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The Price of Knowledge.

There is a debate raging at the moment surrounding the practice of hiding research behind paywalls. The controversy lies not least in that many argue scientific research should be free and accessible to all, and that monetising it is counterproductive/unethical. But the fact that the scientists that conduct the research are not paid once their work has been accepted and published, highlights a strange model that favours the journals alone. I’m not going to get into debates about impact factors and that journals also have running costs. There are plenty of points on both sides of these arguments and the debate is easily found on the web. Instead I’m going to point you, the reader, to approaches used in accessing paywalled papers. This is simply an academic collection/cataloguing of approaches that people are currently using to bypass paywalls.

Disclaimer: The sci-hub site is currently being challenged in courts in America and I don’t necessarily advocate using this approach. I’m merely demonstrating how people get around paywalls when their university cannot afford the licence fees etc. Here is a piece on the origins of the sci-hub site etc. : http://bigthink.com/neurobonkers/a-pirate-bay-for-science

The following is a list of approaches I’ve discovered online that people use to bypass scientific journal paywalls:

1) Search on Google using this format: “paper name” filetype:pdf site:edu

2) Check out r/scholar

3) Use the hastag: #canihazpdf on twitter along with a link to the paper (or its title) and your email address.

4) Here’s another approach to try and gain access to articles behind pay-walls: https://t.co/ZigAgimxW7

5a) You can also go straight here: http://sci-hub.io/  http://sci-hub.cc/ and search for your paper of choice.

5b) This is an extension of the above and allows access from the url that hosts the paper of interest:

I’ll use an example. Say you want to access this article that is pay-walled:

http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v18/n10/full/nn.4105.html

By adding this:

.sci-hub.io .sci-hub.cc

straight after the .com you will be able to access the article for free via the sci-hub website.

Here’s the amended URL:

http://www.nature.com.sci-hub.io/neuro/journal/v18/n10/full/nn.4105.html

http://www.nature.com.sci-hub.cc/neuro/journal/v18/n10/full/nn.4105.html

6) Of course many academics also contact one of the authors of a paper via email who often are more than happy to forward a copy of their research for free. Professional and polite is the order of the day in this approach.

Again, sci-hub is currently being challenged in American courts so I am not advocating or recommending the use of the sci-hub website. The above paper is used merely as an example of how people use this approach and this blog is purely an academic exercise in cataloguing approaches currently being used by people to bypass paywalls in scientific journals.

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Handling Images in the Digital Age.

Legal representatives of the British Royal family have pursued action in French courts due to the publishing of naked images of one of the most recent people brought into their fold. The first steps of this legal move resulted in (as reported by the BBC News website):

  • A court in Paris ruled the publishers of Closer must hand over the original photographs within 24 hours or face a daily fine of 10,000 euros (£8,000).

Before actually taking on board the above statement I think a necessary digression is in order.

Since the horrific chain of events which ultimately led to the death of Diana Spencer there is, understandably,  an obvious sensitivity surrounding paparazzi and her surviving children. However, gradually the media have gone to great lengths to attempt to recapture the public obsession surrounding Diana with her son William and more importantly his wife Kate Middleton. The media frenzy surrounding their wedding is evidence enough. The machine grinds on.

True to form, the peddlers of celebrity snap shots (and what a service they provide the world) have yet again crossed the line – thankfully nothing like the aforementioned tragedy – which separates mutually beneficial publicity from what is deemed inappropriate and boy is that a fine line. The recent ‘topless’ images of Kate Middleton have caused all sorts of outcry from Royalists and the like. I won’t delve into why the backlash is so much more severe when it comes to images of a princess – I even shudder at typing the word –  when compared to a ‘regular’ celebrity. That’s a whole other topic of discussion which ultimately revolves around class in society. However, I’ll go on the record and suggest that no one deserves the unwanted attention of paparazzi, and it is indeed distasteful for them to be harassing the family of a woman who died indirectly due to their pursuit, but I also think that this reaction to a topless image of someone who benefits from media attention in the same way as other celebrities who are victims of this extreme voyeurism is certainly disproportionate. Either condemn all voyeuristic, opportunistic pictures of celebrities equally or keep schtum. Kate Middleton is not deserving of special treatment in this regard. It should be one rule for all. She should have no more or less rights than the average Joe.

Getting back on topic. The quote above clearly states that the publishers of the image have to hand over the ‘original photographs’ . Consider that instruction. Assuming the images were digital – which I think is a fair assumption to make in 2012 – you have to wonder what exactly qualifies as the ‘original photographs’? Was it the first digital files saved on the camera? The transferred files from the camera to the computer? The first email with the images attached to it that was sent to Closer? The one of doubtless many emails circulated within the confines of Closer headquarters? Also, how does one go about handing over these originals? Forward an email to the legal team? I think I’ve made my point. This seems like an exercise in futility. If they were printed images with negatives attached this order would make sense but in the digital age it’s almost laughable.

I’m sure all of this will rumble on with continued cries of outrage at the nerve of a French magazine to publish such images of a royal for the foreseeable few days – maybe weeks – but I don’t think this court ruling can be considered a victory since it makes little sense and will have virtually no impact. After all, the images are only a Google click away now and I doubt they fall under the definition of being the originals.