Open Access to Scientific Research Can Save Lives

Darius Cuplinskas and I have a commentary in today's Chronicle of Higher Education. Excerpt: 

Under the old system, almost all scientific and scholarly articles were printed in journals whose owners have charged exorbitant prices despite the fact that they paid nothing to the authors or their institutions and contributed nothing to the research itself. (In 2010 the largest publisher of scholarly journals, Elsevier, reported a profit margin of 36 percent.) The articles were available almost nowhere outside the libraries of universities in rich countries.

The movement for open access has overcome efforts by publishers to protect their cash machine. Today huge amounts of scholarly research, including more than 8,000 peer-reviewed open-access journals, are available to everyone with the flick of a cursor. Open access is a component of international debates about scholarly communications. It is taught in colleges. It is debated by parliaments. And more than 300 research funders and institutions, including the world's largest source of funds for research, the National Institutes of Health, now require authors to make their peer-reviewed manuscripts open access.

The economic benefits of open access are estimated to be in the hundreds of billions of dollars. The decision to place the results of the Human Genome Project in the public domain without delay, for example, helped ensure that scientists everywhere can use the data. The $3.8-billion investment in the project has had an estimated economic impact of $796-billion.

But significant work needs to be done in the next 10 years to allow open access to benefit many more scholars and scientists, more people with cancer who want to understand the science on the diseases afflicting them, more doctors struggling to stop the spread of AIDS in Africa.

Simply put, open access should become the default method in every country for distributing new peer-reviewed research in every field. In order to make that happen, universities and funding agencies must develop effective open-access policies...."

#oa #openaccess 
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