Ithaka S+R’s Roger Schonfeld, in a Scholary Kitchen post on the publishing oligopolists’ new “GetFTR” initiative:

Backed by the American Chemical Society, Elsevier, Springer Nature, Taylor & Francis, and Wiley, GetFTR has two components. First, it enables the discovery service to indicate whether the article full text is available to the user before clicking on a link to the publisher page and if so to link directly to it.

And then step two, which calls on the aptly named “SeamlessAccess” service:

It requires that a user has disclosed their institutional affiliation through the SeamlessAccess.Org “Where Are You From” service, which in turn stores the affiliation information locally on their browser.

Step three:

The user’s institutional affiliation is sent along with the article DOI to a service which then queries the appropriate publisher to determine whether the individual should be entitled to access the article.

And on to step four (“seamlessly” again):

This should take place seamlessly in the background as a list of search results is loading. The user will see, in a list of search results, clear information such as a green or red button, on whether they will be able to access the full text of each article prior to clicking on the link to it.

Why not atep five?

A user who then clicks on the link will be taken to their institutional login or directly to the article without any intermediate pages if they are already logged in during the current session.

This is, of course, dead on arrival. It’s a laughably creaky and friction-filled effort to remove the, well, friction from the current, usurious paywalled system.

There’s a late-1990s music-industry desperation to it, in a world where Sci-Hub and LibGen have growing traction. The publishing industry’s extortionate behavior has been so egregious that many of us support piracy sites on moral grounds. A GetFTR button—one that, in effect, makes it simpler to get to a blocked-access $35 article landing page—won’t slow that Robin Hood dynamic one wit.

A couple of other observations:

  • The splashy Scholarly Kitchen announcement came on the same day, fittingly, as this Vice post on efforts to boost LibGen’s reliability.
  • The GetFTR piece, down to its closing recommendation that the oligopolists develop a soup-to-nuts proprietary identity system, is written from the industry’s point of view, unabashedly. Roger Schonfeld, an especially sharp analyst based at the indispensable nonprofit Ithaka S+R, has written what reads like an industry press release, with the only real dissent issued in the form of a plea for the closed-access industry to go deeper still. Head-scratching.
  • ResearchGate, the venture-backed for-profit social network, is repeatedly called out in the piece—and rightly so. But the whole post is weirdly silent on the wider nonprofit open-access publishing ecosystem—parts of which Ithaka S+R supports.
  • Chemists, especially U.S.-based ones, should be up in arms over the behavior of the American Chemical Society. The ACS is, on the one hand, a useful idiot for the 37 percenters—a nominally nonprofit partner that lends a veneer of legitimacy to otherwise naked profit-protection schemes. The ACS is also the poster-child for the tail wagging the dog—a scholarly society inverting its mission to advance scholarship in the interests of closed-access publishing revenues.