Do you live on planet earth? Then you probably pay taxes. And if you pay taxes then you’re supporting scientific research. Thanks a lot – that’s really great. Thanks to you scientists can make discoveries that lead to cures for diseases. And we’d really love to share these discoveries with you…but you can’t afford them.
There are lots of problems with the way scientific findings are communicated but this is perhaps the saddest one. The public pays for scientific research and then is charged again to read the results. People who do not have access to massive library holdings simply cannot access scholarly publications. Many scientists themselves cannot even access the papers they need because their institution cannot afford the subscriptions.
Fortunately, things are changing. For example, the National Institutes of Health requires that all federally-funded research be deposited into Pubmed Central where it is freely available to the public within 12 months of publication (this allows publishers to still make money off the article for a while, which is very kind of the US government). Another example is the new publishing model put forth by PLoS One and other journals, where the authors pay a fee that covers the costs of publication, archiving etc. Then the articles are made freely available to all because subscriptions are not needed to cover costs.
The way things are going, it is only a matter of time before scholarly publications and scientific information becomes freely communicated to those that paid for it. How long this transformation will take is the big question and there are two big movements in the US government that will play a big role. Two big movements that need your input. Continue reading