Who are the real pirates in academic publishing? | Letters

Readers respond to George Monbiot’s article on the global scientific publishing industry

I would like to thank both the Guardian and George Monbiot for pointing out to the public what academics like myself have known for a long time (Those who set knowledge free are heroes, not thieves, 13 September). Living and working in Argentina, where every local scientific journal in my field is open-access, and where our public universities and libraries don’t usually have the resources to pay the phenomenally expensive rates that major publishers would like to extort from them, my colleagues and I have long developed a lively pirate approach. No one pays for an article. We aren’t paid enough to justify the expense. If it can’t be hacked, we ask colleagues doing a residency in some first world university to get it for us. If that can’t be done, we simply ignore the article.

As time goes by, I’ve realised that if I want my research to be widely read by my Latin American colleagues (and, I should imagine, by other researchers in the developing world – which means, all in all, most of my colleagues) and have a true impact, and not just an impact factor, the only way to go is to publish it in an open-access journal. I’d love to see the measures you have outlined to take effect. My country’s budget has paid for my education, my salary and my research projects, while ineffectually attempting to take care of the 30% of its population which falls under the poverty line. In those circumstances, privatising the results should be considered criminal.
Dr Paula Seiguer
Conicet, University of Buenos Aires

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