By Matthew Cockerill and John Enderby
Published: November 25 2004 19:09 | Last updated: November 25 2004 19:09
The benefits to scientists of open access scientific publishing provided by the internet are too significant to be ignored, says Matthew Cockerill.
The progress of science is ultimately defined by peer-reviewed journal articles: they record the results of research and act as a foundation for all future research.
In the UK alone, billions of pounds of tax-payers’ money are spent annually on research, so the government might be expected to take a prudent interest in how the resulting journal articles are published, archived and made accessible. Surprisingly, though, copyright to publicly funded research articles is routinely signed over to publishers, who then sell limited, subscription-based access back to the scientific community.
The cost of publishing a scientific research article is a tiny fraction of what it costs to do the research in the first place; yet publishers end up controlling access to the findings.
What does this mean in practice? Researchers are frustrated by a lack of access to research, since no library can afford to subscribe to all relevant journals. Modern research is increasingly interdisciplinary, but the pressure on librarians to subscribe only to “core” journals limits cross-fertilisation between disciplines. Meanwhile, funders get less return on their investment because researchers are working without adequate access to previous research. Finally, the public is denied access to reliable peer-reviewed research findings - especially ironic in the case of medical research, where so much dubious information is openly accessible on the net.