Over the past number of years a growing, vocal group of researchers has protested the rising cost and copyright restrictions academic publishers place on their journals.
Part of the issue is that many academic researchers are publicly funded and believe their work should be released under an Open Access model, made freely available to the public with few copyright restrictions.
This has led to thousands of academics to boycott publishing giants such as Elsevier over its practice of bundling journals (ie., institutions can’t buy one without purchasing many others) and placing restrictive copyright over journal articles). Much of this came to a head over the last few months with academic publisher support for the now-defunct US Research Works Act, a bill that would have prohibited open access mandates for federally funded research (eg., the US National Institutes of Health mandates that research conducted with its grants must be freely accessible online. The Research Works Act would have eliminated the mandate along with similar ones from other governmental agencies).
Enter into all this the Wellcome Trust, a UK-based foundation focussing on scientific research.
One of the world’s largest research charities, the Wellcome Trust, is to support efforts by scientists to make their work freely available for all.
The Trust is to establish a free, online publication to compete with established academic journals.
They say their new title could be a “game changer” forcing other publishing houses to increase free access.
More than 9,000 scientists are boycotting a leading paid-for publisher for restricting access to their papers.
The Wellcome Trust’s move is the latest salvo in a battle about ownership of, and access to, the published work of scientists that has been simmering underneath the sedate surface of scientific research for years.
The majority of the world’s scientific journals are accessible only via subscription, including highly influential titles such as Nature, Science and the New England Journal of Medicine.
This isn’t be the first attempt at Open Access academic publishing. A personal favorite is arXiv, and open archive hosted by Cornell University. For the math nerds, you might remember it as the place where Gregori Perelman originally published his solution to the century-old Poincaré conjecture.
But while not the first, the Wellcome Trust’s move is a very important step in increasing the flow and access to the world’s scientific research.