Originally published at: http://contentmine.org/2015/12/digital-scholarship-enlightenment-or-devastated-landscape-the-right-to-read-is-the-right-to-mine/
I am honoured to have been invited to give a talk in ten days' time in the University of Edinburgh (http://www.itfutures.ed.ac.uk “Research: doing it faster, doing it differently” ). I have very strong connections with Edinburgh and Scotland (having lived in Stirling for 15 years), and have worked closely with the Informatics Forum (School). Here's the abstract, and then commentary.
Digital Scholarship: Enlightenment or Devastated Landscape? The Right to Read is the Right to Mine
Over 5000 scholarly articles are published per day and it's becoming impossible. For example, researchers in systematic medical reviewing have to "read" 10000 articles in 10 days to filter out those suited for meta-analysis. Another spends an hour per day "reading" the literature to find where her work has been mentioned. An HEP researcher measures data off graphs by hand at the rate of one per day.
Machines can solve many of these problems and I'll demonstrate our software . But the major problem is political. It's a fight for the soul of the Digital Enlightenment and reformers are in danger of losing. The major publishers "control" access to, and re-use of scholarship. A Dutch statistician, Chris Hartgerink, is interested in the use (and misuse) of statistical measures (such as P-values); he downloaded 30,000 articles so programs could select those of interest. The mega-publisher Elsevier wrote to his University and demanded he stopped his research, and the University apparently complied.
In the UK we have won a small freedom in 2014 - we can now mine the literature for "non-commercial research" although we probably can't publish the bulk of the results due to copyright. The European Parliament and commission is trying to follow and 2015 has seen massive political activity over Text and Data Mining (TDM, aka ContentMining). I express this as "The Right to Read is the Right to Mine". Julia Reda, MEP has drafted coherent and positive proposals, but they have had massive anti-lobbying from vested interests such as scholarly publishers. Publishers are increasingly adding legal, contractual, technical and political barriers to assert their control over the whole of electronic scholarship. Worryingly they are building an infrastructure which will coerce scholars to become digital serfs without academic rights or power.
I believe that the Enclosure of the Digital Commons is potentially as serious as the Highland Clearances - a "devastated landscape" . A major part of the digital Enlightenment is machines and humans working together under a fair and just system.
. PMR, Mark MacGillivray, Informatics PhD graduand., Richard Smith-Unna, Cambridge
Twelve years ago (2003) , the pioneers of "Open Access" created a vision:
The new technology is the internet. The public good they make possible is the world-wide electronic distribution of the peer-reviewed journal literature and completely free and unrestricted access to it by all scientists, scholars, teachers, students, and other curious minds. Removing access barriers to this literature will accelerate research, enrich education, share the learning of the rich with the poor and the poor with the rich, make this literature as useful as it can be, and lay the foundation for uniting humanity in a common intellectual conversation and quest for knowledge.
This has inspired me and others to help to create a communal global knowledge base for Science and Medicine, with Free and Open Standards, Content, Software
I'm proud to have been part of the group which created
- a vision and statement of our rights in the Digital Age. We don't use the words "Right" and "Freedom" enough in academia, and we should. We are entrusted and paid by the world to create and disseminate knowledge on the basis that this knowledge is spread widely. And that we encourage those outside the ivory tower to become part of the community and feel equal co-creators. This was put beautifully in the Budapest Declaration of Open Access