Scientist Explains Why Putting Research Behind A Paywall Is Immoral
from the against-the-basic-principles-of-academic-research dept
There’s been plenty of debate recently over “open access” to research and the morality of locking it up behind a paywall. Some have been arguing that Aaron Swartz’s apparent plan to release JSTOR research papers (a plan that was never confirmed anywhere that I’ve seen other than random speculation) was somehow immoral. And, of course, there have been various battles over the years with various journals that lock up research. Researcher Mike Taylor, over at the Guardian is now making the case that if anything is immoral it’s locking up any academic research behind a paywall:
If you are a scientist, your job is to bring new knowledge into the world. And if you bring new knowledge into the world, it’s immoral to hide it. I heartily wish I’d never done it, and I won’t do it again.
He goes on to respond to a number of possible responses as to why it’s okay to put your research behind a paywall, dismantling each one. One key one is the claim by many that paywalls on journals are necessary to fund scholarship:
No. This is the tail wagging the dog. The purpose of a scholarly society is to promote scholarship, which is best done by making that scholarship available. A society that cares more about preserving its own budget than about the field it supposedly supports has lost its way. Societies need to find other ways to fund their activities. And yes, I am talking to you, Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (my own field’s society). You cannot support the science of vertebrate palaeontology by taking science and hiding it where most people can’t see it.
Somewhere along the way, things got flipped and people seemed to forget the true purpose of scholarship (and the fact that scholarship — perhaps even more than other areas — relies on the ability to build off of the work of those who came before). In the end, and this is a key point, if you’re locking up your scientific research, you’re doing science wrong:
No, no, no. Dammit, we’re scientists. Our job is to make knowledge. If we make it, then brick it up behind a wall, we’re wasting our time and our funders’ money – which ultimately means we’re squandering the world’s wealth.