Stealing Science?

Synchronicity seems to be on my mind a bit lately, for a variety of reasons. As very few people know, I have begun to play with writing what my colleagues might call a “commercial novel.” The protagonist is a retired university researcher who once published an article in a scientific journal that now, for reasons that surprise everyone, suddenly has a great deal of currency, among some very wrong people. The backstory I am playing with is that the nation’s security services are constantly monitoring a variety of data streams, which we know they are. One of those streams is, of course (at least in this version of reality), scholarly/scientific publishing. They are on the lookout for “coincidences” between things appearing in the pages of journals and events in the world. (If you are thinking “shades of _Three Days of the Condor_” I am sure that film played some role in this scenario.)

And so it was with amazement that I read in the _Chronicle of Higher Education_ about [the traffic in illegal access to scholarly and scientific journals][che]. From the article:

> Now on sale in some online marketplaces: cheap, illegal access to SciFinder, an extensive database of scholarly articles and information about chemical compounds run by a division of the American Chemical Society. The sellers are pirates, hawking stolen or leaked SciFinder account information from college students and professors.

> “There are reseller Web sites in China where we’ve purchased access to our own products for pennies on the dollar,” says Michael Dennis, vice president for legal administration and applied research at the Chemical Abstracts Service, the division that publishes SciFinder. “We’re shutting down hundreds of these every couple of months,” he says, though in some cases the publisher has trouble taking effective action against sites in other countries.

> He says sellers use Taobao, a Chinese service similar to eBay, and other online marketplaces to sell SciFinder access, giving buyers hacked user names and passwords and instructions on how to remotely log in to a college Web site so that they appear to be on the campus. The database is popular with companies as well as with academics, though exactly who is buying the access is not clear.