A few weeks ago I attended a panel session at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco called, “Making the Web work for science.” (Video wrap-up here) Really, the focus was on how to get scientists to put their data up on the Web. Later that evening, I attended a post-reception gathering and briefly spoke with (name shall remain anonymous), the founder of a very popular social news media site; sites like Mixx, Digg, Reddit, Slashdot, Del.ic.ious, Stumbleupon, etc. I told him what I do and his enthusiastic response was, “Fuck the academic publishing industry!”
Now, perhaps his bold statement was due, in part, to the flow of alcoholic beverages at the event. There is more to it than that, however. He is not a trained scientist, but as the founder of a popular social news site, is very well aware of the state of science on the Interwebs. Like many people (notice the avoidance of the worn phrase ‘members of the public’ as if they are unable to contribute to science), he has a personal interest in the domain, and is trying to figure out how his business can enable scientists.
We have to wonder though, why are things so bad with science on the Web, that even an Internet entrepreneur recognizes the problem? And who or what is responsible for this mess?
Two groups are responsible: Scientists and, as you can tell, Publishers. Let’s start with the bad guys first, and then talk about the even more guilty party of bad guys.