[Taxacom] Paywall our taxonomic tidbit

Geoffrey Read gread at actrix.gen.nz
Sun Jan 17 06:06:40 CST 2016

Dear Lena,

I forgot to mention that my truck driver was Australian, and one day had
been given a old secondhand copy of a big textbook called "The Insects of
Australia" by his hypothetical aunt when he was 15. This was what he had
learnt basic entomology from, and reading it cover to cover (especially
chapt 30)  had enabled him to advance to appreciate the up-to-date
Coleoptera research of the rare articles in Zootaxa that were  open

It is Stephen who thinks Zootaxa readers need only be an elite in-group.
No one else here likes that idea. The general point is that there is a
group of Zootaxa readers and other journal readers (such as Stephen, and
myself also) who, through circumstance, have free access to a lot of
digitised online research information, whereas the public, including less
advantaged scientists, does not, although they have paid the same tiny
amount as Stephen and I have for the information to be produced through
our taxes and could make use of the information.  A minute further amount
would pay for the open access which is to the advantage of all, including
the author. It is because the amount needed is relatively so tiny, and
distribution so easy, that open access digital can exist.

In contrast public taxes rarely pay for physical books to be produced
because of the much greater cost - these are mostly private enterprise
endeavours, producing large physical objects (over 10 Kg for a recent NZ
fish monograph) with associated material costs, also intended to profit
the author and publisher, or at least cover costs.  A finite number can be
printed, they have to be warehoused somewhere and transported at some
expense, and to receive them gratis you have to be very lucky, or special
circumstances must exist (a benevolent funder or an ulterior motive, such
as the giving away of religious works).

Now it's possible to dispense with the hardcopy book, or to have both
print book and cheaper digital ebook.  Book-sized science reports of
Government and non-profit organisations are usually distributed digitally
for free now, whereas a few years ago it would have been on a
cost-recovery basis for the hardcopy version. ZooKeys is currently selling
hardcopy of a special collection that as individual articles are free.
Same with conference proceedings nowadays - hardcopy needs to be paid for,
individual digital articles can easily be made 'free' for all (some one is
paying, but not very much).


On Sun, January 17, 2016 5:35 pm, Elena Kupriyanova wrote:
> Dear Geoff and et al.,
> I have a strange feeling that  as a hypothetical 30 year old long-distance
> truck driver fascinated by beetles you would be looking for a
> well-illustrated BOOK (not a Zootaxa article) on beetles of New Zealand.
> It is unlikely that you would be complaining when you learn that you
> either would need to buy such a book or to drive (walk) to a library to
> borrow it. Would this be a case of restricting what people can  read
> because it's not directly relevant to their current job or place in
> society? We all buy books, don't we? Why is it ok for us to buy or borrow
> book, but at the same time we are convinced that scientific journals
> should be available to us instantly at a mouse click? I am confused
> now...
> Lena
> Dr. Elena Kupriyanova
> Senior Research Scientist
> Marine Invertebrates
> Associate Editor,
> Records of the Australian Museum
> Australian Museum Research Institute
> 1 William Street Sydney NSW 2010 Australia
> t 61 2 9320 6340   m 61402735679   f 61 2 9320 6059
> Visit: http://www.australianmuseum.net.au
> Like: http://www.facebook.com/australianmuseum
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> Inspiring the exploration of nature and cultures
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Taxacom [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of
> Geoffrey Read
> Sent: Friday, 15 January 2016 4:53 PM
> To: Stephen Thorpe
> Cc: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Paywall our taxonomic tidbit
> I admire your persistence Stephen!
> Let's say I'm a 30 year old long-distance truck driver.  It's okay, but as
> a child I collected beetles and I still dream of becoming a biologist.
> Maybe it won't happen but I'm planning to go to university when I've saved
> up. Meantime I'm fascinated by the articles on beetles at Zootaxa, and
> need them to identify what I see in my garden. I contribute to Naturewatch
> too on my days off. Damn, so many of the articles are paywalled! It's
> really frustrating.
> Well Stephen, I reckon truck drivers too should be able to read Zootaxa
> articles gratis and without begging for them if it's easy enough for us to
> make it so.  And I believe in not restricting what people can do or read
> because it's not directly relevant to their current job or place in
> society.
> Geoff
> On Fri, January 15, 2016 6:10 pm, Stephen Thorpe wrote:
>> But Geoff, you are a taxonomist and therefore not a member of the
>> public (in the relevant sense). The public should not have to pay so
>> that you just might find something interesting in articles that aren't
>> directly relevant to your work (or at least they should be given the
>> informed choice of whether or not to pay). Don't think about it just
>> from your perspective. Think instead of how much demand their really
>> is for many taxonomic papers, stacked against the cost of making all
>> of them freely available to everybody. There is a difference between
>> "hiding information away" versus using public money to make it
>> available to everyone, when only a handful of specialists are remotely
>> interested in reading it.
>> Stephen
>> --------------------------------------------
>> On Fri, 15/1/16, Geoff Read <gread at actrix.gen.nz> wrote:
>>  Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Paywall our taxonomic tidbit
>>  To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
>>  Received: Friday, 15 January, 2016, 5:17 PM
>>  Stephen,
>>  You say " absolutely no point in paying publishers up front  to make
>> the  publications available freely to everybody in the world"
>>  The idea that we should restrict access, hide away  information from
>> the  public, and make it difficult to read our works is abhorrent  to
>> me.
>>  Fortunately we've come a long way in my lifetime towards  open
>> exchange and  discussion - the internet as the shining example, and
>> special mention to  the access via BHL which has revolutionized our
>> work as  taxonomists more  recently.
>>  Every paper published in Zootaxa today was paywalled. I  don't have a
>> subscription, so I don't have the access to Zootaxa that I  know you
>> do,  but I'm interested in dipping into a wide range of taxonomy  when
>> I see  something on the spot that just might be worth reading but  is
>> outside my  narrow specialty. It helps me with my own work and it's
>> good  to see other  ways of doing things, interpretations of the code,
>> and the  new techniques  used. To do that today I need to write ten
>> begging letters,  and wait. Or  pay 140 dollars ($14 per paper).  So
>> I'll look at none  of them.
>>  Yesterday was short paper day at Zootaxa - every one of  those six
>> was  paywalled (including one from a colleague at Elena's  institute),
>> but could  have so easily have been open access and read much more
>> widely for just  lunch money for most of the authors, or around a taxi
>> fare  if their  employer pays. Hence my amazement that people would
>> not do  that when they  had the chance.
>>  Geoff
>>  -----Original Message-----
>>  From: Taxacom [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu]
>>  On Behalf Of
>>  Stephen Thorpe
>>  Sent: Friday, 15 January 2016 2:46 p.m.
>>  To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu;
>>  Elena Kupriyanova
>>  <Elena.Kupriyanova at austmus.gov.au>
>>  Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Paywall our taxonomic tidbit
>>  Dear Elena,
>>  I like your post because I am trying to get people to think  this
>> matter  through, and your post shows that you are starting to do  just
>> that. There  appears to be a significant group who are lobbying for
>> open  access, even  though, as you correctly point out, it is usually
>> not very  hard to get  hold of publications for free, even when they
>> are not open  access. What  matters is that the people who need to
>> read the publications  can read  them. There is absolutely no point in
>> paying publishers up  front to make  the punlications available freely
>> to everybody in the world,  given that  only a few people will ever
>> need to read most of them!
>>  Somthing very dodgy
>>  is going on here - those who stand to gain financially from  open
>> access  are lobbying hard in favour of it! No surprises there,  really
>> ...
>>  Stephen
>>  --------------------------------------------
>>  On Fri, 15/1/16, Elena Kupriyanova <Elena.Kupriyanova at austmus.gov.au>
>>  wrote:
>>   Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Paywall our taxonomic tidbit
>>   To: "taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu"
>>  <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
>>   Received: Friday, 15 January, 2016, 1:07 PM
>>   Dear colleagues,
>>   I am really confused by now re what the point of this
>>   discussion is. Should we make our taxonomic papers open
>>   access or should we use our grant money to do so instead  of
>>   paying for it out our own pockets? I honestly cannot see  any
>>   paywall - whenever I need a paper, I just write to the
>>   author and ask for a pdf. I am happy to send my own papers
>>   to anybody who cares to read them (gosh, where is a chance
>>   they might even cite me ;) Besides, there is
>>   Researchgate...
>>   Best,
>>   Lena
>>   Dr. Elena Kupriyanova
>>   Senior Research Scientist
>>   Marine Invertebrates
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> --
> Geoffrey B. Read, Ph.D.
> 8 Zaida Way, Maupuia
> Wellington, NEW ZEALAND
> gread at actrix.gen.nz
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> Celebrating 29 years of Taxacom in 2016.

Geoffrey B. Read, Ph.D.
8 Zaida Way, Maupuia
Wellington, NEW ZEALAND
gread at actrix.gen.nz

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