Another facet of the Open movement has emerged as groups of scholars begin to press for the free availability of citation data - the ability to track references in bibliographies as a way to assess the paths of research and the performance of individual scholars, institutions, and publications. Currently the best forms of this data are available only through institutional subscriptions to expensive databases like Web of Science (which UT Austin has) and Scopus (which we don't). But this year a group of organizations and publishers, including PLOS, the Wikimedia Foundation, eLife, and others, have launched the Initiative for Open Citations (I4OC) to advocate for wider and free distribution of this core data so that everyone can use it. Some publishers such as RSC, Sage, and Springer-Nature already share their citation data openlly, but others like Elsevier and ACS are, predictably, holdouts.
ResearchGate, a popular scholarly collaboration network familiar to many scientific researchers, has blocked direct access to over 1.7 million articles posted on the site in violation of copyright. The articles must now be requested directly from the authors. This move comes as a group of publishers, including the ACS and Elsevier, has threatened to take legal action against the site for allowing the massive sharing to occur. One estimate is that over 7 million copyrighted papers are illegally shared on the site. ResearchGate is a for-profit sharing platform based in Germany that has engaged in aggressive email marketing to scholars for many years. (The site received over 700 million visits in 2016.) While posting articles in these platforms is not always illegal, it depends on who actually owns the copyright to a specific version of a work, and that is often the publisher to whom the authors have signed away their rights in return for publication. Many publishers allow authors to share final peer-reviewed manuscripts, sometimes after an embargo period, but most do not allow the final published version to be shared openly. This is a distinction that many authors don't understand, or ignore.
The American Chemical Society has won its initial legal battle with the pirate site Sci-Hub. A US district court has awarded the publisher $4.8 million in a default judgment for copyright infringement, as expected. Sci-Hub mounted no defense and has ignored previous monetary penalties, so this verdict is largely symbolic. However, the court also granted an ACS petition to require U.S. internet service providers (ISPs) and search engines to block access to Sci-Hub going forward. This ruling, likely to face widespread legal challenge by the tech industry, was soon adjusted to target only entities that are in an "active legal relationship" with Sci-Hub, such as hosting services and domain name registries. ACS will now seek to identify those companies and try to enforce the injunction, which could result in further litigation. The ultimate effect of these actions on Sci-Hub's operations, if any, is unclear.
UT's high-quality chemistry publication output placed us in sixth place in the country, just behind UC Berkeley, in the 2017 Nature Index, which is based on a weighted count of authored articles in 68 top science journals. However, analysis of national data makes clear that the US is losing ground steadily to countries like China as research funding drops. Only five of the top 25 universities in chemistry saw a net increase in this metric since 2012, which is cause for concern. UT Austin also ranked highly in Earth & Environmental Science (5th), Physical Science (10th), and ranked 11th overall.
ChemRxiv, a new chemistry preprint server, is now available in a fully functioning Beta version. Modeled after arXiv and bioRxiv, preprint servers focused on physics and life sciences, respectively, ChemRxiv will enable researchers working across a broad range of chemistry fields to share early results with their colleagues ahead of formal peer review and publication. The preprint server includes a one-page streamlined submission portal with drag-and-drop file functionality through which authors can quickly, easily and directly submit preprints in a wide variety of file formats. ChemRxiv does not have submission or access fees.
The publishing giant Elsevier continues to reposition itself as a player in all segments of the information pipeline. The new ChemRN server is billed as a site where researchers can post preprints and working papers, share ideas and other early stage research, and collaborate. It allows users to upload and read abstracts and full text papers, free of charge. It joins a growing stable of subject servers under the SSRN umbrella, which Elsevier acquired in 2016.
A new study finds that the illegal Sci-Hub site contains over 81 million pirated articles, and provides access to more than two-thirds of the entire corpus of scientific journal literature (up to 93% in chemistry, and 100% of ACS journal content). What's more, it can retrieve almost anything it doesn't already have. This could have profound implications for the subscription business model of scholarly publication.
The Guardian's long read about the origins of Pergamon Press/Elsevier profiles one of the modern academic publishing industry's most notorious pioneers, Robert Maxwell.
A recent study indicates that 12 of the top 20 and 37 of the top 50 most-pirated journals on the illegal Sci-Hub site have a chemistry subject focus.
This new plugin (from Impactstory) for Firefox and Chrome finds open access full text of articles that are otherwise behind subscription paywalls. The open versions are deposited by authors in various repositories as part of the "Green OA" movement to provide wider - and legal - access to content that is locked away by publishers. The success rate of this plugin is a remarkable 50% or so.
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