[Paleopsych] Technology Review: Science Wants to Be Free

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Science Wants to Be Free

    By Spencer Reiss May 2005

    Publicly funded research belongs in the public domain,
    says Michael Eisen, a computational biologist at Lawrence Berkeley
    National Laboratory. Along with Stanford biochemist Patrick Brown and
    Nobel Prize-winning oncologist Harold Varmus, Eisen founded the Public
    Library of Science, which is launching three new "open access"
    scientific journals this year. The publishers of paid-subscription
    journals such as Science, Nature, and Cell aren't laughing.

    What's the state of open-access publishing today?
    Depending on who's counting, 95 percent of research papers in the life
    sciences are still locked up by the big commercial
    publishers--Elsevier, Springer, and the rest. It's ludicrous at a time
    when the Internet has pushed the actual cost of distributing a
    research paper close to zero.

    But it's not as if a scientist who really needs a paper can't find it.
    Isn't that why research libraries pay for subscriptions?
    For starters, if research were freely available, people would build
    better tools to sift through and dig things out. And what if you're
    Joe Guy who's just been diagnosed with cancer? It's ridiculous that
    you can't read papers that your tax dollars have paid for that might
    be pertinent to your condition. And often your doctor can't either--we
    won't even mention the doctor in Uganda. In the first issue of the
    Lancet--Elsevier's prime medical journal--there was an editorial
    stating that the aim of the publication was to communicate the
    findings of science to the widest possible audience. Somewhere along
    the line, they became a business and lost touch with why they exist.

    The latest policy from the National Institutes of Health "asks" grant
    recipients to submit their results for public access within a year of
    publication but doesn't require it. That's a lot less than some people
    were hoping for; what happened?
    The forces of darkness surprised us.

    "Forces of darkness"?
    Scientific publishing is a $10 billion global business, growing 10
    percent a year. They're not going to let go without a fight. The
    Association of American Publishers has hired [former congressperson]
    Pat Schroeder as its president and chief lobbyist--the queen of
    darkness. They went up to Capitol Hill and said we were socializing
    scientific publishing. NIH knows where its purse strings are.

    Any merit to their argument?
    It's ludicrous. What we have now is an egregiously subsidized
    industry--they're given content for free and then paid tremendous
    amounts of money to process and distribute it. Peer reviewers mostly
    aren't compensated. In a lot of fields, even the people who oversee
    the peer-review process are volunteers. And of course, the research
    that went into the papers is already paid for. And then the publishers
    have the gall to insist that they own a copyright on the results.

    Other short items of interest

    [3]Advertisers: Game On
    [4]All-Access Digital
    [5]Deciphering DNA, Top Speed
    [6]Science Wants to Be Free
    [7]Surgical Frontiersman
    [8]Wind Power Upgrade
    [10]U.S. Corporate Research
    [11]U.S. Agricultural Innovation Withers
    [12]Micro Fuel Cells Go Big
    [13]25 Years ago in Technology Review


    1. http://www.technologyreview.com/articles/05/05/issue/forward_science.asp?p=0
    2. http://www.technologyreview.com/forums/forum.asp?forumid=1150
    3. http://www.technologyreview.com/articles/05/05/issue/forward_advertisers.asp
    4. http://www.technologyreview.com/articles/05/05/issue/forward_digital.asp
    5. http://www.technologyreview.com/articles/05/05/issue/forward_dna.asp
    6. http://www.technologyreview.com/articles/05/05/issue/forward_science.asp
    7. http://www.technologyreview.com/articles/05/05/issue/forward_surgical.asp
    8. http://www.technologyreview.com/articles/05/05/issue/forward_wind.asp
    9. http://www.technologyreview.com/articles/05/05/issue/forwards.asp
   10. http://www.technologyreview.com/articles/05/05/issue/forwards.asp?p=2
   11. http://www.technologyreview.com/articles/05/05/issue/forwards.asp?p=3
   12. http://www.technologyreview.com/articles/05/05/issue/forwards.asp?p=4
   13. http://www.technologyreview.com/articles/05/05/issue/forwards.asp?p=5

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