Royal Society just digs a deeper hole

The Royal Society has announced that they are making their full archive, including papers going back hundreds of years, available online for the first time. I read this line and thought – “Finally, the Royal Society is moving towards Open Access”. After all, the US National Academy of Sciences provides full and free access to all articles 6 months after publication.

Then I read the next sentence, which says that the Royal Society wil provide this free access to their archive until December.:

And until December the archive is freely available to anyone on the internet to explore. ….

After December 2006 subscribers to our subscription packages (S, A and B) will enjoy privileged online access to the archives. Private researchers will also be able to access individual articles for a small fee per download.

The Royal Society appears to simly want to hold on to every little last shred of money they can get for things published originally hundreds of years ago. They could make a great contribution to the world by opening up their archive completely. But clearly, the Royal Society is not about making contributions to humanity. What they appear to be about is a scientific oligarchy that exists mostly to promote themselves and their freinds. I would like to point out again that of 1316 fellows, 62 are women.

So this group of scientists appears to be trying to continue the bad traditions started hundreds of years ago, like excluding women from science. I looked for but could not find information on minorities but can only assume that their record in this area is even worse, as they do not discuss it on their web site.

Perhaps some day the UK public will wisen up and stop giving money to this collection of Neanderthal wannabes.

Author: Jonathan Eisen

I am an evolutionary biologist and a Professor at U. C. Davis. (see my lab site here). My research focuses on the origin of novelty (how new processes and functions originate). To study this I focus on sequencing and analyzing genomes of organisms, especially microbes and using phylogenomic analysis

3 thoughts on “Royal Society just digs a deeper hole”

  1. It is sad indeed that they do not care about the potential benefit of having this knowledge available to all free of charge.
    I guess I accept that there was probably a cost associated to having all the material available in digital format. The very least they could do is state the costs and say that the whole database would be made open as soon as the expenses were paid.
    Journal sales accounts for less than 7% of their budget and this addition will unlikely change this very significantly so why do it really?


  2. Well, greedy people always want more. The Royal Society seems to be more about perpetuating their old boys club than about advancing science and helping the world. I think they could go another route on this and still bring in enough funds. I wonder what the cost of the security and accounting side of their budget it, which should be counted against the 7%. If they made their content free, they would not have to track accounts, IDs. Then they could focus on making money off of advertising or other things. Then again, given that they seem to be stuck in the pre-industrial revolution, I am not so sure they could figure out how to make money off the internet.


  3. The weird thing here is that the Royal Society doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on if they want to prevent access to 100+ year old papers. None of that is protected by copyright these days (if it ever was; I suspect copyright on scientific journals is a 20th century invention). It almost makes me want to mirror all their old data for free release after their database goes commercial.


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