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A Scientist and the Web

 

Textmining Update: Max Haussler’s Questions to publishers: They have a duty to reply

Today’s update is limited to one topic. Getting replies from publishers.

In the digital age it is in principle possible for readers to contact publishers directly through a new technology called “email”. It’s very recent – about 20-30 years old – and allows people to send messages to other people over the Internet. Often what happens is that I send an email to someone I know and – within minutes – that person mails back. We can even have complete dialogues within a day.

It would be really valuable to be able to email publishers and get a reply. For example Bob Campbell of Wiley said last week that “all I had to do was ask” Wiley for permission to text-mine. So to mail someone you need something called their “email address”. If you don’t know it you can’t mail them. If you do know it you *can* mail them. But you don’t know whether they’ve got it (this is actually a well-known problem in modern communications science).

Now I’m not the only one doing this. Max Haussler has been wanting to text-mine for biological research for several years. He’s published an account of trying to get permissions from publishers. http://text.soe.ucsc.edu/progress.html

Read this. Max has contacted 26 publishers, some in 2009 and the latest in 2012-02 (last month). 13 of these have not replied. About 5 have a relatively simple answer giving some or all permission. Several have taken 2 or more years to give and answer. Others have not yet arrived at an answer.

The STM publishers (Eefke Smit) have stressed how easy it is to get permission from publishers to do text-mining. Are Max and I just unlucky in not getting a positive rapid helpful response?

The main problem is that publishers do not make it easy for readers (Max and I are readers) to have any dialogue with them. It’s not that they deliberately make it hard, they just don’t actively make it easy. Visit the Wiley site http://eu.wiley.com/WileyCDA/Section/index.html and see if you can find where to ask for permission to text-mine.

“Rights and permissions” http://eu.wiley.com/WileyCDA/Section/id-403436.html – sounds useful:

The quick and easy way to clear permissions via Rights Link®, the Copyright Clearance Center’s online service

You can now obtain permission to reproduce any Wiley or Wiley Blackwell article (in whole or in part) directly from the article abstract on Wiley Online Library.

  • Click on the ‘Request Permission’ link
  • Follow the online instructions and select your requirements from the drop down options to gain a ‘quick quote’
  • Create a RightsLink® account to complete and pay for your transaction (if you do not already have one)
  • Read and accept our Terms & Conditions and Download your license

Beware! Anything with “Rights Link®”
means you are at the bottom of the rathole. These rights are the right given by the author to Wiley for Wiley to charge us twice for the article – first to read it and then to copy it or re-use it. There’s are complete list of organizations who will charge for re-using material in Wiley journals http://eu.wiley.com/WileyCDA/Section/id-301726.html . If you try to ask these about text-mining you’ll go even deeper.

Where’s the address for helpful answers on text-mining. There isn’t one. Where’s the department? Who knows.

You have to know the person to contact, and their email, and hope they haven’t moved department. Luckily I had had this personal offer from Bob Campbell. I searched the Wiley site and found his address and got back the following mail:

Dear Peter
At the meeting in Rhodes House I said that anyone interested in mining our journal content should contact us. Any such inquiries will be treated on a case by case basis. I followed up with an email to you suggesting you contact my colleague Duncan Campbell. I am copying him in.
Yours
Bob

Well, at least I’ve made contact with one Campbell in Wiley. I expected that Duncan (sic) would mail me but I can’t find anything in my mailbox over the last 2 days so I assume he hasn’t. So I have to mail him. It’s just another example of Institutional anti-readerism.

Anyway I have mailed him. I’ll report here.

So, publishers, it is unacceptable that readers find it so much of an effort to contact you and have a constructive discussion. I’ve been through several Elsevier staff over 2.5 years before I happened on Alicia. Probably like Max. It’s a grotesque waste of our time, and I would have thought, of your time. An efficient organization would have solved the problem years ago. (But hang on, that doesn’t matter – you can just put the (monopoly) prices up to cover the inefficiency.)

Now I am getting back to some chemical lambda calculus for relaxation.

 

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