Could India Be The Crucial Battleground For Open Access To Scientific Research?

One of the hottest topics in the world of scientific publishing over the last couple of decades has been the growing pressure to release the fruits of public-funded scientific research from the paywalled clutches of commercial publishers. This week comes news of a new front in this ongoing battle, as a group of Indian researchers have filed an intervention application with the help of the Indian Internet Freedom Foundation in a case that involves the publishers Elsevier, Wiley, and the American Chemical Society who have filed a copyright infringement suit against in the Delhi High Court against the LibGen & Sci-Hub shadow library websites.

The researchers all come from the field of social sciences, and they hope to halt moves to block the websites by demonstrating their importance to research in India in the light of unsustainable pricing for Indian researchers. Furthermore they intend to demonstrate a right of access for researchers and teachers under Indian law, thus undermining the legal standing of the original claim.

We’re not qualified to pass comment on matters of Indian law here at Hackaday, but we feel this will be a case worth watching for anyone worldwide with an interest in open access to research papers. If it can be established that open access shadow libraries can be legal in a country the size of India, then it may bring to an end the somewhat absurd game of legal whack-a-mole that has raged over the last decade between the sites on their untouchable Russian servers and heavy-handed academic publishers who perhaps haven’t moved on from their paper publishing past. It’s time for a fresh start with the way academic publishing works, and maybe this will provide the impetus for that to happen.

For those wondering what the fuss is about, we’ve looked at the issue in the past.

Indian flag image: © Yann Forget / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA.

16 thoughts on “Could India Be The Crucial Battleground For Open Access To Scientific Research?

  1. The same sort of case can and should be made for access to standards and specifications documents. IEEE and ISO standards are cited as requirements in government procurements. There are laws which cite these specs. Want to find out what these standards entail? Get out your checkbook. It costs hundreds per document. Libraries? Not in my library system. I’ve tried to get ISO spec documents via interlibrary loan from other libraries. Never succeeded.

      1. If you’re a legitimate business, you should be able to foot the bill. Write it off as a business expense. I’m not defending the rapacious cost of many of the materials, but standards bodies do not exist in a vacuum, they have bills to pay, just like any other company.

        1. I worked for a fortune 500 company that would not subscribe to IEEE standards. Costs thousands/year. As an independent consultant/engineer/inventor I can’t afford it either. These standards are often written and reviewed by members who are being paid by their own employers and the government. IEEE does not pay to have these standards written. I would pay reasonable publishing costs, like any book. I will not pay hundreds or thousands for one standard document.

        2. From Wikipedia:

          ISO is funded by a combination of:[19]
          * Organizations that manage the specific projects or loan experts to participate in the technical work
          * Subscriptions from member bodies, whose subscriptions are in proportion to each country’s gross national product and trade figures
          * Sale of standards

          ISO documents have strict copyright restrictions and ISO charges for most copies. As of 2020, the typical cost of a copy of an ISO standard is about US$120 or more (and electronic copies typically have a single-user license, so they cannot be shared among groups of people).[22] Some standards by ISO and its official U.S. representative (and, via the U.S. National Committee, the International Electrotechnical Commission) are made freely available.[23][24]

          So, every country and company that wants to have any involvement in ISO standards have to pay.
          Then, when a standard is made, all the countries, companies and private persons who want to use the said standards – have to pay.

          In my book, that’s a legalized monopoly which extorts money from all sides.

        3. In the USA the majority of the content is created by volunteers; one has a 5th Avenue address in New York City. If they have expenses it’s for lobbying to make sure there are no competitors. Those volunteers? Many are from organizations looking to keep out competitors or consultants who need to make them complicated and inaccessible to make sure they can keep consulting.

  2. I don’t have an opinion on this article per se, but do feel the need to point out that (in 2018 at least) India topped the list of countries with the most internet shutdowns:
    Plenty of similar links like those for one to google.

  3. We got stonewalled by this problem while building our M19O2 open source Oxygen Concentrators here in India. The ISO/IEC standard for Oxygen Concentrators costs $$$$$ , so we dropped the idea of a full certification and opted to get just a few vanilla tests done on our machine.

  4. “They have bills to pay”

    Oh, yeah. Most of the work in the standards bodies is either academic or done by people on some interested company’s payroll. The income through “selling” copies of the standard usually makes a fraction of those bodies’ incomes (ISTR some 30%).

    Standards should be public infrastructure, and thus publicly accessible. No tricks like “RND” or something. Just equal access to everyone. That means (these days) basically for free, given the enormous differences in disposable income across the world.

    It _can_ be done completely for free, as the utterly successful RFC process testifies.

    I rather have the impression that this is the perverted outcome of some market-radical fairy tale gone haywire.

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