Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Marketplace piece on open access

Marketplace on NPR had a mini story on Open Access publishing. See Marketplace: Publicly funded research for a price. Hat tip to Aaron Gussman and Keith Bradnam for pointing this out. I did not listen to the piece but the text is online here. Here are some bits (does not seem to be a particularly well researched piece but it is still something)
KAI RYSSDAL: A lot of the scientific research that goes on in this country is really expensive. And, as it happens, a lot of it is publicly funded. But when taxpayers want to read a particular study that has been paid for with their money, they have to pay again to read about it in, say, The New England Journal of Medicine.

JANET BABIN: People who grew up with the Internet expect information to be free. That's what 21-year-old Josh Sommer thought. In 2006 he was a typical college freshman. Studying environmental engineering, hanging out, making new friends. Suddenly, he started to get severe headaches. He had a series of routine tests.

JOSH SOMMER: End up having an MRI and being told that I have a mass right in the very center of my head, entwined with critical arteries, in one of the most difficult locations to operate on. The cancer Josh has is called Chordoma. It's a rare disease with a low survival rate. Even doctors don't know much about it. So Josh threw himself into Chordoma research. He Googled the disease to find out all he could about it, but kept hitting roadblocks.

SOMMER: I'd find an abstract, and I'd click on it. And oh, you have to pay $60 to read this article. Oh, you have to pay $40 to read this article. I mean, I have this disease, I want to know about it. Journal subscriptions -- like the Journal of the American Medical Association -- can cost thousands of dollars each year. With universities and libraries trimming budgets, they can't afford all of them either. What Josh needed was free access to the research online. Last year, the National Institutes of Health unlocked the gates on a lot of research. Through its Web portal called PubMed Central, you can now search research papers for any disease scientists are studying with public funds. It's an estimated 80,000 articles a year. Duke University law professor James Boyle says open access is only fair.

JAMES BOYLE: Why would you possibly say that when the taxpayers funded something, then the public can't get to read it afterwards without paying again?
Then they quote Martin Frank from the American Physiological Society. saying something defending restricted access. They also quote rebuttal from Professor Boyle, at Duke:
BOYLE: The Web works great for porn or for shoes, or for flirting on social networks. But it doesn't work really well for science. We haven't done for science what we did on the rest of the Web, which is basically to have this open Web with everything linked together.


  1. In turms of the students experience, it just doesn't add up. He should have been able to access online articles through his schools journal subscriptions. I guess not enough students learn how to use their libraries properly.

  2. Well, I get your point DG and learning how to make use of what you have access to is important but it does not always work for a variety of reasons including:.

    1. Most universities have been slashing their subscriptions left and right over the last few years as library budgets are cut and/or shifted to other things.

    2. When one is at home it is not always easy to access ones library's subscriptions, even if one has access.


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