Activists Mobilize to Fight Censorship and Save Open Science

“Major publishers want to censor research-sharing resource Sci-Hub from the internet, but archivists are quickly responding to make that impossible. 

More than half of academic publishing is controlled by only five publishers. This position is built on the premise that users should pay for access to scientific research, to compensate publishers for their investment in editing, curating, and publishing it. In reality, research is typically submitted and evaluated by scholars without compensation from the publisher. What this model is actually doing is profiting off of a restriction on article access using burdensome paywalls. One project in particular, Sci-Hub, has threatened to break down this barrier by sharing articles without restriction. As a result, publishers are going to every corner of the map to destroy the project and wipe it from the internet. Continuing the long tradition of internet hacktivism, however, redditors are mobilizing to create an uncensorable back-up of Sci-Hub….”

 

Archivists Are Trying To Save Sci-Hub

“Now, people are trying to rescue the site before it’s wiped off the web for good. A collection of data-hoarding redditors have banned together to personally torent each of the 85 million articles currently housed within Sci-Hub’s walls. Ultimately, their goal is to make a fully open-source library that anyone can access, but nobody can take down….”

“Free libraries for the free people”: How mass-literature “shadow” libraries circumvent digital barriers and redefine legality in contemporary Russia | First Monday

Abstract:  Shadow mass-literature online libraries in Russia developed during the early Post-Soviet years. They are a phenomenon rooted in both the practice of circumventing constraints caused by state censorship, and a book production process of insufficient quality. Since the fall of the USSR, Russian legislation has aligned itself with international standards, adopting their strictest instantiation. In 2013, “anti-piracy” legislation made “information intermediaries” responsible for illegal content, introduced an “eternal” blocking of sites, made pre-trial negotiations more difficult. Successive amendments have sought to respond to the circumvention tactics developed by shadow libraries. In this context, for a library which is not part of the book market, remaining in the legal realm means freezing its own content or becoming a self-publishing platform. Libraries that become illegal have to ensure the sustainability and growth of their collections by multiplying their dissemination means, to provide personal security to administrators through a “safe” geographical location or strict anonymity, and to guarantee an access to their collections on the Russian Federation territory through inventive circumvention techniques. They leave the public struggle against state and industry regulation of the Internet to digital rights advocates, and promote a particular vision of “freedom” anchored in the mastery of technical tools and in uncensored cultural practices.

 

Poland’s ‘legislation’ of Holocaust history vs. Netherlands’ open-access archive | The Times of Israel

“When historians seek to research what Dutch citizens did during Nazi Germany’s occupation of the Netherlands, they have access to a stack of files that’s taller than the National Mall in Washington, DC.

Twenty years ago, those files of the “Central Archive of Special Jurisdiction” were deposited at the Dutch National Archives in The Hague. Suddenly, 300,000 case files on Dutch citizens suspected of having collaborated with Nazis were made available to everyone….

The climate in the Netherlands differs sharply from an allegedly “research-muzzling” atmosphere in Poland. On February 9, a district court ordered prominent Holocaust historians Jan Grabowski and Barbara Engelking to apologize to a woman who claimed the scholars slandered her deceased uncle….

In Poland, research into the Holocaust has become a lightning rod since the Law and Justice party was elected in 2015. Simultaneously, the digitization of the Netherlands’ “special jurisdiction” archive has helped researchers piece together a diverse mosaic of Dutch citizens’ wartime behavior….

Poland has its own version of the “Central Archive of Special Jurisdiction.” In 1989, files from the communist-era security services became available to the public, including those related to Nazi collaborators….

According to Grabowski, Poland’s “History Laws” are intended to “defend the good name of the Polish nation.” Any claims that Poland bore responsibility for the Holocaust are now criminalized, despite the historian’s documentation that 200,000 Jews were murdered by their Polish neighbors….”

Transparent scientific reporting is imperative during the pandemic: Pathogens and Global Health: Vol 0, No 0

Abstract:  The coronavirus pandemic has exposed not only the lack of preparation to combat the deadly disease, but also the nature of response by governments worldwide. This article analyses how some governments suppress science reporting in the Asia Pacific region during the pandemic. It also highlights how the political interference in science undermines liability and openness leading to the lack of freedom to express facts honestly.

 

Labour of Love: An Open Access Manifesto for Freedom, Integrity, and Creativity in the Humanities and Interpretive Social Sciences · Commonplace

“The undersigned are a group of scholar-publishers based in the humanities and social sciences who are questioning the fairness and scientific tenability of a system of scholarly communication dominated by large commercial publishers. With this manifesto we wish to repoliticise Open Access to challenge existing rapacious practices in academic publishing—namely, often invisible and unremunerated labour, toxic hierarchies of academic prestige, and a bureaucratic ethos that stifles experimentation—and to bear witness to the indifference they are predicated upon….

What can we, as researchers, do? We can reinvigorate ties with journals published by scholarly societies. We can act creatively to reclaim ownership over the free labour that we mindlessly offer to commercial actors. We can conjure digital infrastructures (think of platforms from OJS to Janeway, PubPub, and beyond) that operate in the service of the knowledge commons. Scholar-led OA publishing has the power to bypass gatekeeping institutions, bridge the knowledge gap produced by commercially driven censorship, and provide support to homegrown digital activism in countries where access to scholarship is restricted. All of this, without neglecting scholarly institutions such as a constructive peer review process or other forms of consensus-building and quality assurance proper to the humanities and interpretive social sciences….”

Silencing Science Tracker | Sabin Center for Climate Change Law

“The Silencing Science Tracker is a joint initiative of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law and the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund. It tracks government attempts to restrict or prohibit scientific research, education or discussion, or the publication or use of scientific information, since the November 2016 election. Read more about the tracker and related resources….”

Covid-19 data is a public good. The US government must start treating it like one. | MIT Technology Review

“Earlier this week as a pandemic raged across the United States, residents were cut off from the only publicly available source of aggregated data on the nation’s intensive care and hospital bed capacity. When the Trump administration stripped the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of control over coronavirus data, it also took that information away from the public….”

States Are Suspending Public Records Access Due to COVID-19 – The Markup

“On March 4, Hawaii had no confirmed cases of COVID-19, but officials had started to take action in anticipation of an outbreak. Gov. David Ige declared a state of emergency, giving him the authority  to “suspend any law that impedes … emergency functions.” By the 16th, the outbreak had arrived: The state had 10 confirmed cases, and Ige began to act on that declaration. 

Among the statutes he suspended was Chapter 92F of something called “the uniform information practices act.” It was easy for a layperson to miss, but the change effectively blocked requests for public records in the state for the duration of the emergency. 

Hawaii is among several jurisdictions around the country that have amended or suspended access to public records as the coronavirus spreads. Governors are taking emergency action in some states, ordering changes to public records compliance during the crisis. Other states and municipalities have made legislative changes to their laws. But government-transparency advocates argue that in a time of crisis, access to public records is even more important. …”

Chinese state censorship of COVID-19 research represents a looming crisis for academic publishers | Impact of Social Sciences

“Issues of censorship surrounding the publication of scholarly research in China have been prominent since a series of press reports and publisher statements revealed that works had been removed from circulation that were deemed sensitive by Chinese buyers. As George Cooper observes, evidence that Chinese authorities are conducting pre-publication vetting of COVID-19 related research, raises new challenges for publishers seeking to distribute open access research papers on this subject, as there is little ground for publishers to remove these papers from their platforms. As publisher commitments to openness collide with their obligations to operate within the legal frameworks of the countries they operate in, it is argued that COVID-19 presages an overdue discussion on the limits of openness in publishing….

It remains to be seen whether Open Access articles will escape these restrictions, as they’re disseminated freely and therefore not subject to laws, in China, restricting the sale of publications. But equally, state authorities such as the General Administration of Press and Publications could threaten publishers, as they have before, with a ban on the import of their entire output in China, unless suitable amendments are made to their Chinese-language platforms. An unexplored consequence of forcing publishers to comply with censorship demands in the case of Open Access research is that the less censorious route – refusing to make amendments to the content of journals, prompting importers to remove journals from circulation instead – would not be available. Publishers would be confronted with a binary choice: remove ‘sensitive’ Open Access articles from their Chinese platforms, or risk huge losses of revenues and access for their entire published output….”

Chinese state censorship of COVID-19 research represents a looming crisis for academic publishers | Impact of Social Sciences

“Issues of censorship surrounding the publication of scholarly research in China have been prominent since a series of press reports and publisher statements revealed that works had been removed from circulation that were deemed sensitive by Chinese buyers. As George Cooper observes, evidence that Chinese authorities are conducting pre-publication vetting of COVID-19 related research, raises new challenges for publishers seeking to distribute open access research papers on this subject, as there is little ground for publishers to remove these papers from their platforms. As publisher commitments to openness collide with their obligations to operate within the legal frameworks of the countries they operate in, it is argued that COVID-19 presages an overdue discussion on the limits of openness in publishing….

It remains to be seen whether Open Access articles will escape these restrictions, as they’re disseminated freely and therefore not subject to laws, in China, restricting the sale of publications. But equally, state authorities such as the General Administration of Press and Publications could threaten publishers, as they have before, with a ban on the import of their entire output in China, unless suitable amendments are made to their Chinese-language platforms. An unexplored consequence of forcing publishers to comply with censorship demands in the case of Open Access research is that the less censorious route – refusing to make amendments to the content of journals, prompting importers to remove journals from circulation instead – would not be available. Publishers would be confronted with a binary choice: remove ‘sensitive’ Open Access articles from their Chinese platforms, or risk huge losses of revenues and access for their entire published output….”

Career Employees Allege EPA Leaders Silenced Them on Key Deregulation Effort – Government Executive

“The Environmental Protection Agency suppressed the work of its career employees and dismissed legitimate science in taking a key deregulatory action, dozens of former and current employees have alleged. The employees are asking investigators to discipline the top officials responsible. 

The complaint, issued by the nonprofit advocacy group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, concerned orders from EPA’s top brass during its process of repealing the Waters of the United States rule implemented during the Obama administration. The current and former employees, made up mostly of EPA staff but also of Army Corps of Engineers and Fish and Wildlife Service workers, called on the EPA inspector general and scientific integrity officer to launch investigations and hold the political appointees accountable. They named EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler and a half-dozen top officials in the agency’s offices of Water and General Counsel in their complaint. …

Inquiries at EPA’s Science Integrity Office have spiked under the Trump administration. Employees at agencies like EPA, NASA, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have previously told Government Executive they are facing unprecedented interference from political leadership, including rollbacks of previous work and meddling in research. Scientists reported being left out of key meetings, feeling fearful in their offices and a general sense of low morale. A Union of Concerned Scientists survey in 2018 found federal employees felt stymied by censorship and interference from political appointees, including 50% who said political considerations were hindering agencies’ ability to make science-based decisions….”

Career Employees Allege EPA Leaders Silenced Them on Key Deregulation Effort – Government Executive

“The Environmental Protection Agency suppressed the work of its career employees and dismissed legitimate science in taking a key deregulatory action, dozens of former and current employees have alleged. The employees are asking investigators to discipline the top officials responsible. 

The complaint, issued by the nonprofit advocacy group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, concerned orders from EPA’s top brass during its process of repealing the Waters of the United States rule implemented during the Obama administration. The current and former employees, made up mostly of EPA staff but also of Army Corps of Engineers and Fish and Wildlife Service workers, called on the EPA inspector general and scientific integrity officer to launch investigations and hold the political appointees accountable. They named EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler and a half-dozen top officials in the agency’s offices of Water and General Counsel in their complaint. …

Inquiries at EPA’s Science Integrity Office have spiked under the Trump administration. Employees at agencies like EPA, NASA, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have previously told Government Executive they are facing unprecedented interference from political leadership, including rollbacks of previous work and meddling in research. Scientists reported being left out of key meetings, feeling fearful in their offices and a general sense of low morale. A Union of Concerned Scientists survey in 2018 found federal employees felt stymied by censorship and interference from political appointees, including 50% who said political considerations were hindering agencies’ ability to make science-based decisions….”