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Research Bought, Then Paid For: Open Access to Science Under Attack (nytimes.com)
99 points by synparb on Jan 11, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 17 comments

Absurd. I accept that the journals will fight against open access. But it's bizarre to me that there are members of Congress who apparently think that the first priority of goverment-funded research is to support a bunch of businesses.

It reminds me of when then-Senator Santorum proposed a bill that would prohibit the National Weather Service to disseminate their forecasts for free as they do now and instead would only sell them to commercial outlets. He apparently also thinks that the purpose of government is to give money to corporations.

I generally am a believer in government being a force for good. But stuff like this taxes this belief.

The funny thing is that you never hear stuff like this happening in Sweden. The US government is apparently wholly subjugated by corporations. I don't understand how there isn't more of an uproar about this. You'd think that both small-goverment libertarian types and "socialists" (in the US use of the word) would agree that whatever the size of government, it shouldn't be beholden to commercial interests...

FWIW, Sweden only implemented their mandate that government-funded publications be open access after the US NIH did so (2009 in Sweden, 2008 in the US).

Agreed; bizarre is a good word.

Rick Santorum's bill was nakedly corrupt. He took money from Accuweather, a private weather forecast provider that is the shrillest opponent of the NWS, and promptly did their bidding.

The author has had a series of really great blog posts on the subject as well on his personal site. In particular, check out:


and make sure to read the comments, which includes a defense of the legislation by Tom Reller, Elsevier's VP.

For those unfamiliar with scientific publishing, Michael Eisen, the author of this Op-Ed is the founder of the PLoS series of open access journals, which are generally considered first-class publications in each of their fields. Michael Eisen has been leading the way in open access for the past decade.

To be fair, there is a dark underside to "open access".

One of the most significant open access publishers creates $100 million+ in value a year but, 20 years after inception, struggles to find a sustainable source of just $400,000 a year to fund operations. Few of the 100,000+ regular users have any idea of the lost opportunities and problems of talent retention that this site has had.

Perhaps I'm reacting to my most recent experiences with the "free" business model, but Tom Reller is right to say that what Elsevier does is more sustainable than most open access.

While I believe that publishers could create a cost effective business model in which they re-coop their investment, what this legislation does is allow them to sever any responsibility they have to the public in the name of profit and destroy any attempt by those that fund their industry to exert some level of oversight on behalf of the tax payer.

They are attempting to destroy a reasonable compromise that they have 12 months to profit on articles, but the NIH imposes a limit so that they can't put the papers behind a paywall Ad infinitum. And under the current rules they still seem to be doing fairly well:


Congress should appropriate $400,000 for them, then. Scientific research is inherently unsustainable if you focus on short-term profits, that's why so much of it is federally funded.

They should but so far they won't.

Where does your "$100 million+ in value a year" figure come from?

$60,000 per online + print subscription, perhaps?


If we get to just say what we're worth, I'm worth a billion dollars, and my employer is woefully underpaying me. The government needs to step in and ensure I'm paid what I'm worth!

Yet even the author publishes regularly in closed-access journals such as Nature


I fail to see how that is supposed to be hypocritical. Nature etc. are at present important venues for publication, particularly in this researcher's area. Is it hypocritical to agitate strenuously for electric cars while driving a gas one if it's not realistic to drive all electric in your situation?

This would only be hypocritical if he were criticizing other researchers for publishing in non-open journals. But he's not, at least to my reading. He's urging that they consider other venues. He's only criticizing the government.

I didn't call him a hypocrite. Just saying that even the most courageous supporters of science openness cannot escape the tangles of old publishers.

Btw his latest nature comment is pretty funny: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v467/n7314/full/467401d...

Some open science advocates continue to publish in the top journals out of necessity but refuse to do free peer review for them.

I would only say that the vast majority of his publications in the last couple of years when he was the corresponding author (i.e. the one making the executive decision), were in open access journals.

As a member of his lab, it's actually a point of pride that everything where he is the corresponding author is now published in OA journals. When collaborating with other labs, we strongly lobby for OA publication as well, but not all other PIs can be convinced that the long-term benefit to the science ecosystem is worth the short-term loss of prestige in not publishing in Science, Nature, or Cell.

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