Paywalls – A Gateway to Science – Science Success
lterrat's bookmarks 2017-05-25
"There are 'back door' methods to dealing with paywalls when it comes to citations. Generally, you can infer something about what an article says based only on a publicly-available abstract or based on how it is cited in other papers. It is possible (depending on the project) to write an entire article or proposal without ever fully reading (or even skimming) any of the papers you cite. I do not recommend doing this for several reasons:
- Many authors are not well trained on how to write effective abstracts, so the abstracts are less than useful. Sometimes, abstracts will make a claim that is not well supported in the article (or well supported by the data).
- So many papers are cited incorrectly in other papers! I’ve asked several people who have incorrectly cited papers where / how they got the citation, and they openly admitted that “this is how X cites that paper”. In other words, you cannot necessarily rely upon the author of an article to correctly cite another article, and by repeating their sins you are perpetuating the problem of incorrect citation.
- You can generally not evaluate the claims in papers based only on their abstracts. You need to read through and evaluate the methods, then analyze and evaluate the data, then follow along with the author’s arguments to truly understand and evaluate them.
There are also illegal methods to obtaining scientific papers. There is an increasingly active scientific 'black market' in which scientists share their own (and others) publications in conscious violation of copyright agreements. Again, I cannot and do not condone this behavior. Doing this is violating a legally-binding agreement you have made with a publisher. If you are violating ethics to do this, how am I supposed to trust your scientific results? How can I trust that your research was done in an ethical, responsible manner?
There are also gateways to scientific publications. I’ve gotten reviews back from people requesting (i.e. demanding) that I cite specific articles (probably the reviewer’s articles). Lo and behold, those articles are behind a paywall! I have no problem at least considering adding citations during the review process. Often, they are relevant papers that add to the value of the resulting publication. But I’m not going to do that without reading and evaluating those papers first, and I’m not going to read the paper if I have to shell out $50 from my own pocket to do so. Publication fees (which I support 100%) are often sufficiently substantial that I’m not going to want to put out additional money just to read an article that might or might not be relevant."