Thursday, April 26, 2007


Wile E. Publishing

Some commentors over at Shelley Batts blog have asked whether there is -- or should be -- a jump-on-the-bandwagon, mob mentality of going after John Wiley & Sons for its heavy-handed treatment of Shelley's use of a single figure from a scientific article in one of its publications.

What I think has brought out the pitchforks and torches is the manner in which Wiley & Sons handled it. Wiley had an easy and utterly inexpensive way to monitor the situation. Shelley wasn't surreptitiously printing up something in her basement for sale on the black market. What she was doing was right out there in the open, a couple of clicks on a computer away. Furthermore, it cost Wiley nothing but a few electrons to address the matter in email. Nor was there any danger that the great public stampede to buy this journal was going to be stemmed by the copying of one small part of it in a blog post that probably doubled the world's awareness of this rag the moment it went up.

There was no need to start off with threats about lawyers. This sort of corporate/bureaucratic mentality of squashing anyone or anything in their way deserves a little prod and singe. They are trying to sell a product to us and we are well within our rights as consumers to tell them we don't like it.

And we have a duty, if we want to live in a society free of this sort of bullying, to let them know we don't like it in no uncertain terms.
Update: Shelly has received the following "official response" in an email from the Society of Chemical Industry which publishes the Journal in partnership with Wiley:
"We apologise for any misunderstanding. In this situation the publisher would typically grant permission on request in order to ensure that figures and extracts are properly credited. We do not think there is any need to pursue this matter further."

Although there was a more than a little mealy-mouth in the attempt to blame this incident on "a junior member of staff," I think that is about as good an admission of error as could be expected from the corporate types. It should also be a lesson learned for them ... at least for a while.

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