Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

"It cannot be the purpose of the EU to keep such publishers in business"

Joan Bakewell, A blow to the idea that knowledge is for all to share, The Independent, February 2, 2007.  Primarily about cuts to the British Library budget, but eventually touching on OA to journal literature.  Excerpt:

...In the case of the British Library, such cuts threaten to do more than pare away any excess fat, but strike at the health of the body itself, the principle that knowledge is there for all to share. Meanwhile, in the EU, a conference will be held next month to debate the matter of "open access to research". European cultural commisars will be in attendance, and have been under pressure recently from the publishers of lavish and expensive scientific journals where such research findings are regularly published.

Scientific journals have become big business, worth some 5.6bn a year. Indeed, academic societies often rely on such publications to keep them going. Perhaps that's why the cost of such journals has escalated so steeply in recent years, as they reserve to themselves the right to distribute new ideas.

But the truth is, those ideas have already been paid for. Many public funders - the Economic and Social Research Council is just one - demand that their researchers place copies of published articles on the web where everyone has free access to them. A year ago, the European Union published a report suggesting they do the same. There is now a call to support such a move. 12,000 academics, including two Nobel laureates are petitioning the European Commission to that effect. The counter-argument is that, starved of their income, many worthy academic magazines would fold. But it cannot be the purpose of the EU to keep such publishers in business. Like all publishers - magazines, newspapers, journals - the reality of the web has to be confronted....

Without [research] we are unanchored flotsam adrift in a sea of rumour and make-believe. The British Library's abundance and the EU's research help us towards balance and insight. It's deluded to think their value to our civilisation can be measured in money.