The Scientific Activist

…apparently involves reposting others’ blog posts without permission or proper attribution.

I’m being facetious here, of course, but it is quite ironic that Mike Dunford of The Questionable Authority just caught anti-open-access warrior Elsevier copying the majority of one of his blog posts and posting it on a freely available site without attribution to him (although there is a link to his original post) or his permission. Click here to see his original post and here to see Elsevier’s reposting (Mike also saved it as a pdf).

Although it is common practice within the blogosphere to quote liberally from other sources, we do this with the understanding that others may quote liberally from us. In fact, we hope that they will–as long as they give proper attribution. While we do this, our own material is made freely available, with running costs being paid for by advertisers (i.e., a pretty standard open access model) or just being footed by the blogger. Elsevier, on the other hand, not only reserves most of its material for paid subscribers, but actively fights the open access movement with insidious initiatives like PRISM.

In case the irony here is somehow lost on you, Mike eloquently explains:

This blog, like almost all blogs, is an open-access publication. There’s no charge to read this blog. If you’ve got an internet connection and time to waste, you can scroll through the things I’ve written to your heart’s content. The thing is, open access doesn’t mean that nobody gets paid.

If you’re reading this material on my blog, you’re going to see some ads. The ads bring in income for the Seed Overlords. They use that income to cover the not-insignificant costs of running this online Zoo. They also pay me (and the rest of the bloggers). The more people read my posts, the more opportunities there are for someone to actually look at one of the ads, and the more I get paid. I don’t get paid when people read this on someone else’s website.

Advertising-supported web publishing is a business model that Elsevier understands quite well. In fact, it’s a business model that they use. They run a cancer information site that’s open access and supported by advertising. And because they get paid only for the ads that appear on their site, they have a copyright policy that prohibits reposting their material on other sites without their consent.

That’s not the only time that Elsevier has shown a very acute awareness of where their money comes from. They’ve consistently opposed open access initiatives around the world, because open access requirements would have a very large impact on their bottom line. In fact, they’ve gone to great lengths to try to protect their income stream. As you may remember, they were one of the publishers involved in the astroturf group “PRISM” that their attack dog PR expert put together to lobby Congress in opposition to an open access initiative.

Elsevier has spent a great deal of time, energy, and money in an effort to get people to respect their income flow. They apparently didn’t bother to think about mine.

Update: The same thing happened to Mike the Mad Biologist.


  1. #1 Joao Soares
    August 20, 2008

    Dear Nick
    Elsevier needs some confrotation.
    Great blog.
    Welcome to my Bioterra too.

  2. #2 usri
    August 25, 2008

    Many bloggers generate income only on their blog.

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