“Aaron [Swartz] believed… you literally ought to be asking yourself all the time, ‘What is the most important thing in the world that I could be working on right now?’ And if you’re not working on that, why aren’t you?”
I’m glad we writers have Amazon et al. competing with the traditional publishers.
Nothing’s perfect but imagine the old days: working for a decade or two on your writing skills, finally hammering out a novel that works, and then feeling like you’ve won the lottery if you’re lucky enough to get past the slush pile and sell your copyrights to a publisher for 5 to 15% of the take.
It wasn’t the worst possible arrangement, but things are better now. If you pour your life energies into your writing, you’ve got choices for finding readers…
Unless you’re a scientist.
“So, a researcher, paid by a University or the people, publishes a paper and in the very last step of that process… after all the original research is done – the thinking, the lab work, the analysis… then the researcher has to hand over his or her copyright to this multi-billion dollar company… It’s an entire economy built on volunteer labor… the publishers sit at the very top and scrape off the cream.” – Christopher Soghoian
“Talk about a scam. One publisher in Britain made a profit of three billion dollars last year. I mean, what a racket!” – Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D), Congresswoman California’s 19th District.
Scientists are forced to donate their writing to someone who didn’t do the work.
Most research scientists are paid through government grants, so maybe it’s not as crazy as it sounds. Why should taxpayers want to pay anyone to write for profit? I guess we pay solar companies to make a profit, but maybe scientists don’t deserve that special treatment. They’re only trying to cure cancer and get a few of us off the planet before we blow it up – nothing as important as solar power.
Ideally science should be free from monetary bias and the corruption it brings. Maybe if they sold their own writing it would affect their integrity more than drug or tobacco company funding.
I doubt it.
Part of me thinks scientists have the right to sell their work, same as anyone else.
Assuming I’m somehow wrong about that, what should happen to the articles that government-funded scientists produce?
Should they be
- given to private corporations to sell, or
- distributed freely – at least to the taxpayers who funded the research?
The current science journal system has a bad smell and could probably use some fresh air and rational thought – with consideration for the worldwide science community, some of whom can’t afford scientific literature at current prices.
The whole situation highlights the capacity of educated people to be manipulated by a few parasitic corporations.
Incidentally, this parallels the way Americans in general have been quietly hoodwinked by another for-profit privately owned parasitic corporation, the Federal Reserve “System.”
Most of us don’t seem to know (or care?) that a few anonymous FED shareholders are skimming six percent off the top while the corporation they own, the FED, is diluting the value of US dollars with “computer money,” and thereby shrinking the middle class into poverty.
Here’s that complex story, free of the technical language that once allowed Bernanke (former FED chair) to say with a straight face, “We’re not printing money” to a fully conscious journalist.
The trick to hiding corruption is to make it complex and leave it out in the open where people become habituated to it, like the unfair loopholes in US tax code or the depressing, outdated myth of Neo-Darwinism that’s preached like a religion in government schools.
But I digress.
A brilliant young man in his early twenties, Aaron Swartz, saw an entrenched system where science articles are confiscated and sold for profit by private corporations. He tried to challenge the system, broke some laws and was charged with thirteen felonies. We’re told he committed suicide in 2013.
The way the government lawyers went after him was outrageous. In the blur of hatred for real cybercriminals it took more discernment and integrity than the authorities could muster to see that Aaron was an idealistic genius trying to make the world a better place, not a dangerous criminal. But I guess discernment is not a prosecutor’s job in a Universe where fairness and compassion, like consciousness itself, are assumed to be illusions by society’s “thinkers.”
Here’s something from a speech Aaron gave:
“…a lot of these [scientific] journal articles – they go back to The Enlightenment. Every time someone has written a scientific paper it’s been scanned, digitized and put into these collections. That is a legacy that has been brought to us by a history of people doing interesting work, a history of scientists. It’s a legacy that should belong to us as a people, but instead it’s been locked up and put online by a handful of for-profit corporations who then try and get the maximum amount of profit they can out of it.” – Aaron Swartz (1986 – 2013)
Maybe research scientists need to peer-review each other’s articles outside of the system. Then publish independently for profit, eliminating the scientific publishing “system” we have now.
Politicians might feign outrage and force scientists to give their work away again, but hopefully to the public, not to a private corporation. This would make the latest research available to developing nations and end the science info cartel’s glorious reign.
“What is the most important thing in the world that I could be working on right now?” – Aaron Swartz
Got a comment?
M. Talmage Moorehead, MD