[Taxacom] IPBES: a new challenge (not for cynics)
fwelter at gwdg.de
Wed Jan 12 06:41:35 CST 2011
I expected you would object my statement. But I hold it. This one:
"If you don't have the copyright you cannot scan and extract data in
a way that we could really work with it"
This is from my experience as a taxonomist, for what I now I need in
my field (terrestrial malacology), things that I would need to
facilitate my work. What kind of "data" would I need to extract from
a 1970 paper? What do I need for my taxonomic work from such a
I need textual content - introduction, methods, results, conclusions,
references - and image content. If you would ask me about the "data"
I could extract from such a paper I would answer "please, the whole
text and all the images".
> The descriptions or treatments are not protected by
> copyright law. So you can extract and reuse them.
Not only descriptions are needed. I also need to know how scientists
in the 1970s came to their conclusions. This is different than
working with papers of the 1860s, where I only need the original
descriptions of species and usually not much more. Here I need full
access to the complete texts of discussions. I also need to know on
which base a study was done. I need the full text of the
introduction. It is only then that I will be able to judge the value
of such a paper, the shortcomings, the strenghts. And very important
in my field, I need images in high quality. Those papers are often
equipped with high-quality photos, and it is important to see them in
Full textual content is coyrighted, and images are even much more
strictly copyrighted. Public libraries are not allowed to scan
copyrighted publications, and they strictly don't do it. Our
library will not scan a book published after 1899, if you don't give
them a written permission by the copyright holder. This is why
literature after 1920 is largely missing in BHL and related projects.
Libraries are traditionally allowed to hold copyrighted publications
and allow library users to read them. This is a traditional right
that they would probably not obtain under today's copyright laws
and conventions if they would not traditionally hold it since
centuries ago. It is in the sense of this thought that they are not
allowed to scan these works and by this way allow the online library
user to read a book online. This is not allowed, and this is exactly
the point where some international pressure would be useful to
change this situation.
I partly share your concerns to encourage scientists to publish in
open access, but since there are economic constraints behind this
issue I do not think this is a promising approach to solve the
problem. This looks like something that can only be solved by a shift
in the legal conditions under which we are working.
And once again, access to papers published after 2000 is not the main
problem for my work. I don't see big problems in the near future,
also in contrast to Cristian's concerns. If you ask me, why is my
taxonomic work so slow?, I would definitely not answer, because I
have difficult access to post-2000 works (much less, because of the
quality of some post-2000 publications is low, because they were
not peer reviewed and reflect untenable personal views). The highest
obstacle is currently the lack of electronic resources from the
I continuously publish papers in not-open-access, but I don't see a
big problem. Being the author I get a PDF, I can send this PDF to
anyone who is interested, they can forward it, that's okay for
> But the future, and the one where we might have a place is when we
> publish right from begin in a way that machine can read and reason
> over what we publish. This is when a connection between other fields
> and ours are being made. Not when we have to read through a pdf and
> extract data by hand one pdf after one pdf.
Either there is an illusion behind this statement, or I
misunderstand you. In my field I could not imagine any method that a
machine would be able to judge the value of a scientific publication,
and put it in relation to others (much less am I able to imagine a
way to publish my ideas in a way that a machine could fully
understand them and work with them automatically). It is
indispensable that skilled and experienced human beings read papers
written by human beings, understand them and extract information.
If some day there is a machine being invented that is able to
translate German correctly into Spanish or English and vice versa, I
might think over this point again.
University of Goettingen, Germany
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