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Libraries concerned publishers are hampering access to papers

‘Right to mine’ text and data reportedly being stymied, despite legal protections

Scholarly publishers are preventing researchers from analysing text and data from academic papers to which they should have access, a survey by the Association of European Research Libraries (Liber) has found.

The survey, which remains open, seeks examples of publishers using technical prevention measures to stop academics performing computational analysis, called text and data mining.

Respondents so far from Austria, France, Germany, Spain, the UK and the United States said publishers had taken steps including cutting off entire campuses from subscription content in response to researchers carrying out TDM.

Access to content had been been blocked for between 24 hours and 2.5 months, Liber reported on 10 March. Some publishers threatened to cut off access unless TDM was stopped, while others limited downloads to single documents, it said.

“Liber is concerned about the potential for technical prevention measures to impede research,” the association said. “We feel lock-outs are too frequent, take too long to resolve and—even when a single case is addressed—leave access for universities and their users uncertain.”

The association said it was “unacceptable that a university paying potentially hundreds of thousands of euros in annual licence fees…risks waiting months to be reconnected”.

EU laws granting researchers permission to carry out TDM were passed in 2019, and are due to come into force in 2021. But the laws allow publishers to use “necessary” measures to protect the “security and integrity” of their networks and databases.

Liber called on national governments to ensure that publisher lockouts last no longer than 72 hours. It warned academics could access content illegally if their rights are not upheld.