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One small step for Nature..to make all research papers free online

Jon Tennant

One small step for Nature.. Jon Tennant December 3, 2014 

Macmillan have released an interesting press release, announcing that all research papers published in their 49 Nature Publishing Group (NPG) journals, including Nature, will be made free to read online, via one of Digital Science’s pet projects, ReadCube (note that Digital Science is also owned by Macmillan). These articles can be annotated in ReadCube, but not copied, printed, or downloaded.

This is not open access*, and NPG have been very careful and explicit about stating this.



What is the reason for this move, then, when we have a globally shifting environment towards open access? Well, academics love to break rules. We share papers freely, and often illegally, with our colleagues all the time. It’s a sort of passive rebellion against paywall-based publishers. A great example of this is #icanhazpdf on Twitter, whereby articles are requested, and then hopefully shared privately by someone else. This kind of activity is what NPG are calling ‘dark social’, like some terrible name for an evil media organisation. By this, they simply mean sharing, but out of their control. This new initiative seems to be a way of controlling, and legitimising this sort of ‘peer-to-peer’ practice.

Now, read-only versions of articles can be shared via special links for each article. Ross Mounce has called this ‘Beggar Access’ – you have to ask colleagues for access. Importantly, this still means that you need access to the articles in the first place (personal access or via an institution), but you are then free to share these articles, as long as they are viewed in ReadCube. John Wilbanks is rightly cynical about this, calling it “the canonization of a system that privileges the wealthy academic.” The work is still paywalled, in the sense that you need a subscription in the first place to access it. The canonization aspect of this is that now, NPG are broadening their reach into how articles are shared and used.


the full text is here: One small step for Nature.. Jon Tennant December 3, 2014 

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