Monday, November 05, 2007

High Priests vs. Open Access to Research

The high priests of the newspaper business – otherwise known as editors and publishers -- have learned about the power of the Internet the hard way. Their business is turning remorselessly downward as advertisers shift their dollars to chase readers who have abandoned print.

Now comes the turn of the high priests of scientific journals. And the forces at work are something that the California stem cell agency will have to confront as it deals increasingly with public access to publicly funded research findings and how quickly that access becomes available.

Merrill Goozner, director of the Integrity in Science project for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, wrote recently that both houses of Congress have approved legislation that would provide free public access to all published articles from NIH-funded research. The measure was opposed by publishers who say that their ability to support independent peer review requires exclusive copyrights.

Goozner cites an article in The Scientist that points out that there may be a link to profits, which in turn are linked to salaries, for example, at the American Chemical Society, which generates $500 million a year from its 36 journals. Several top executives at the society earn more than $750,000 a year.

Any researcher working for a private company knows that he who pays the piper calls the tune. The fact is that taxpayers finance this research. At the heart, they own it just as much as a bank owns a mortgaged house or shareholders own a company.

The Internet is like a tidal force. Resisting its imperative may appear to be possible in the short term, but over the long term the high priests will be sweep out to sea. The alternative is come up with a better business plan and to find a way to ride the tide instead fighting it.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous6:22 AM

    It's much worse for the American Chemical Society that it appears at first blush.

    When you check out their wiki site, you see that their executives are the ones really behind the push against Open Access.


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