Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Monday, January 31, 2005

Good mainstream intro to OA

Glennda Chui, Taxpayers pay twice for health research, San Jose Mercury News, January 31, 2005. Excerpt: 'The National Institutes of Health spends billions of tax dollars each year to investigate human disease. But if you want to find the latest research on a particular illness, good luck. The results are published in journals. Most require subscriptions or per-article fees to access their pages over the Internet. Subscription prices have been going up three times faster than the rate of inflation, averaging more than $1,000 a year in some fields; reading a single article can cost $30. Consumer advocates, scientists and librarians are challenging that system. In this Internet age, they say, with the cost of disseminating information falling fast, why should the public have to pay for it -- especially when their taxes funded it? "We had trouble getting papers about our kids' disease when our kids were diagnosed, and we still have trouble," said Sharon F. Terry of Potomac, Md., whose sons have a rare genetic illness. She is president and chief executive of Genetic Alliance, a coalition of advocacy groups and health professionals....When scouring the Web for information, she said, "inevitably you come up against a screen that says for $30 you can have this article. That's just unconscionable. We already paid for those articles. They're funded by taxpayer dollars." Spurred by complaints from the public and Congress, the NIH is considering a policy that would make the results of research it sponsors available to the public, for free, within six months after it is published. And a small but growing number of scientific and medical journals are offering their articles to readers for free -- part of an "open access" movement that's been gaining momentum for a decade. The movement is "one of the most exciting and radical events in publishing in recent years," said an October report by Thomson Scientific....According to the Association of Research Libraries, the price of the average journal subscription shot up 215 percent from 1986 to 2003, more than three times the rate of inflation....This has forced many libraries to cut subscriptions. "Our faculty are the ones generating this knowledge," said Karen Butter, university librarian for the University of California-San Francisco. "And then they're giving it away, in many cases to commercial publishers, who are then selling it back to us." She said UCSF has had to prune its collections "down to the bare bones."..."We're getting away from the world in which scientific information was going to belong to everybody, and was going to be out there for everybody to use and build on, and toward a world in which information is a private commodity," said Michael Eisen, a biologist at the University of California-Berkeley and one of the founders of PLoS. In an open letter in August, 25 Nobel laureates appealed to Congress to make the results of government-funded studies, "including our own works," available to the public without delay.'