Hopefully, by now, the anti-Wiley blogswarm is getting geared up. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, ScienceBlogling Shelley over at Retrospectacle was threatened with a lawsuit by Wiley Interscience for reproducing part of a figure and a table (and why would they want to do that? She has such groovy taste in cars). Shelley has the best argument why it’s wrong for Wiley to do this:
But it leads me to ask the question: What really constitutes fair use? This is taxpayer-supported research, which should be available for all. If a blog properly gives credit, isn’t plagiarizing, and correctly summarizes data, isn’t that fair use?
Isn’t the point of publishing data to disseminate it, rather that lob threats at grad students who happen to be excited about it?
What’s galling about this is that not only is the research taxpayer-supported, but scientists give away the analysis and a lot of the hard work to the publishing companies for free. While some of the professional science writers around here might argue that they are paid very little for their writing, they don’t give it away for free. You would think science publishers might be a little more cautious about going after scientists when they make their money off of us. After all, Wiley isn’t writing the proposals, funding the research, analyzing the data, and writing the papers. They get all of that for free.
So what to do? Well, some are suggesting writing emails. ScienceBloging Mark writes:
There’s really nothing bloggers like us can do to stop publishers from pulling obnoxious stunts like this, except to publicize it, so that they realize there is some cost to them associated with this kind of behavior. That’s why I’m writing this. Wiley needs to recognize that as a publisher of scientific journals, it’s absolutely unreasonable and unacceptable to threaten lawsuits against other scientists who reference their work.
As bloggers, there isn’t much we can do. But as scientists, we can take them out at the fucking knees. Trash their impact factor. Don’t cite Wiley publications in your papers until they offer an apology. In most cases, you can find an alternate citation. So don’t cite Wiley.
Scientific publishers have to learn not to shit where they eat.
Update: It appears they’ve backed off. Good. I really didn’t want to not cite the articles….