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The Open Scientific Publishing movement is gaining traction

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
23rd April 2012


From a longer article in the Guardian by Alok Jha, who reports on the progress of a scientific revolt against exploitative scientific publishing:

‘in January this year, Gowers wrote an article on his blog declaring that he would henceforth decline to submit to or review papers for any academic journal published by Elsevier, the largest publisher of scientific journals in the world.

He was not expecting what happened next. Thousands of people read the post and hundreds left supportive comments. Within a day, one of his readers had set up a website, The Cost of Knowledge, which allowed academics to register their protest against Elsevier.

The site now has almost 9,000 signatories, all of whom have committed themselves to refuse to either peer review, submit to or undertake editorial work for Elsevier journals. “I wasn’t expecting it to make such a splash,” says Gowers. “At first I was taken aback by how quickly this thing blew up.”

Gowers, a mathematician at Cambridge University and winner of the prestigious Fields Medal, had hit a nerve with academics who were increasingly fed up with the stranglehold that a few publishing companies have gained over the publication and distribution of the world’s scientific research.

The current publishing model for science is broken, argue an ever-increasing number of supporters of open access publishing, a model whereby all scientific research funded by taxpayers would be made available on the web for free.

Expensive paywalls not only waste university funds, they say, but slow down future scientific discovery and put up barriers for interested members of the public, politicians and patients’ groups who need access to primary research in order to exercise their democratic rights.

Stephen Curry, a structural biologist at Imperial College London, says that scientists need to come to a new arrangement with publishers fit for the online age and that “for a long time, we’ve been taken for a ride and it’s got ridiculous”.

He adds: “We face important policy choices on a whole raft of issues – climate change, energy generation, cloning, stem cell technology, GM foods – that we cannot hope to address properly unless we have access to the scientific research in each of these areas.”

Academic publishers charge UK universities about £200m a year to access scientific journals, almost a tenth of the £2.2bn distributed to them by the government, via the funding councils, for the basic running costs of university research.

Despite the recession, these charges helped academic publishers operate with profit margins of 35% or more , while getting their raw materials and the work of thousands of taxpayer- and charity-funded scientists free.”

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