A Land Without Google?

GooglecnRelevant in the wake of Google redirection of Chinese users to uncensored websites in Hong Kong and the reaction by the People's Republic of China, Jane Qiu in Nature:

“Research without Google would be like life without electricity,” says Xiong Zhenqin, an ecologist at Nanjing Agricultural University in Jiangsu province.

Xiong is not alone in thinking that Google is indispensable. Its search engine is a powerful tool for helping scientists to find academic papers and details of conferences or identify potential collaborators. And for most researchers around the world, access to Google — and all its related products, including the literature search Google Scholar — is as unfettered as their access to heat or light.

But that's not the case for China's roughly 380 million Internet users. Results from Google's main search engine, Google.com, are censored by the Chinese government, and the local Chinese site Google.cn is voluntarily filtered by Google itself.

Researchers' access to Google was threatened further when, on 12 January, Google's senior vice-president and chief legal officer David Drummond said that the company may pull out of China altogether. He explained that after a spate of cyber attacks on Google Mail, believed to come from within China, the company was no longer willing to censor results from Google.cn. He added that the company would discuss with the Chinese government “the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all”, and that “we recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn.

If Google — or the Chinese government — acts on this threat, how would scientists in China be affected?