The government should create a public database to house academic theses and dissertations, lawmakers and academics said on Wednesday, after private database host Airiti was last month accused of changing papers to conform to Chinese censorship rules.
“Taiwan is already 20 years late; we cannot delay any longer,” Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Fan Yun (范雲) told a news conference at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei.
Nearly all of the nation’s academic achievements are only possible through public funding distributed by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Science and Technology, Fan said.
Producers of knowledge have gradually realized that sharing their findings not only benefits everyone involved, but also leads to more breakthroughs, she said.
However, only the National Central Library is tasked with indexing theses, dissertations, journals and citations, and most articles cannot be accessed online, she said, adding that to quickly read an article online, Airiti is the only option.
Knowledge should be public property, she said, citing international practice.
For more than two decades, the “open access” movement has been countering the corporatization of academia by encouraging the free distribution of research results online, she said.
The Airiti incident has given the nation an opportunity to make its academic achievements available to all, Fan said, calling on the ministries to follow the international trend and improve copyright protections by creating an open access database.
“No science should be locked behind paywalls,” DPP Legislator Chuang Ching-cheng (莊競程) said.
Knowledge formation and dissemination is no longer top-down, he said, adding that allowing everyone to access information could improve the review process and advance science.
Opening access would improve Taiwan’s international standing by showing its academic achievements to the world, he added.
The education ministry on Thursday last week found that Airiti had contravened copyright and cross-strait relations law by altering “sensitive” terms in papers available on its Chinese Web site, such as changing all instances of “my country” to “Taiwan,” and asked the company to provide an explanation.
Airiti in a news release on Wednesday denied having a monopoly, saying that most Taiwanese periodicals use non-exclusive licensing and allow free downloads from their Web sites.
The open access movement emerged to combat the monopoly held by periodicals, not by databases, which have no way of monopolizing the industry, it added.
Many top journals require submitting authors to transfer the copyright to them, but this does not happen in the local publishing industry, the firm said.
Airiti also said that it is not the nation’s only database, as there are at least two other companies that provide the same service.
Once a journal licensed by Airiti decides to provide open access, the articles can be read for free on the firm’s international site, it said, adding that 12 percent of the journals on Airiti are open access.
As for the education ministry’s request, Airiti assistant general manager Yang Chang-chun (楊長春) said that the firm would issue a response after it receives a formal notice from the ministry.
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