John Richard Schrock, director of biology education at Emporia State University, suggests that in a world where there are no widespread paper archives, open access and piracy threatens to under mind science research.

A recent announcement by the European Commission states that all research is to be made freely available online by 2020, a system called “open access.”

Coinciding with this announcement is a report on a young graduate student in Kazakhstan, whose work essentially achieved open access by pirating huge collections of science papers and books and placing them online for free.

Alexandra Elbakyan, noted as being a brilliant computer programmer, has allegedly developed programs which steal academic papers from university websites to journal publishers and subscription services.

Threats to Science?

According to Schrock, the two major problems associated with open access that threaten science are:

  • the dismantling of professional societies and
  • the loss of permanent science records.

Gordon Nelson, president of the Council of Scientific Society Presidents, illustrates that a large portion of scientific literature is published by non-profit organizations who cannot afford to supply their materials for free.

The arguably more serious problem is the lack of a permanent archive. While the digital wave of publishing has pushed an overwhelming amount of material online, the half life of those materials are very short, unlike their paper counterpart which can last up to 500 years on acid free paper.

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