Open access science

Lisa: Often us ‘science communicator’ types bang on about making science understandable and available to all. A worthy and noble cause in my eyes. But then why is so much of the fruit of scientific labour, much of it publicly funded, not publicly available? Any quick search for an original research article is often met with a log-on screen requiring you to enter a subscription or pay a fee to read the paper.

It’s only now, that I am out of the University system, that I have realised how incredibly annoying this is. I’m sure that actually most people will never want to access an original research article, and that unless you are a specialist in that area, often they seem like they are written in another language entirely anyway. But I’m sure that there are many people like me, who feel confident enough to read papers for myself, who are denied this opportunity.

For a while there has been a move towards open-access publishing, with journals such as PLoS (Public Library of Science) attempting to make scientific and medical research a open-source publically available resource. But it seems now that, in the U.S. at least, making publically funded research publically available may now become law. The new rules say: “The Director of the National Institutes of Health shall require that all investigators funded by the NIH submit or have submitted for them to the National Library of Medicine’s PubMed Central an electronic version of their final, peer-reviewed manuscripts upon acceptance for publication, to be made publicly available no later than 12 months after the official date of publication: Provided, That the NIH shall implement the public access policy in a manner consistent with copyright law.”

You can listen to a podcast of Harold Varmus, co-founder of PLoS discussing the new legislation at Science Weekly here.

A great idea I think! I hope the same will happen for ARC and NH&MRC funded research in Australia.


  1. sarahkeenihan says:

    I think this is very important too….Nature is quite good at freely releasing a few of their articles for free. Especially Nature Reviews Immunology, which I am interested in. It’s nice especially to read the ‘discussion’ sections, where the authors display a little speculation.

    See my blog 13 Jan 08 also on this topic.

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