Happy new year! Here’s an interesting bit of news to start off 2017. An article in Science magazine 6 Jan 2017 describes how hundreds of universities, technical schools and research institutes and public libraries in Germany will be starting the new year without access to Elsevier’s 2000 plus academic journals. This came about as the negotiations over the renewal of a nationwide agreement came to a standstill in December.
That must be quite some agreement (or disagreement as it turns out). But it’s not all about the large cost involved. Germany was also asking that all papers by German authors be made open access, and for greater transparency of pricing, which Elsevier strongly opposed.
Some organisations will still have access to archived papers, but how will this affect the quality of their research? And I wonder how Germany’s yet-to-come negotiations with other major publishers, Wiley and Springer Nature, will go?
Tick, tick, tick…the lack of time
How crucial is this? I wonder. How much time do you have for searching and reading? How much can you take in? How much do you need to know? You don’t want to miss anything significant, but what level of absolute coverage do you strive for, have time for? How much time do you as a researcher have, in reality, to read and digest numerous papers in full when access is available? Perhaps having to be a little more circumspect about what to read isn’t all bad. It is a value judgement: when is enough, good enough?
Anyway, I don’t think I’d be panicking. What options remain? Happily, quite a lot. German researchers will still be able search widely and still search Elsevier via the ScienceDirect platform. They can switch to pay-as-you-go downloading for papers required, although they may need to be a little more selective. They can use Google scholar, Deepdyve and other similar sites. Finally, they could also turn outlaw and go down the illegal route and use the (still surviving, nay thriving) Sci-Hub as the Science article also notes. ResearchGate also offers a very useful option, plus you can contact the author if you have questions.
No one wants to miss an important advance, but I notice, especially in the corporate world, time is precious and very limited for carrying out extensive reading of academic papers, (even if the papers were all free). Moreover, many of the strong results will only be brought back through good searching and this can require lateral thinking and a nuanced approach. A good example of this is covered in a recent article in Online Searcher:Search Strategies for Large Document Searching which gives you a good idea of how easy it is to miss something relevant, even when using the right keywords.
I love this sort of article, it gets my geeky side very excited. Perhaps this is because I still believe that while losing access to a particular source is certainly disruptive, a poor search technique can be even more so.