The Knowledge Aristocracy


One of the greatest adversities I faced are what are called scientific paywalls. And, you see, ninety percent of all scientific articles are locked tightly behind these paywalls. And that means when you want to read them, you have to cough up thirty-five dollars. And it might not even have to do with your research.

Because, think, if a fifteen-year-old who didn’t quite know what a pancreas was could find a new way to detect pancreatic cancer, just imagine what we all could do, together.




Filed under Friction, Video

11 responses to “The Knowledge Aristocracy

  1. The most disgusting thing is that the authors, reviewers and editors don’t get paid anything and sometimes even have to pay a fee to publish. They do this mainly for bragging rights (aka something to show at a job interview) Fortunately if you’re a student or alumni at a university you can get some articles of these for free.

  2. Spimx

    It is a big problem and fortunately there are already relatively long-standing alternatives in the Open Access (OA) movement like PLOS.
    It’s definitely helpful that some of the world’s biggest and most respectful Institutes decided to lead the way and come on board, like the Max Planck Society.
    Also, last Nov, The Gates Foundation released a statement informing that all research even partially funded by them will have to be OA.

    There are good alternatives to closed access journals, alternatives that work and the crucial part of this transformation is the sharing of compelling stories like the one above. So thanks for being part of this change, Mike. ;)

  3. kahvigirl

    Mr. Burnin beat me to pointing out that researchers often don’t get (free) access to their own work. A lot of this research is published with public funds, making the publishers’ little racket even more noxious. #Fuckcancer indeed; cancer has run rampant in my family; my own recent diagnosis shouldn’t have come as a surprise, but the type of cancer did.

  4. Mike, you know that I believe that knowledge should be available to everyone and that I am enthusiastic about open education and library initiatives. I’m also a practicing advocate of skeptical inquiry. Did you catch Jack Andraka’s reference to his “patent-pending sensor” at time code 8:15? That and some hyperbole about people who can’t pay for online journal articles, triggered my skeptical sub-routines.

    A quick search turned up some less-than-glowing criticism of this story, as well as the text of the patent application, which has now been published.

    This plea to tear down the knowledge aristocracy seems a bit hypocritical coming from someone who rushed out to patent his “invention.” So much for making sure that doctors will be able to freely use the device to diagnose people.

    Worse, several articles seem to suggest that the results of Andraka’s project were not nearly as conclusive as they had been hyped up to be and that a reliable diagnostic test based on them is years away, if it would even work at all. Links here and here. I haven’t found a more recent analysis, so I’m not sure where this stands.

    I’d really like to believe that a 15-year-old kid found a way to revolutionize cancer diagnostics and that he’s not only a champion of open knowledge but has the conviction to make sure that anyone anywhere in the world could benefit from his discovery. Unfortunately, I’m not sure the evidence supports either statement.

    • I can forgive his patenting his invention because that’s just how this goddammed world now works. We both know there are things that have been patented by tech companies that they allow others to use royalty-free. They take out the patent so that *they* aren’t caught short and have to pay bastards like Nathan Myhrvold and his group of crooks royalties for things they sat around and dreamt up and have absolutely no intention of bringing to market. I think you’ll understand that I don’t have time now to read into your links so this will be an open issue between us for later.

      • I understand. It did occur to me that maybe his intention was to patent it so that no one else could, however he could simply have simply published all the details in a scientific paper. Such a publication could have been used as prior art to prevent someone else from getting a patent. True, it might have taken longer to publish that way, giving time for someone else to patent the invention before the publication, but there are ways around that. That he does not seem to have paid the fees for the PCT application could support your argument, but he still has a few months to pay them before the application is considered to be withdrawn.

        OTOH, if his intention was really to prevent someone else from patenting it, why didn’t he say so? And if he really wanted the invention to be available to anyone, why didn’t he publish all the details right away?

      • I don’t think the Prior Art thing holds up anymore. Better to defensively patent against all the parasitic bastards out there to be safe and sure.

      • Absolutely, it does. The patent offices are also making it easy and cheap for third parties to submit invalidating prior art during the examination process.

      • It didn’t work with Samsung’s defense showing a still from 2001 to claim the iPad design was Prior Arted by Kubrick!

      • I don’t know the details about that incident, but having recently participated in several successful patent oppositions, I assure you, it does work if you have solid evidence and know what you’re doing.

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