A busy week for “Open Access”



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There has been a lot happening in the fight for open access in recent weeks. The Wellcome Trust, one of the world’s largest research funding bodies, has announced it will soon be launching a scientific journal eLife, which will compete with the most elite publications such as Nature and Science.

The trust has also said it will “adopt a robust approach” to scientists it funds who do not publish their work in an open access journal within 6 months. Failure to publish through open access will mean they will not receive funding in the future.

In the USA, which lags behind Europe in Open Access, a White House petition has been set up for people to sign. Anyone can sign, including non-US citizens. Although a petition does not sounds like much, the President is known to be sympathetic to Open Access and the White House has been looking into it for some time. So signs are hopeful.

In an surprising and lengthy speech to the Publishers Association in London this week, the UK minister for Universities and Science David Willets made the UK government’s position clear. He declared that “Wider Access is the Way forward” and that he hoped it would “…bring science and research closer to the public”.

And in Brussels, Open Access is set “to be the norm” for the Horizon 2020 programme with a budget of €80 billion.

So the future is looking rosy for Open Access. An article in the Economist a few weeks ago put some numbers on what publishing costs universities: an annual subscription to the chemistry journal Tetrahedron costs $20,269; the Journal of Mathematical Sciences costs $20,100. It compares this to the enormous profits of publishers, saying that the situation is absurd.

That research funded by public and charitable funds should be freely available to all seems to be the widely accepted view (except perhaps by the publishers). With more and more weighty funding bodies behind Open Access, it looks like free and unrestricted access to research will become “the norm” before much longer.

Photo courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net

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