Today I uploaded my thesis to the grad school. Most of the process revolved around publishing: whether I should openly publish, whether the work should be discoverable by search engines, whether to get my work copyrighted, how I would want royalties delivered to me, etc. What a morass. I don’t want to make money off my thesis. I want anyone who is interested to be able to read it, for free, from anywhere.
That said, of course the only person who will ever look at my thesis is the guy who checks the formatting. And, by the way, he has just informed me that my abstract belongs before the acknowledgments and that I need to rotate the pagination on the landscaped page. Thanks, guy.
A user called Greg Maxwell just uploaded a torrent with 18,592 scientific publications to the Pirate Bay, in what appears to be a protest directed both at the recent indictment of programmer Aaron Swartz for data theft as well as the scientific publishing model in general. All the documents of the 32-gigabyte torrent were taken from JSTOR, the academic database that’s at the center of the case against Swartz.
The torrent consists of documents from the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, the copyright to which has long since expired. However, the only way to access these documents until now has been via JSTOR, as Maxwell explains in a long and eloquent text on the Pirate Bay, with individual articles costing as much as $19. “Purchasing access to this collection one article at a time would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he writes….
“Academic publishing is an odd system — the authors are not paid for their writing, nor are the peer reviewers (they’re just more unpaid academics), and in some fields even the journal editors are unpaid. Sometimes the authors must even pay the publishers.
“And yet scientific publications are some of the most outrageously expensive pieces of literature you can buy. In the past, the high access fees supported the costly mechanical reproduction of niche paper journals, but online distribution has mostly made this function obsolete.
“As far as I can tell, the money paid for access today serves little significant purpose except to perpetuate dead business models. The “publish or perish” pressure in academia gives the authors an impossibly weak negotiating position, and the existing system has enormous inertia.”