Saturday, May 26, 2012

Calls for Open Access Include a Boycott of Elsevier

Recently there has been a lot of talk about making scientific journals open access.  The argument is that much of science is funded by the taxpayers via government grants, etc., and therefore the public should have access to that research.  As we all know, most scientific research is published in peer-reviewed journals, and those journals are published by companies who obviously require a profit in order to continue to fund publishing the journals.

With the growth of the internet the argument is that costs of publishing have significantly decreased, and in fact many journals no longer even print a hard copy.  Digital rules.  Still, there are costs associated with the process and publishers need to cover those costs in order to remain in business.  No business, they say, no published journal on the internet - digital doesn't create itself.

It's a difficult issue.  Clearly the future of information is online.  So what business model is best for the changing times?

I came across this blog and video that advocates for complete open access and notes a scientist boycott of Elsevier, a publisher of many valuable scientific journals.  Is a boycott fair? Is Elsevier's right to have a profitable business trumped by the public's right to access to knowledge, at least knowledge derived from publicly funded research?  And given full open access, would the public even know what to do with the information presented in scientific journal papers?

What do you all think?

[Note: Tomorrow I will look at what Elsevier is doing to better use the power of the internet to enhance the communication of knowledge]

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