tip over the classy, little understood worlds of:

  • Tenure track processes
  • Library budgets
  • Professional publishing companies themselves.

Worth watching? Yes, indeed.

Stephen E Arnold, July 19, 2019

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