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We Should All Support Monbiot On This

Academic publishers make Murdoch look like a socialist | George Monbiot | Comment is free | The Guardian

Who are the most ruthless capitalists in the western world? Whose monopolistic practices make Walmart look like a corner shop and Rupert Murdoch a socialist?

academic publishers. Theirs might sound like a fusty and insignificant sector. It is anything but. Of all corporate scams, the racket they run is most urgently in need of referral to the competition authorities.

Everyone claims to agree that people should be encouraged to understand science and other academic research. Without current knowledge, we cannot make coherent democratic decisions. But the publishers have slapped a padlock and a "keep out" sign on the gates....

It's bad enough for academics, it's worse for the laity. I refer readers to peer-reviewed papers, on the principle that claims should be followed to their sources. The readers tell me that they can't afford to judge for themselves whether or not I have represented the research fairly. Independent researchers who try to inform themselves about important scientific issues have to fork out thousands. This is a tax on education, a stifling of the public mind. It appears to contravene the universal declaration of human rights, which says that "everyone has the right freely to … share in scientific advancement and its benefits".

...governments should refer the academic publishers to their competition watchdogs, and insist that all papers arising from publicly funded research are placed in a free public database. In the longer term, they should work with researchers to cut out the middleman altogether, creating – along the lines proposed by Björn Brembs of Berlin's Freie Universität – a single global archive of academic literature and data. Peer-review would be overseen by an independent body. It could be funded by the library budgets which are currently being diverted into the hands of privateers.

The knowledge monopoly is as unwarranted and anachronistic as the corn laws. Let's throw off these parasitic overlords and liberate the research that belongs to us.

Comments

I have thought that for many a year.

Monbiot is dead right [well said George], papers should be freely available, the money for research comes from us - why are they so often [always] behind paywalls?

It is academic censorship, if you are a research fellow [or Don] at Uni' all the sites are free to access, irrespective of your faculty, or post grad' subject being studied.

Two things, what are they so scared of?

Secondly - is this not once more, an example of academic arrogance - "you lot wouldn't understand it!"

The same should also apply to so-called "safety" publications such as the Wiring Regulations. The present situation amounts to little more than an extortion racket, where contractors are legally obliged to follow the regulations and yet are charged a large fee (way in excess of the publishing cost) in order to obtain a copy. Making these publications freely available/downloadable would reduce the costs passed on to customers and would also increase the likelihood of DIY individuals doing work of the correct standard (Part P or no Part P, people do still work on their own houses so it makes sense to give them the information required to do it safely).

Of course it won't happen. The whole system is geared up as a money-raising exercise for the IET (formerly IEE) to keep their cosy little club of yes-men happy.

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