Open Content Mining: Authors and Readers should control the process; act before it’s too late

Scientists write articles so people can read them. But now we’ve realised that machines can read them as well. And we have argued /pmr/2012/09/16/our-manifesto-the-right-to-read-is-the-right-to-mine-universities-you-must-fight-for-open-content-mining-before-its-too-late/ that if you subscribe to read an article you also have the right to use machines to read it and extract and re-publish facts.

It’s critically important that we unit behind this view. Because at present:

  • The STM publishers prevent content mining
  • There are signs that they wish to develop this as a new activity (for which they will undoubtedly charge, build walled gardens, and otherwise restrict access to their content.

“their content”? We wrote it. And while they might tweak the odd bit of text they cannot and must not alter the facts. So the facts are created directly by scientific research.

The pharmaceutical industry is desperate for these facts. So they got the pharma industry to meet them (I think in Bruges) a few months ago and have hammered out an agreement.

I don’t know the details, because they are almost certainly secret. (I’ll write to STM and ALPSP and they can save me the bother by replying to this blog). If the details aren’t secret then one-cheer. (No more cheers till we see the details).

We’ve already seen on this blog that Springer are reselling their image content – double or even triple dipping into freely given content. So Springer, do you intend to charge for content mining in a fourth dipping process?

Why do I trust the worst rather than the best in this deal? Here’s the meat of what has been reported (I know no more and would be grateful for insight) Sorry it’s an image but the original is a PDF:

Nothing has been said about cost/prices so I won’t speculate. The implication here is that the results can be mounted within the pharma company but not published.

I have spent three years trying to get permission to text-mine, e.g. from Elsevier’s Directorate of Universal Access, without any progress. Universal Access is extremely helpful (because they say so). Heather Piwowar spent months getting an agreement for one group in one university (UBC). She tweeted (and I have her brave permission to re-quote):

“I am LOATH negotiating with publishers. It gives me hives” (Hives is a disease)

Elsevier have negotiated 20 text-mining contracts over the last 5 years – that’s an average on 0.25 a month. There is no way they can and will scale this demand (even if the wanted to). Then there are 100 other publishers, all currently with restrictive licences.

So the danger is that whatever is negotiated here will be be put in from of Universities/Librarians. Whose track record is that they don’t I publically challenge any contracts.

Please do not sign any content-mining contracts without alerting the world.

It is critical that we, the scientific and machine-readership argue for our rights, not the commercial benefit of publishers.

This is where YOU have to make a stand.





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2 Responses to Open Content Mining: Authors and Readers should control the process; act before it’s too late

  1. Nicolas says:

    15 years ago I could not understand why university would pay for content they wrote. This absurdity was a hint of how unwise it would be to have confidence in a system that made this possible. Now that this is still in place is another level of prowess.

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