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scientists vs. publishers vs. wikipedia

From the New Scientist:

Scientists who want to describe their work on Wikipedia should not be forced to give up the kudos of a respected journal. So says a group of physicists who are going head-to-head with a publisher because it will not allow them to post parts of their work to the online encyclopaedia, blogs and other forums.


Leaving aside the problem that posting about your own work on Wikipedia, violates two policies (no original research, and don’t edit articles about yourself or your work) … this is an interesting showdown.

Open Access journals, free and open to web linking, is the way science publishing has to go, for the same reasons NYTimes can’t keep its articles behind registration walls. Value is increasingly defined by network authority (is there an agreed term for this, or can I claim coinage of “network authority”?), aka google juice; and if you are out of the network, you are out of the authority. Scientists realize this – hence the desire to get their stuff on Wikipedia … Journals realize that it chips into their control of information, which it does. But like all other businesses, fighting it won’t make it go away, and the sooner they rejig their business models, the better.

Which opens the question: with the web as publishing platform, is there really a need to have academic journals running as businesses? Or is there a better way?


  1. David Gerard David Gerard 2008-03-18

    I think the term “Wikipedia” here is being used to mean “free content site” – like someone using “Linux” when they really mean “open source software.” I believe the use case in this particular example was a small wiki for quantum physicists.

  2. Hugh Hugh 2008-03-18

    hi david, the article was not clear on that – nor was it clarified in the comments. in any case, the larger point is about publishing on the web in general …in open web spaces, whether that’s at wp or elsewhere doesn’t really matter for the point the scientists wish to make.

  3. David Gerard David Gerard 2008-03-18

    Oh, definitely, I agree completely :-)

  4. DM DM 2008-03-19

    I read that the issue was scientists that wanted to put onto Wikipedia illustrations that they had submitted in journal articles. Because they had assigned the copyright of the article to the journal’s publisher, copyright prevented them from reusing the illustration on Wikipedia.

  5. Hugh Hugh 2008-03-19

    that sounds plausible … but again the real issue, long term, is that Open Access is the only way to go for scientific publications.

    i think.

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