Academics band together with publishers because access to research is a cybercrime

This is the world we live in. That is what I understand from reading about the Scholarly Networks Security Initiative. and it’s now famous webinar, via Bjorn Brembs october post.

I just found this, after the post I wrote yesterday. I had no idea about this collaboration between publishers and academics to put spyware on academic networks for the benefit of publishers.

UPDATE: see also Researcher Behavior Access Controls at a Library Proxy Server are not Okay.

What I find worrying is not that publishers, like Elsevier, Springer Nature or Cambridge University Press, want to protect their business against the Sci-hub threat. This is natural behaviour from a commercial point of view. These businesses (not sure about CUP) see their activity atacked, so they fight back to keep their profit up.

The problem is with the academics. Why do they help the publishers? For whose benefit?

I wrote again and again in the past that it is not enough to criticize the publishers for the bad bahaviour. Academic managers are to be blamed because they band with the publishers. Why does nobody asks them why?

Take Elsevier as example. I signed the Cost of Knowledge and I try as much as I can to not fold to the pressure of legacy publishers. But Elsevier does not have any direct way to force anybody to use their products.

At the end of the day, is the academic managers who pressure the researchers in the favor of publishers, is them who manage the libraries who pay big bucks from public funds to the publishers. Now we see that in universities is proposed to introduce spyware in the favor of publishers. Whose fault is this?

Now we get to the gist: it is cybercrime. It is indeed, because research is valuable for states, who fund it and benefit from it. When a piece of US research, say, is made available by a Russian site, say Sci-hub, then the advantage of one state in that research direction is lost in the favor of all the other states. So everybody can copy and produce derivative works.

Science should be free. Do you remember that disclosure of mathematical knowledge was considered cybercrime?

The gist is not really that the threat to the publisher’s business is now branded as cybercrime. The fact is that publishers and universities are naturally together as a part of the state. Powerful states need powerful propaganda and publishers together with universities are an important part of this. When they are in trouble it is only natural that they resort to another state pillar and find together a powerful name: cybercrime.

Every state does that. Does it mean that states are against science? It is also propaganda to say that a state is against science and another state support generous efforts to make science free. It’s so complicated, but it’s all propaganda.

It is propaganda which harms every state! It is the most stupid way to proceed today. Because today is very different from yesterday. If we make the research free to access then we create an evironment where better research appears, and faster. Scarcity is a very bad idea. We all know it.

So I don’t buy that publishers and academic managers banded together to fight cybercrime. I believe academics will produce better results without the artificial scarcity created by legacy publishers.

At best, some state bureaucrats proved they are ready to harm their states, by ignorance. At worst, academic managers have non-declared interest to keep the legacy publisher alive.

Sci-hub provides an easy to use and necessary product to researchers from the world, who want to do their research. This is the strength of it. Now that people saw that it is technically possible, the rest is spin.

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