Four years of Tianlin: Happy Big Puben
As soon as the news came out, it quickly became a hot search on Weibo, and netizens “rejoiced and applauded.”
Three years ago, Zhai Tianlin was found to have falsified his academic qualifications because of the sentence “What is HowNet?” Three years later, HowNet was investigated for monopoly.
As a result, this year was also called “Tianlin Four Years” by netizens, and everyone realized that it was Zhai Tianlin who was wrong at the beginning. His phrase “What is HowNet” was actually in the wrong tone.
What is HowNet
In 1999, CNKI’s predecessor “China Journal Network” was initiated by Tsinghua University and Tsinghua Tongfang. The content construction of CNKI is undertaken by “China Academic Journals (CD Version)” Electronic Magazine Co., Ltd., and the technology and services are undertaken by Tongfang CNKI (Beijing) Technology Co., Ltd.
According to industrial and commercial information, China Academic Journals (CD-ROM Edition) Electronic Magazines Co., Ltd. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tsinghua Holdings Co., Ltd., and its legal representative is Wang Mingliang; Tongfang Knowledge Network is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tongfang Co., Ltd. The representative is Wang Mingliang.
China Academic Journals (CD-ROM Edition) Electronic Magazines is the first batch of approved by the State Press and Publication Administration,educateIt is the largest and oldest professional Internet and electronic publishing institution in China.
CNKI has been established for more than 20 years. The large-scale database created by CNKI has collected all kinds of academic documents and journals with dissemination value, and has carried out digital publishing and dissemination. Objectively, CNKI has an indispensable value in improving the efficiency of academic communication and promoting academic development.
So, after more than 20 years, how did HowNet get to where it is today, and it has almost become a “muse crossing the street”?
HowNet’s Three Deadly Sins
The first case: suspected monopoly
Although the State Administration of Supervision announced today that it has filed an investigation into CNKI’s suspected monopolistic behavior, it is not too much to describe CNKI as an “academic monopoly”.
According to the Beijing News, CNKI has a 100% market share in colleges and universities, and 60% in other major markets. It has more than 60 million documents, and the core journal yield rate is 99%.
In other words, as long as you are admitted to Chinese universities, you must use CNKI. The Beijing News reported that a former CNKI employee revealed that CNKI had already bought out the copyrights of most journals and realized a monopoly.
Monopoly means that you can “do whatever you want”, after all, the pricing power is in your own hands.
The second sin: expensive
What kind of expensive law?
According to data disclosed by Wuhan University of Technology, from 2010 to 2016, CNKI prices increased by more than 132.86%, with an average annual increase of 18.98%.
The person in charge of a university in Beijing revealed in an interview that the purchase price of CNKI can easily be in the millions, and the annual increase is 5%-10%;
The CNKI database procurement transaction announcement disclosed by the Xiamen University Bidding Center shows that the transaction value of the project in 2019 was 730,000 yuan; in 2020, it was 740,000 yuan; in 2022, it was 851,000 yuan;
According to data from the bidding office of Shanghai University of International Business and Economics, the transaction value of the school’s knowledge network series database procurement projects in 2017 was 287,000 yuan; in 2019, it was 440,000 yuan; in 2020, the total winning amount was 470,000 yuan; million.
According to Guangzhou University Library’s 2022 “Announcement of Single-Source Purchasing of Electronic Resources (Chinese Library) Procurement”, the total price of CNKI on CNKI is 1.1 million yuan; the announcement issued by Southwest University of Political Science and Law shows that CNKI database budget The amount is 1.7 million yuan; the relevant announcement of Renmin University of China shows that CNKI won the bid amount of 1.6479 million yuan.
HowNet provides a number of different sub-databases. The more subjects, the more sub-databases the school needs to buy, and the higher the price. In addition, HowNet will limit the number of people who can access at the same time, so schools need to choose according to the number of students in the school. Different price ranges.
The reason why the price of CNKI increases year by year is that CNKI digitizes and intelligently searches and processes paper data; at the same time, with the increase of new data every year, the corresponding cost and price also increase.
The aforementioned former CNKI employees said that CNKI’s main source of profit is academic journal products aimed at universities and libraries, which are the core part of sales; in addition, labor costs are CNKI’s biggest expense and one of the reasons for price increases. CNKI has always adopted piece-rate pay to pay wages, and operating costs are correspondingly higher.
The third sin: cutting leeks, and even prostitution
The subscription fee of HowNet is expensive, but the income of the author is not high, or even a penny at all.
It is understood that the sources of academic articles in CNKI are mainly journal articles and master’s and doctoral dissertations of universities. Once a paper is published, the editorial department of the journal acquires the copyright of the paper.
HowNet cooperated with the editorial department to obtain the publishing copyright of the database, while the author became an unrelated “third party”. No matter how many articles are included in CNKI and how many clicks are generated, the authors cannot get the benefits.
According to media reports, when the doctoral dissertation and master dissertation are published on CNKI, the author can only get a maximum of 100 yuan in cash and a search card worth 400 yuan as remuneration. But the platform charges 15 to 25 yuan for each download of an author’s paper.
The author can’t make money, but the students who are a large number of users have to pay service fees due to their needs such as checking duplicates, which makes many students who have unstable economic sources and even rely on their parents miserable.
Countermeasures: Schools suspended, authors sued
Speaking of the three deadly sins of CNKI, has everyone been “suffering” over the years? Is there any way to fix this situation?
Yes, I have.
Not only poor students, but also the school and the author of the paper can’t bear it anymore.
On April 8, the Documentation and Information Center of the Chinese Academy of Sciences sent an email saying that due to the fact that the price of CNKI database of CNKI has risen year by year, the cost of opening up all staff has reached nearly 10 million. The database of Master’s and Ph.D. dissertations cannot be downloaded.
In addition, the Documentation and Information Center of the Chinese Academy of Sciences has conducted many rounds of arduous negotiations with CNKI, but CNKI has not let up on the renewal fee, which finally forced the Chinese Academy of Sciences to stop CNKI.
In fact, over the past ten years, six universities have announced the suspension of CNKI services due to the excessive increase in renewal fees, including Peking University, Wuhan University of Technology, and Nanjing Normal University.
The school couldn’t stand HowNet, and many authors’ rights were violated outright. For example, Professor Zhao Dexin sued HowNet.
In August 2020, Zhao Dexin, a retired professor at Zhongnan University of Economics and Law, found that more than 100 of his papers had been indexed by CNKI without knowing it. Readers need to pay to download, not only have they never received the manuscript fee, but they even have to pay for their own articles. Professor Zhao Dexin then sued Zhiwang in court, and finally won the case and received a total compensation of more than 700,000 yuan.
This situation is by no means an isolated case. The legitimate rights and interests of Professor Zhou Xiuluan, the wife of Professor Zhao Dexin, have also been violated by CNKI.
According to the judgment, “cell phoneTen articles written by Zhou Xiuluan were published in the “HowNet” App, and the court finally ruled that HowNet should compensate Zhou Xiuluan nearly 100,000 yuan.
In addition to Zhao Dexin, Zhou Xiuluan and his wife, writers Chen Yingsong, Dou Yingtai, Wang Bisheng, Cai Jianwen, Tang Xiaoying and others all filed lawsuits against CNKI.
In fact, the copyright litigation cases involved in HowNet can be described as “hundreds or thousands”.
According to Tianyancha, there are nearly 800 infringement-related lawsuits involving China Academic Journals (CD Edition) Electronic Magazines Co., Ltd. Most of CNKI responded as defendants, appellants, etc., and most of these cases were mainly defeated by CNKI.
Not long ago, CNKI filed an appeal due to the “excessive compensation amount” after the first-instance judgment of Zhou Xiuluan’s case, but it was eventually dismissed by the court. Since then, in the case of Chen Yingsong’s prosecution, CNKI’s agent also stated that “according to CNKI’s works currently in the library, the amount of compensation that the defendant needs to pay reaches 120 billion yuan, which the defendant cannot afford.”
The huge compensation of 120 billion yuan did not change the attitude of netizens, and asked CNKI to “compensate 120 billion yuan first and then reflect on it.”
pain and compromise
However, even if some schools and institutions have announced their suspension; some authors have sued; and there are still a large number of students who keep complaining, the reality is that everyone may still have to reluctantly compromise after scolding.
As mentioned earlier, HowNet has a very high degree of monopoly, and it is difficult to leave its “control”.
At present, the CNKI database has become an important procurement target for major university libraries and research institutions, and it is also an important way for academic researchers and students to access literature. Doing academic work is inseparable from literature and papers, and it is difficult to leave CNKI.
According to the CNKI-related procurement announcement issued by Zhejiang Security Vocational College, only one of CNKI’s sub-databases, “China Academic Journal (Online Edition)”, as of January 20 this year, has accumulated more than 8,540 journals, and the total number of full-text documents has been collected. The volume has reached more than 60 million articles.
In addition, CNKI’s “user experience” is also good. It provides convenient retrieval and download. It can organize and process the content and retrieve it in various ways.
More importantly, CNKI is the only academic electronic journal unit approved to officially publish doctoral dissertations, which further establishes its authority and “monopoly”.
It can be said that in addition to providing academic literature, CNKI has become an “honor” for articles to be uploaded to CNKI, and as more and more people upload papers, CNKI’s database becomes more comprehensive.
Therefore, whether it is a school, an author, or a user, it may be difficult to boycott CNKI for a while.
Can HowNet change?
HowNet also made a “sincere” statement after a series of recent “storms”.
On May 9, when answering questions from investors on the interactive platform, Tongfang said that CNKI is in the process of reflection, and is studying to optimize and improve its business model, and actively carry out rectification.
To tell the truth, to change, to say that it can be done, it is not easy to do.
Monopoly and ugly food are all appearances. The core of the problem is that CNKI’s business is too profitable.
The picture above shows the gross profit margin of Tongfang HowNet, a subsidiary of Tongfang, disclosed in the annual report from 2005 to 2021. It is no exaggeration to say that the gross profit margin of HowNet has never been lower than 50% in the past 16 years.
The author dare not say that I know much, but I have been in the business for many years and have read a lot of company financial reports. HowNet’s gross profit rate data is to slap a lot of Internet bigwigs.
In 2021, Tongfang Zhiwang’s revenue will reach 1.29 billion yuan, with a gross profit margin of 53.35%; net assets will be 1.86 billion yuan, net profit will be 190 million yuan; and total assets will be 2.756 billion yuan.
In addition, for the three years from 2019 to 2021, CNKI will have an average annual revenue of nearly 1 billion yuan and an average annual net profit of nearly 200 million yuan.
More importantly, CNKI is the fat that its parent company Tongfang shares is difficult to cut off.
According to Tongfang’s 2021 annual report, Tongfang Knowledge Network ranks fourth in revenue and total assets among the six main subsidiaries of Tongfang, but ranks third in net profit and first in gross profit, which is an important factor for Tongfang. source of profit.
In addition, the performance of Tongfang shares over the years is indescribable, and the growth is sluggish.
In 2021, Tongfang’s revenue will be 28.456 billion yuan;
In 2015, Tongfang’s revenue was 28.447 billion yuan.
In fact, the average revenue growth rate of Tongfang from 2011 to 2020 was only 2.1%.
In 2016, Tongfang’s net profit attributable to the parent company was 4.3 billion yuan, a record high; however, deducting non-net profit was a loss of 135 million yuan. And since then, the deducted non-net profit of Tongfang shares has never turned positive. In the first quarter of 2022, the company’s cumulative loss exceeded 8.7 billion yuan.
So, how can the fat meat of HowNet be cut?
Is knowledge priceless?
Everyone has the right to acquire knowledge, but it seems that you have to spend money.
In fact, the “academic monopoly” situation of HowNet is a global problem, and similar situations have also occurred abroad.
Elsevier, one of the world’s largest publishers of medical and other scientific literature, publishes well-known academic journals such as The Lancet, Tetrahedron, and Cell. Each year, more than 200,000 papers are published in journals published by Elsevier.
Timothy Gowers, a mathematician and Fields Medal winner at the University of Cambridge, UK, has publicly announced his boycott of Elsevier because he can’t stand Elsevier’s extremely high fees for journal subscriptions to individuals.
Gowers’ boycott quickly gained a lot of support, and they set up a promotional website called “the Cost of Knowledge”.
Similar to HowNet, the “boycott” of Elsevier also stemmed from high subscription fees. Participants announced that they would not publish papers at Elsevier and would not participate in any editing work at Elsevier.
Therefore, many foreign companies have begun to explore free academic databases. for exampleMicrosoftAcademic provides more than 120 million free documents; Google Scholar is also a free academic search engine; many universities in the United States have also launched open document libraries, etc.
There are also some academic websites that originally charged, and later chose to be free. For example, the American “Nature” magazine opened all research papers in 2014 and provided free online reading.
In fact, there is no problem in the direction of operating a database company such as CNKI in a commercial and market-oriented way. Only by taking the road of sustainable development can the interests of the supply side, the demand side and the platform side be met.
However, for services such as academic databases, it is understandable to use commercialization to take the road of sustainable development, but it also has a strong public welfare attribute. Academic development is the cornerstone of the development of human scientific and technological civilization.
Therefore, once you become the leader, and you use monopoly resources for profit, everything is based on money. Is such a “knowledge payment” really necessary?
Produced by Sanyan Finance