Nature will make its articles back to 1869 free to share online
December 1, 2014 10:41 PM   Subscribe

Nature makes all articles free to view, read, and annotate online.

All research papers from Nature will be made free to read in ReadCube, a proprietary screen-view format that can be annotated but not copied, printed, or downloaded. 100 media outlets, blogs, and all subscribers (both institutional and individual) can share a link to any Nature paper to which they have access. That link can then be shared and read by anyone.

This is a pilot initiative that will last one year, and also includes 48 other scientific journals in Macmillan’s Nature Publishing Group.
posted by k8lin (32 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
 
k8lin: "not copied, printed, or downloaded"

We'll see about that.

Also, I love how the website is all about "beyond the PDF", when it's really about fucking up reading to restrict what you can do.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:46 PM on December 1, 2014 [28 favorites]


Ah,well, good. We've been needing another proprietary format since that meddler Berners-Lee cooked up the whole www thing.
posted by Fibognocchi at 10:55 PM on December 1, 2014 [7 favorites]


Unless I'm doing something wrong, it's a little misleading to say that all articles are free to read. What this actually means is that someone with a subscription (not all of which include Nature's back files) has to share the link first, and then that link can be accessed by multiple people:
[U]nder the policy, subscribers can share any paper they have access to through a link to a read-only version of the paper’s PDF that can be viewed through a web browser. For institutional subscribers, that means every paper dating back to the journal's foundation in 1869, while personal subscribers get access from 1997 on.

Anyone can subsequently repost and share this link. Around 100 media outlets and blogs will also be able to share links to read-only PDFs.
I just tested it with a handful of articles. Most of the links were non-functional even while using Nature's own search, several had no ReadCube option, two were short blurbs fully visible through ReadCube, and one was a full length paper where the first page was visible but the rest of the paper was blurred and purchasing/renting were the only options. At least MyJstor lets you have access to (older) articles directly with the creation of an account. It reminds me a bit of the recent project Occam's Reader, which in theory opens up electronic books to interlibrary loan but only within a very constrained and restricted environment.
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:08 PM on December 1, 2014 [6 favorites]


a proprietary screen-view format that can be annotated but not copied, printed, or downloaded.

I lolled for real.
posted by mhoye at 11:09 PM on December 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


I expect Calibre to support it by the end of the day.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 11:42 PM on December 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


No, they have a proprietary way of blocking it by making the articles totally unreadable for everybody.

There should really be a fairytale about a king who decided to give everybody a gold piece. Which they could have as long as they didn't sell it, exchange it, or give it away, and as long as the Treasurer could could send the Royal Guards to audit your pockets at any time.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:05 AM on December 2, 2014 [10 favorites]


As far as I can tell, the only DRM schemes that haven't been broken are the ones that haven't been popular enough for folks to break.

If anyone thinks the DRM won't be broken in this, someone in this discussion will bet you .1BTC.
posted by el io at 1:05 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


While most scientists probably already have access to Nature through their Universities, etc, and non-scientists aren't usually interested in technical papers, I know one way this could benefit a general Internet audience: Jared Diamond has been writing fascinating thinkpiece columns on diverse topics for Nature since the 1970s.

A number of them were converted into material for his books like 3rd Chimpanzee and Guns, Germs, and Steel.
posted by dgaicun at 1:22 AM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


Not all scientists have relationships with universities. The requirement to have a relationship with a university is keeping unknown numbers of folks from contributing to the sciences, in part through their lack of access to current (and past) research in their fields.
posted by el io at 1:28 AM on December 2, 2014 [9 favorites]


This is great news! It should be added to this collection.
posted by hat_eater at 3:26 AM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


Michael Eisen, a strong proponent for open-access publishing, is pretty sceptical:
And let’s remember that subscribers to Nature were already sharing copies of downloaded PDFs quite abundantly. This was not, as Nature argues happening in an inconvenient way in the dark corners of the Internet. This was happening in email and on Twitter. The problem was that Nature had no control over this sharing. So, really, they’re not changing people’s ability to access Nature very much – what they’re doing is changing where they access it – likely with the hope that they will figure out ways to monetize this attention.
So now instead of quietly emailing a PDF in response to an #icanhazpdf request, I am free to send them a ReadCube link that can be shared about. You'll still need someone with a Nature subscription to generate that link, and it will be interesting to see if anyone starts making ReadCube links to the entire of Nature's back catalogue available and if Nature come down hard on that - or if they just view it as great publicity because finally someone is using ReadCube.
posted by penguinliz at 3:28 AM on December 2, 2014 [5 favorites]


Many of the older issues are freely available on archive.org: here’s Volume I, for example.
posted by misteraitch at 4:40 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


Weird restrictions aside, it's a step in the right direction. I hope all journals move towards increased access and affordability.
*gazes longingly at PubMed* soon, my pretties, soon
posted by a hat out of hell at 4:44 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


At least they are honest about their motivation: ensuring libraries don't have a compelling reason to cancel subscriptions.

I think this is a retrograde step as surely it will only be copied by other publishers. On the other hand, kudos to the Gates Foundation on their new policy.
posted by wingless_angel at 4:50 AM on December 2, 2014


Breaking News: Nature attempts to have its cake and eat it too! Verdict: it tastes like failure!
posted by blue_beetle at 5:16 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is a step in the right direction I'm sure most will agree. This step [though a bit clumsy as others have detailed above] being taken by Nature makes it a giant step considering their reputation.

This is especially valuable considering the long term anti-science posture from my country and government here and the more recent opposition to science from the Harper government to the north.
posted by vapidave at 5:27 AM on December 2, 2014


Let me get this straight - four simultaneous journals rotate within one single print edition of Nature.
posted by wotsac at 5:32 AM on December 2, 2014 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I think penguinliz has it. This is Nature trying to control the sharing that's already going on. Now, if you know a subscriber or can find one (via twitter, ResearchGate, sometimes Metafilter, etc) they'll just send you a pdf which you can keep forever, print, annotate, send along to other people, etc. Under this new system the barrier to entry is exactly the same -- you still need to know a subscriber -- but instead of a pdf you get sent a link to Nature's site, which they can monitor and put adverts on, and you can read but not keep.

My cynicism aside, "Around 100 media outlets and blogs will also be able to share links to read-only PDFs." is pretty cool. It'd be great if we started to see more science news articles linking to full papers thanks to this scheme.
posted by metaBugs at 5:50 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


Wait, did I fall into a coma and wake up in a world where Alt-Print Screen no longer works?
posted by surazal at 6:35 AM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


This too shall be Swartz'ed
posted by stbalbach at 8:26 AM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


I wish we had more words for "free". In this case, you are "free" to share this content only to the extent that you agree to be bound by the restrictions imposed by use of the required software and services. So while it may be "free" of direct cost, it does have indirect costs (such as the requirement to own a supported device) and accessing this "free" material puts legal obligations on you that can be arbitrarily changed at any time. And there are privacy implications. A brief read seems to indicate they keep logs of what you read and will use that information if it serves a legal or business need.
posted by Poldo at 8:45 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yea?
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:47 AM on December 2, 2014


ReadCube, a software platform similar to Apple’s iTunes

AWESOME
posted by gottabefunky at 9:57 AM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


This is absolutely not a step in the right direction.

It sounds like the first step toward completely disabling PDF downloads. I'm surprised nobody here has suggested that yet, but it seems pretty clear to me.

"Now you don't need the PDF anymore at all! Look at this handy-dandy ReadCube link where you can 'read' and 'annotate' the article for free! What a brave new world, eh? So we're just going to make the old reasonable reliable way of sharing articles impossible. What's that? Oh, no - of course we'll never charge for ReadCube access - not unless we decide we feel like it, anyway. Scout's honor!"
posted by koeselitz at 10:25 AM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


el io: Not all scientists have relationships with universities. The requirement to have a relationship with a university is keeping unknown numbers of folks from contributing to the sciences, in part through their lack of access to current (and past) research in their fields.
To be fair, it also presents a hurdle to thin out the legions of TimeCube discoverers.

IOW, "unknown numbers" might be "one or two" - since Einstein was not affiliated with a uni at the time.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:44 PM on December 2, 2014


IAmBroom: I have a physicist friend who is not affiliated with any university. It's hard for me to gauge the quality of his work (I am not a physicist) , but he was accepted to an AAAS conference (he couldn't afford to travel to it and present his paper, unfortunately).

So yeah, you may say 'crazy amateurs, they create noise', but that seems awful dismissive.

And what, crazy needs access to journals in order to be crazy?

While there is access to privately requested journal articles via back channels on the internet, some people (at least one PHD that I know) take copyrights very very seriously and wouldn't do anything that might be construed as a violation of copyrights, even if it is to advance science or their understanding of it.
posted by el io at 1:00 PM on December 2, 2014


I neither said "all amateurs are crazy" (I am an amateur research historian, and have been invited to present a paper at an academic conference, so...), nor that journals encourage craziness.

I said that there exists a hurdle to being taken seriously, which is de facto removed by people affiliated with a uni (that is, who are taken seriously by a serious institution).

I still maintain such a hurdle is reasonable - especially since it's so low. Non-affiliated authors are published in many journals.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:12 PM on December 2, 2014


While there is access to privately requested journal articles via back channels on the internet, some people (at least one PHD that I know) take copyrights very very seriously and wouldn't do anything that might be construed as a violation of copyrights, even if it is to advance science or their understanding of it.

But there are legal ways of sharing files, both on a personal level and through institutional channels like interlibrary loan, where copyrights are taken very seriously (and often paid for.) I agree that better access is great, especially for scientists researching in countries where subscription databases are relatively expensive and less widely held, and I would be excited to see better science reporting with better access. I am saddened that they have chosen to frame all methods of access aside from subscriptions and ReadCube within shadowy, time-consuming terms.
posted by jetlagaddict at 1:13 PM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


I still maintain such a hurdle is reasonable - especially since it's so low. Non-affiliated authors are published in many journals.

Perhaps we misunderstand each other. I am suggesting that the world should have read access to journals, not that the entire world should have write access to journals (that seems like a separate, although worthy discussion to have - access to non-affiliated folks to submit to journals without financial burden).
posted by el io at 1:50 PM on December 2, 2014


Oh, wow, yes, el io. Totally misunderstood your point. Sorry.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:15 AM on December 3, 2014


One of the biggest problems here - aside from the absolute nonsense that is propagating the use of a proprietary platform through which to view PDFs - is that this is likely to discourage authors from providing pre-publication prints of their articles on their own websites or through their institutional repositories, a practice which Nature allows after a six-month embargo (which is also nonsense, but it's "better than nothing"). This practice allows authors to provide the text and figures of articles they're written either on their own websites or in an institutional repository; often, authors are allowed to submit post-review, pre-publication copies (which means that authors can't provide the publisher's PDF, but they can supply a PDF of their own without publisher formatting).

The SHERPA/RoMEO database is something I use when I'm considering publication - but publishing in open access journals is expensive, in more ways than one. The database lists standard publisher policies for self-archiving.
posted by k8lin at 12:00 PM on December 3, 2014


This is likely to discourage authors from providing pre-publication prints of their articles on their own websites or through their institutional repositories, a practice which Nature allows after a six-month embargo.

The six month embargo might apply to the version that Nature has formatted and copy-edited, but authors can make their own pre-prints available immediately. In astronomy, at least, this is common practice, and if your paper isn't posted on the ArXiv preprint server it might as well not exist. Here, for example:

Binary orbits as the driver of gamma-ray emission and mass ejection in classical novae, with the comment "Author's version of paper appearing in 16 October issue of Nature (8 October online)" and posted on October 13th. (Go Laura!)

An Ultraluminous X-ray Source Powered by An Accreting Neutron Star, posted 14th October and in print on 9th October.

A mass of less than 15 solar masses for the black hole in an ultraluminous X-ray source, posted 15th October.

(And so on - these are the 3 most recent matches.)

Nature making PDF versions free to view is not going to change anything for astronomy, at least.
posted by RedOrGreen at 2:43 PM on December 3, 2014


« Older Tjipetir mystery   |   The Top 10 of the 1% Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments