Thursday, December 6, 2012

Open Access to Scientific Research Can Save Lives

In an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education Peter Suber and Darius Cuplinskas argue that open access to research can be very advantageous to medical progress, can in fact save lives.

. . . . 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 
Every institution of higher learning should ensure that peer-reviewed versions of all future scholarly articles by its faculty members are made open-access through a designated repository that captures the institution's intellectual output. 
All public and private agencies that support scientific research should have policies assuring that peer-reviewed versions of all scholarly articles arising from research they have paid for be made accessible through a suitable archive. 
When a given publisher will not allow access on an agency's terms, the funder should require grantees to look for another publisher. Funders should treat publication costs as research costs and should help grantees pay reasonable publication fees at fee-based open-access journals.
Research institutions, including funders, should support the development and maintenance of the tools, directories, and resources essential to the progress and sustainability of open access. . . . 

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