Access to published research for any interested party would seem a good thing. In general, the point of research is to improve understanding. Sometimes this improved understanding could result in what most would regard as practical benefits. Some assert that citizens are being denied access to findings that might be beneficial. This situation occurs when citizens cannot afford the cost of access as expected by publishers. The scholars are caught in the middle of this situations. Faculty publish to get their findings to peers and meet performance standards that are typically part of the tenure process and a necessary step in obtaining external funding. The publishers require payment and claim they must charge substantial sums because few purchase scholarly content.
It is not my intent to evaluate these various claims. I am not in a position to do so. I do know that universities may have to pay thousands to have access to certain journals, but I also know that scholars can access these journals electronically and citizens can often access these journals by going to the library.
Technology is often described as a disruptive force. I think I have encountered an effort to disrupt academic publishing.
A couple of weeks ago I received an email from an individual through ResearchGate . The email asked that I send a copy of one of publications to this individual. I was traveling at the time and so was unable to respond. A week or so later I received a second email indicating that I had yet to respond to the first request.
Sending “reprints” is not something I have done in a long time. When you published in the old days, the journal would send the author a hundred or so copies of the article. The article in the journal contained your address and individuals who might have to read the article in the library could then send you a card and ask for a copy of the article they could keep. Later with “xerox” machines in libraries and then online access of journals allowing pdf downloads, the reprint was mostly discontinued.
I did eventually download a reprint and intended to send it as an email reply. When I selected the link in the request rather than a simple way to send the file, I was asked to create a profile page. At this point, I became annoyed and ended my involvement. I have since received a request to complete the profile. I did not reach the point at which I could provide the reprint and now I am part of some database of academics.
I became curious about Research Gate because their approach seemed unnecessary. Anyone interested in a publication should be able to download it without my cooperation and Research Gate would not have had to require my personal information if the goal was simply to forward a file. Wikipedia confirmed some of these impressions. Evidently others also have concern about the organizations “recruitment” techniques.
I am uncertain regarding the appropriateness of the organization’s purpose. Whatever the intent, the methods of building a database of participants lacks transparency.