Building a Fence at the Loading Dock

It’s bad enough when the science establishment charges for access to the loading dock, but Shelley Batts’ experience is even worse. Intrigued by a paper in The Science of Food, she blogged it, including a graph and data table from the paper. For which sin she was threatened with legal action for violation of copyright. The whole notion of “fair use” under U.S. copyright law is so murky that you should distrust anyone who claims they can actually tell you what it is. But, fair use or not, this is just dumb. (Hat tip Avelino. Loading dock jargon discussed previously here.)

Update: Happy resolution.


  1. Scientists don’t charge for access to the dismissively termed ‘loading dock’, the publishers do – ostensibly to offset operational costs. Your ‘science establishment’, as used here, really just refers to the publishers and noone else. Scientists would rather their material be free, so more people would read it. Those scientists who have a larger say in the publication of material tend to be involved with open access. (See the Directory of Open Access Journals for open journals, many top notch.) Regarding publishing in over-priced journals, see Resilience Science.

  2. Daniel –

    Fair enough, to a point. You’re right that it was a commercial publisher in this case. But I would say two things in response: first, such commercial publishers are, in fact, a central element in the “science establishment”. They make up a big portion of the literature in which science is published. Second, the scientific societies like GSA and AGU and the National Academies, which are also a central element of the scientific establishment, also publish in a closed/pay fashion rather than an open fashion, depending on journal revenue to support their work.

  3. Hi John

    Opening a discussion with a term like “scientific establishment” is unhelpful. It tends to raise the hackles of people who have nothing to do with the matter in question but think maybe they’re being dragged in somehow by such an inclusive, derogatory term. (Where else have I seen this sort of thing criticised, recently?)

    I’m not thrilled about “loading dock” either.

    On the other hand, saying Wiley’s behaviour “just dumb” is fine, IMHO, because this is central to the current argument and Wiley can defend themselves against it, if they want.

    Anyway, I’m sure you’ll be as glad as I am to know that in this case the scientific establishment (sorry, John Wiley & Sons) has backed down and beat a hasty retreat:

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