The tide is turning on Open Access
April 11, 2012
These have been a crazy few days for open access.
Yesterday, the Guardian — one of Britain’s most respected newspapers, and certainly the one with the best online presence –published two article within ten minutes of each other on Open Access:
- Wellcome Trust joins ‘academic spring’ to open up science
- Academic spring: how an angry maths blog sparked a scientific revolution
Both have attracted a lot of interest, with (so far) 205 and 64 comments respectively. That was followed today by an opinion piece by Stephen Curry, which has attracted another 116 comments:
And tonight, they have followed up with two more pieces:
- Government backs calls for research data to be made freely available
- Editoral: Academic journals: an open and shut case
It’s fantastic that the Guardian has taken on this important issue — a newspaper doing what newspapers are meant to do, campaigning for the betterment of the society they serve rather than digging through the trash for exclusives about X-Factor contestants’ love-lives. But if it was only the Guardian, I’d worry that it’s not enough.
That’s why I was delighted that BBC Radio 4, in a move that goes some way to atoning for their dreadful recent piece on lakebound dinosaurs, tonight broadcast a piece on Open Access in their PM show. You can listen to it on the BBC iPlayer — skip to 24:20, finishing at 29:40. Stephen Curry of the blog Reciprocal Space did a fine job of explaining the problem and the solution, and Graham Taylor of the Publishers Association (previously no friend to Open Access) was also cautiously positive. At the end of the segment, the presenter invited listeners to send their own thoughts to email@example.com, so I did:
From: Mike Taylor
Date: 11 April 2012 01:09
Subject: Open Access to research
Dear BBC Radio 4,
It was good to hear your segment on Open Access to research on PM this evening (Tuesday 10th April).
The change to universal Open Access really can’t come quickly enough: at present, even researchers at major UK universities do not have access to the research they need — e.g. Bath University can’t access the Royal Society’s “Biology Letters”.
Open access makes sense financially — I recently calculated that it typically costs about one eighth as much as the subscription model for a better product: http://the-scientist.com/2012/03/19/opinion-academic-publishing-is-broken/
But it’s also a moral issue. Scientists make progress by standing on each other’s shoulders: when they are prevented from doing this, progress is slowed or stopped. Among the results are avoidable deaths, at home and especially in the developing world. It’s wrong for our government to fund research into a life-threatening condition, only to have the results of that research locked up for profit.
Dr. Michael P. Taylor
Department of Earth Sciences
University of Bristol
Bristol BS8 1RJ
I encourage you to send your own observations as well. It helps all of us to keep this issue alive, and to move it out of the academic ghetto into the public eye.
There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.
– Julius Caesar Act 4, scene 3, 218–224