we're in trouble! - (2 points)

Paul Schlosser SCHLOSSER at ciit.org
Fri Jul 1 09:25:10 EST 1994


In <94181.201902U58563 at uicvm.uic.edu>
<U58563 at uicvm.uic.edu> 
discusses the possibility of providing free access to scientific
instead of through the current copyright system, which tends to limit
access.

This is inherently appealing, but someone must pay for it.  Someone
must pay for the production and distribution of journals, and while
providing information electronically is cheaper, it still isn't free.
The purpose of copyrights is not to keep information secret, but to
assure that those who foot the bill for distributing information receive
compensation.  If the poster where to write a book on his or her field\of
research, would he/she want royalties from the sales, or be willing to
have it distributed free?  Is he/she willing to pay the publication cost?

Now presumably we could insist that publishing become non-profit, which
would lower but not eliminate costs.  A second alternative would be to use
taxes to pay the cost.

But to back off of the copyright issue, a more important question is how
much sense would the proverbial high school student make of scientific
journal references once in hand?  I expect that the level of detail in these
is far more than a high school student needs, or is capable of understanding.
What the student wants is a general text on std's, which should be findable
using the library's own catalogue (presumably also electronic) which doesn't
require a ss# to use.  Even if the student did want to find out the latest
on herpes research (which is only in journals) and did find the references,
would he/she be able to read and understand them?  I'd say that before trying
to change the copyright system, we need to make sure that information is
produced (written) in a way that is understandable by non-experts.  This is a
different goal from scientific publishing for peers, and probably won't be
achieved in the same venue/journals.  Perhaps what is needed are more
publications like Science News which (for a price) make current research
accessible.

Paul
schlosser at beta.ciit.org




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