Do taxpayers have a right to see taxpayer-funded research? Two senators are proposing a bill that would require federal agencies to collect and publish online research papers for which they gave grants. Opposing this plan are the myriad scholarly journals, which claim that such a plan will damage their operations. Their concerns include lost advertising revenue, a diminished bond between the publication and its readers, and the danger of making information available to the public that may be misunderstood. Starting with the last point, the possibility of misunderstanding is always a danger. But as it currently stands, the information is already available to the public, but they have to buy a copy of the journal or go into the stacks at the library to find it. Ultimately, the people who bother looking up scholarly articles will be a fairly self-selecting group of intelligent people. As for the business models of the journals, why should they be subsidized by the taxpayers? If they could make the case that the quality of scientific research would diminish without exclusivity that would be one thing, but that's not what they're saying. Taxpayers shouldn't have to pay twice for the research that they back. Furthermore, they assume, like every other media company, that they can't change their business model. But the imprimatur of a respected journal will remain of great value, even without exclusivity over the material. Their ability to select quality works and then package them together will still be a service to their readers. Instead of fighting the fairly straightforward idea that taxpayers should have access to what they pay for, they should see the opening up of science as an opportunity and look to exploit it.
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