A crack in the edifice of the scientific publishing business model

Published: Sat 29 August 2020
Updated: Tue 22 November 2022
By steve

In misc.

Is Alexandra Elbakyan the Dell Glover of the science publishing industry?

Science’s pirate queen, Alexandra Elbakyan is threatening to be the Napster of science publishing. As others have observed, it’s bizarre that the World Wide Web, which was invented to share scientific journal articles freely and easily isn’t used for that, even now, twenty seven years after it was invented. Scientific publishers make a lot of money publishing very valuable articles written by highly qualified authors, who are nevertheless not paid for their efforts (at least by the publishers). The institutions who do employ these authors, nevertheless pay publishers an absolute fortune for access to the very work that their (collective) employees have created and given away to the publishers for free. Moreover, all the work of reviewing and checking and editing and curating these articles is done by academics, other than the authors, also for free.

I understand the economic justification for copyright, and I understand that scientific publishing is not some cesspit of exploitation. But I cannot help thinking that maybe the model is outdated and that because the cost of distributing the data is now essentially zero that the cost to end users should approximate the same marginal cost.

I haven’t actually used the site: my searches don’t seem to show up anything, and I wonder if it has been in some way handicapped by parties who suffer economic damage from its existence. You can visit the website here. There is a reddit sub which is dedicated to the server.

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