Publishers pull out the big guns against open access
Our tax dollars fund scientific research to the tune of $54.7 billion per year. We know, in the case of health, that innovations can take on average 17 years to find their way into clinical practice if we leave it up to the system the way it is, but in the meantime, why shouldn't Americans have access to the results of the research we pay for? I'll confess my personal frustration at the lack of unfettered access to every imaginable journal that I enjoyed while I was in school, or working for the government. But I'm absolutely not alone in this - consumers in general need this research, and shouldn't have to pay $25 or $30 for a copy of an article.
Rick Weiss reports in the Washington Post this week on an effort led by former (liberal) Colorado congresswoman Pat Schroeder on behalf of a group of medical journal publishers against open access of publicly funded research results. The publishers argue that open access will erode their subscription base, making it difficult for them to afford to run the peer review process that's needed to ensure the quality of published scientific research. So they've hired, for close to half a million dollars, a heavy-hitting PR firm to counter the efforts of the open access movement.
Yes, we need peer review and journals. But is this really about peer review? I doubt it; I think it's more likely about profits. I imagine we can find a way to ensure that journals continue to exist in an open-access environment.
In a similar vein, the Pump Handle blog reports that the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has decided to discontinue the Environews section, written with the general public in mind, from its open access journal, Environmental Health Perspectives, for budgetary reasons. The news section has been an important source of information on environmental research. The Pump Handle encourages readers to ask their Representatives to make sure that this resource does not get shoved aside.
And while we're on the subject of Environmental Health Perspectives, I'm going to share with you a gratuitous link to one of my own articles, my pride and joy really, published in that journal back in 1994, in my third year of graduate school. Be warned: it's pretty geeky stuff.