Scholarly Information Access in Carbon Dating Webcomic

One of my favorite online comics is Carbon Dating, which follows the adventures of Rob, who just got out of graduate school. From the About page: the main character “Rob, a fledgling science journalist, is attempting to navigate the awkward demands of geek courtship and the pseudoscience claims of his closest friends.” Sometimes these demands include doing some research on the Deep Web (Wikipedia), beyond the reach of Google or Bing.

In a recent story arc, Rob discovers that his information access has changed as a result of graduating.

Carbon Dating 173: "Scholastical" by Kyle Sanders

Carbon Dating #173: “Scholastical” by Kyle Sanders (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

This is a problem encountered often by recent graduates, who often find themselves reaching out to their friends and colleagues who are still in academia.

Carbon Dating by Kyle Sanders

Carbon Dating #174: “Out of Touch” by Kyle Sanders and Elisa Wikey (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

If that doesn’t work, many researchers give up or, more entertainingly, resort to desperate measures…


Carbon Dating #175: “Extortion” by Kyle Sanders and Elisa Wikey (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

While Rob’s solution to attempt to bribe his friend’s kid sister to use her student account is entertaining (and more than he bargained for), many in real life turn to social media for paper access, or even resort to piracy (it’s not all just about music and movies). In an upcoming post, I’ll touch on how some methods of dealing with paywalled articles help or hinder the access of fellow researchers.

I’d like to thank Kyle for his treatment of the problem of information access experienced by recent graduates, especially science writers (even bloggers). I’m glad to see this topic being discussed by active skeptics. The scholarship component to scientific skepticism is central to its credibility, and it’s why I wrote the Research Paywall Guide. I encourage everyone to check out Carbon Dating, and support the science communication work that’s going on over there.