We've written plenty about open access
and how the big scientific journals profit off of publicly funded research by putting it behind a paywall
, thereby greatly limiting
the ability of knowledge (often paid for with our tax dollars) to be used to further discovery, research and innovation. The impact
on society is tremendous, and unfortunate.
In the science realm, there are two "big" journal publishers: Nature and Science. If you're an academic releasing a scientific paper, those tend to be the two journals you most want your papers to appear in. So, it seemed like good news when Nature claimed it was moving away from a paywall
and going to allow open access to the research papers it publishes. But the details suggest that whoever came up with this plan did it for the stupidest of reasons. Nature's own report on this change of plans kicks off by highlighting how ridiculously limited and encumbered with DRM this new offering will be
All research papers from Nature will be made free to read in a proprietary screen-view format that can be annotated but not copied, printed or downloaded, the journal’s publisher Macmillan announced on 2 December.
Well, even that's an exaggeration. The full press release
notes that it's not that everything will be "free to read" but rather that those who do
subscribe will be able to freely "share" the works (in this annoying, limited, proprietary DRM manner). Also "100 media outlets and blogs" will be given access as well, so that they can also share the works in this annoying, limited proprietary way:
Subscribers to 49 journals on nature.com will be able to share a unique URL to a full text, read-only version of published scientific research with colleagues or collaborators in the most convenient way for them, e.g. via email and social media. Included are the world's most cited scientific publication, Nature; the Nature family of journals and fifteen other quality science journals. This new initiative will be available to scientists and students at more than 6,000 universities and organizations worldwide, and serve the more 10 million monthly unique visitors to nature.com. This sharing is intended for personal, non-commercial use. To further aid collaboration, forthcoming annotation functionality will enable subscribers to share comments and highlighted text with their colleagues.
100 media outlets and blogs across the globe that report on the findings of articles published on nature.com will be able to provide their own readers with a link to a full text, read-only view of the original scientific paper. Thousands of high-quality scientific papers will be available. Nature has published some of the leading scientific stories of our time, such as the Human Genome; the structure of DNA; Dolly the Sheep; the invention of the laser; the identification of the AIDS virus and the discovery of the hole in the ozone layer.
Is this more open than the full paywall? Sure. But, it's such a hamfisted way of "opening up" that it makes things even more annoying. If you can't download, copy or print the text -- and you have to install annoying proprietary software -- it makes it a hell of a lot harder for researchers to actually make use of the text to, you know, contribute to their own research. Of course, the announcement also notes that Nature's owner, Macmillan, just happens to have a "majority investment" in ReadCube, the proprietary DRM platform that the company is using.
In other words, this has little to do with true open access. Instead, it's a rather cynical attempt to pretend to be open access, while trying to pump up its own investment in some crappy DRM system. So, sure, kudos for taking a layer off the top of the paywall, but this is hardly a revolutionary step. It still seems very much designed to make it as annoying and inconvenient as possible to actually share knowledge. I mean, this is the very same Nature that, just months ago, was trying to pressure researchers from universities that had open access policies to get those universities to waive those policies
when seeking to get published in Nature...