Online access to federally funded research publications must be free of charge from day 1

An absolute majority of the published scientific research are funded by tax payers’ money through the federal grants from NIH or NSF. Every scientist dreams to publish his/her work in the prestigious journals. Publication is the simplest way for a scientist to showcase the quality of his/her work.

The scientists, unlike social media followers, do not really care how many people will see their publication as long as it is seen by their colleague-scientists and could be submitted to the granting agencies. Furthermore, the absolute majority of the scientists would be OK if their research is freely avalable from the day 1 of its publication.

So, why are the journals still charging for online access to the new articles? some 30-35 years ago, when majority of scientific research were conducted at the University campuses by academic scientists, such fee for access was acceptable since Universities were able to afford multiple annual subscriptions to subject-matter journals.

However, these days, the small biotech companies conduct a big chuck of scientific research but still may lack additional funds to have annual subscriptions to many important subject-matter journals. Many times, when a new treatment fails in clinical trials, the source for a failure can be traced back to the lack of access to scientific literature at the earlier stages of treatment development.

Now days, there is 12 months delay before federally funded publication becomes open access. Can you believe that before 2007 legislation that made 12 months requirement the law, there was no such requirement at all.

But even 12 months is too long. Today research become accelerated due to improvement in computer technologies and the large data mining machinery and software. I just read news that beginning from Jan 1, 2017, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will require their grantees to make their research openly available immediately upon publication. Great decision, but I am still puzzled why not make it effective from Jan 1, 2015.

Journals should generate their revenue through an advertisement on their pages or through minimal submission fees. Subscription based revenue system is not viable in long run. Now days many science organizations stopped purchasing monthly hard copies of journals, including Nature and Science, and switched to online-only subscriptions to cut the cost. Eventually, the scientists will be asked to publish in a cheaper open access journals.

In the end, the prestige of any journal comes from the publication of high quality papers. Migration of high quality article submissions from today’s top journals to open access journals will raise the latter’s prestige and will benefit everyone else.

posted by David Usharauli

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