Google Scholar and self-dealing and a tragic example (was Re: Mining)

1 view
Skip to first unread message

Paul D. Fernhout

Apr 28, 2008, 1:47:53 AM4/28/08
mike1937 wrote:
> I'd suggest google scholar for finding NASA stuff, I found some papers
> there that otherwise you have to pay shipping fees to have NASA send
> them to you.

Thanks for the tip:
And more general:
But they seem like typically proprietary results?

Too bad NASA, for example, still seems to make people pay for this classic:

Available online for free here:
"Advanced Automation for Space Missions"
"What follows is a portion of the final report of a NASA summer study,
conducted in 1980 by request of newly- elected President Jimmy Carter at a
cost of 11.7 million dollars. The result of the study was a realistic
proposal for a self-replicating automated lunar factory system, capable of
exponentially increasing productive capacity and, in the long run,
exploration of the entire galaxy within a reasonable timeframe.
Unfortunately, the proposal was quietly declined with barely a ripple in the
press. What was once concievable with 1980's technology is now even more
practical today. Even if you're just skimming through this document, the
potential of this proposed system is undeniable. Please enjoy."

That NASA work, to the best of my knowledge, is in the public domain.
I bought one copy and it "disappeared" at a university, so I bought another.
And that one I still have somewhere(?) -- but the internet version is much
easier to access. :-)
"FATHER: Listen, lad. I built this kingdom up from nothing. When I started
here, all there was was swamp. Other kings said I was daft to build a castle
[OpenVirgle :-)] on a swamp, but I built it all the same, just to show 'em.
It sank into the swamp. So, I built a second one. That sank into the swamp.
So, I built a third one. That burned down, fell over, then sank into the
swamp, but the fourth one... stayed up! And that's what you're gonna get,
lad: the strongest castle [Space Settlement] in these islands."

OSCOMAK (earlier called Stella, after a Countess with a big heart but a
complex past from WWII) was in some ways inspired most by this book:
"Energy Primer: Solar, Water, Wind, and Biofuels"
I came across it as a grad student in the PU engineering library. It was so
well organized -- I kept staring at it and thinking -- there must be someway
to get this on the computer -- all this information in one place, explaining
all this math and physics and chemistry so well.
"This book is filled with ideas and suggestions on how to make use of
alternative energy. The principles in the book are timeless and can be
applied just as well today as in the seventies when the book was printed.
Concepts are communicated with clear diagrams and sketches and there is
something for everybody whether your interest lie in generating power or
looking for different ideas."

A friend later gave me at older 1974 edition copy. If copyright policy was
sane, I could just scan this 34 year old (decaying) book and put in up in
its entirety. But it isn't, so I can't. And the bigger issue isn't sharing
it as is, it is cross linking it with other information, and then making
derived works.

Of course now, thankfully, there is Wikipedia:
Which probably is as good by now (or close).

==== rant on the tragic example of the Portola Institute & self-dealing

But it is sad to me that copyright essentially rendered useless and rotting
and now obsolete a perfectly good textual artifact I could have built on
stigmergically. Worse, and terribly ironically sad, it was developed by the
Portola Institute, a tax exempt non-profit established to encourage
"learning in the world":
And I'm fairly sure that inaccessibility of essential information would be
other than the intent of most of the participants in writing that book.

This is just one more sad example of the legacy of the outdated "subsidy
publishing model" non-profits still engage in with our tax dollars:
In the internet age of essentially free universal distribution, subsidy
publishing is smelling more and more like "self-dealing" through creating
artificial scarcity:
"One of the more current and widely agreed on definitions is from political
scientists Ken Kernaghan and John Langford in their book “The Responsible
Public Servant”. They define self-dealing as “a situation where one takes an
action in an official capacity which involves dealing with oneself in a
private capacity and which confers a benefit on oneself.""

As I see in, the world does not owe any non-profit a living based on past
performance (even if past performance may be indicative of future
performance and so rightfully help in landing more *grants* or *donations*.)
A copyright or a patent is essentially a *past* performance.

Now that the internet makes distribution essentially free, a non-profit
board and staff (including most college *faculty*) decide to sacrifice the
current public interest when they do not release under free licenses the
copyrights and patents they developed in whole or in part from using public
funds (including the simple benefits of tax exemption). They do this to use
revenue from creating artificial scarcity to pay staff salaries and control
the behavior of future employees and *perhaps* make more proprietary works
later to further extend the conversion of public dollars into private
monopolies. Which just propagates the evil as far as I am concerned. Why
should I prefer twice as much non-free content when I could have half that
but all for free and able to make derived works? How is the public well
served by this IMHO outdated dogma? How are the noble people in universities
or non-profits served by not being able to share their hard work with anyone
who wants?

==== conclusion

So, as I see it, that's why Google Scholar, through no fault of Google,
reeks of evil. :-( It mainly just shows me stuff I paid for but still can't
have conveniently and for free (despite the internet).

That said, let's make the most of Google Scholar that we can. :-)

--Paul Fernhout

Reply all
Reply to author
0 new messages