Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

I just got my student ID which lets me into the library. I can now finally look up citations that the academics throw at me. But more importantly... I have access to Lexis-Nexis. w00t!!

It's a weird feeling. I feel like I'm sitting behind some massive intellectual firewall. I can research all kinds of stuff here, but many of the sources are not online and do not have permalinks. I can blog about them, but many times all I will be able to provide is the "nah nah, I bet your library doesn't have THIS periodical" sort of citation. On the other hand, I guess part of my new job here is to get some of the knowledge out of this institution and into the public...


I hate to rain on your parade Joi, but most of what is on Lexis-Nexis is provided by Gale Group (Thomson) which also makes it available in various forms to public and academic libraries around the world, where patrons get it free. You can confirm this by comparing the lists of journals in the "titles" section. Maybe in Japan it's different, but in the USA 99%+ of public libraries have one or more free databases like this.

Don't forget educational discounts on software!

I've always hated it that most academic material isn't online in some form, but it's changing. The only thing left is to get academics to blog. I might have been the only blogging cognitive scientist.

They have a Bloomberg terminal and a Thomson system too. Also a academic citation system. You're lucky in the US. I don't know of anywhere else in Japan that I can use it conveniently for free...

The increasing copyrighting and locking up of research by journals and academic institutions I find a very disturbing trend. 5 - 10 years ago the Internet contained a wealth of research papers that could be downloaded and read. Now I find it very difficult to find anything more than abstracts with the full content being available to only paying subscribers to various journals etc.

I once calculated that in order to be able to read all of the research from the many fields I study I would now need to spend $50,000 on journal and association subscriptions! Nice business I guess, maybe you should invest? Better still this is a prime area for the creative commons people to "liberate".

Also troubling is the, what i feel is unethical, practice of journals of making the paper authors assign their copyrights to the journal/institution, for the "privilege" of having their research printed. I did not assign the rights to my last paper or add to the paper the copyright notice given to me by the association and it was still presented and printed. Maybe researchers could start a "just say no" campaign backed by the creative commons team?

I have been wanting for some time (if only i had some time) to start a web based blog/rss/wiki type effort to have computational neuroscience researchers work available a. as they are working on it, b. distributed to all interested, c. aggregated by the whole research community into d. a wiki of knowledge on the subject, free to all.

This kind of effort could also encourage more disclosure
from commercial researchers (like myself) through social peer pressure (i.e. putting society before yourself).

Ian - you are so right. And in addition, at least if you are doing research on business use of computing, anything you find in the journals is sure to be at least 3 years out of date, given the review cycle in most journals. Kudos to MIT for hanging out all their working papers, to ACM for making all their stuff freely available for teaching, and to thousands of independent researchers/bloggers/company white papers/etc. who understand that the monetary value of research lies in reputation, not copies.

Incidentally, I make all my stuff available on the web. Always have. The result is that people translate it for their use, and post the translation back to me. Fun!

The "locking up" of journals is indeed a serious problem. One caused by the library databases. Print subscriptions dropped severly when they became available. My local library pays $20,000 a year for access to two databases which have over 20 million articles and citations. From their standpoint it's a bargain, but it also means they don't buy print versions of journals anymore...and library subscriptions used to be essential to such journals' economic survivial. On the other hand, such journals are the biggest copyright thieves around. Even if you retain your copyright they will sell electronic rights and not give you a dime. The cost of suit and the "de minimus" clause give then pretty good shelter and libraries have special protections under the Copyright Act. And you have to register the work before you can go to court. But, if electronic publishing is the future, then they are going to clamp down on the distribution of those rights, just to survive. For people who don't get paid anyway, there is a choice. If publication is essential to your other career, then you look for ways to leverage the articles into other means of compensation. Books, speaking engagements, television appearances, etc.

This has come up before on; see my comment (the second one) at

There is also an organization called '' which tries to get the cooperation of academics to make academic articles freely available:

This is a fantastic idea and deserves support.

I have access to Bloomberg! That's w00t!!! ;-)

Part of the reason that periodicals cost so much money is that the peer review process costs a lot of money - or at least a lot of time by an extremely talented group of people (even if the talent is in a very narrow area.) Limited run publishing (thanks to electronic distribution, runs are becoming more limited all the time) isn't cheap either.

Of course there is also the fact that journals are indeed run for profit, and will go to considerable effort to stay that way. Just because they have cut costs by selling electronic subscriptions doesn't mean they're about to lower their charges.

It's also a captive market - every university has to have a subscription to Science, Social Text etc...

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