Thursday, October 29, 2009

Med students hoist P2P Jolly Roger to get access to papers; TechDirt, 10/29/09

John Timmer, Ars Technica; Med students hoist P2P Jolly Roger to get access to papers:

Med students hoist P2P Jolly Roger to get access to papers

"The ease with which information can be spread through the Internet has exacerbated tensions among those who pay for, conduct, and publish scientific research. Many journals still require subscription or per-article payments for access to the research they publish, which often leaves the public, who funds a significant percentage of the research, on the wrong side of a pay wall. So far, however, there's been little evidence that the public has been interested enough in research to engage in the sort of widespread file-sharing that plague other content industries. But a new study suggests that may just be because nobody's looked very carefully.

The study, which was spotted by TechDirt, appears in an open-access journal, so anyone can read its entire contents. It describes the sharing of over 5,000 research papers on a site frequented by medical professionals, and the formal community rules that governed the exchange.

During the six months in 2008 that the author tracked the activity on the site, which was a discussion board focused on medical fields, it had over 125,000 registered users. Anyone could start an account, but many of the fora were focused on specific issues, such as those faced by nurses and residents. In addition to those, however, there was a section called the Electronic Library that contained a forum called "Databases & Journals—Requests and Enquiries."

Up to three times a day, users were allowed to submit a request for a published research article, accompanied by a link to the free abstract hosted at the journal's website. Other users would then download the full article and host it somewhere, providing a link in the discussion. If everything was set up properly, the site would track the number of downloads.

Over the course of six months, over 6,500 articles were requested, and over 80 percent of those requests were successfully filled."

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