The Free Research Movement

from the it's-a-movement? dept

We just had an article about about a UK publisher who was opening up their journals to publish all of the content for free online. That’s not the only place it’s happening. Salon has an interesting article about one organization that has been leading the charge towards offering free academic research online. At first they tried convincing well-known journals to open up. They pointed out the benefits of opening up the research, such as allowing more people to access it, so they could build upon it and discover new things. They also pointed out that since so much research is government funded, it should be publicly available. Finally, they got a large number of researchers and scientists to declare that they wanted the journals to go free… And, yet, the non-profit journals decided to keep their cash cow. Eventually, the guy realized the only way to convince them to go free was to create a competing scientific journal that would offer its content for free online. Some are skeptical that it will work, but the initial interest certainly seems to be good, and continued competitive pressure from other sources may eventually force the other journals to open up their content.

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Comments on “The Free Research Movement”

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1 Comment
Mark Diller says:

Scientific journals, free and online

Academic journals are in no way a “cash cow.” A few might be doing OK, but most are struggling to make ends meet, and this probably contributes to their reluctance to embrace a free-content model. While the peer review process does depend on academics donating their time, there are other people connected with journals who need to be compensated — editors, copyeditors, and the like — and in today’s market that’s not going to happen on an ad-supported site. (And that’s not even counting the issues of whether academic sites should feature banner ads.) It’s easy to say that the journals should embrace the future, but that sort of sweeps some of the issues under the table: for instance, how much of a hit will the content quality take when professionals are no longer editing it?

Personally I think the journals should shift to e-publishing, because in the long run they don’t have much of a choice. The economics simply aren’t there for the old model anymore. But I thought the original article skewed the issues a bit — this isn’t simply greed and conservatism getting in the way of a good idea. There are real costs and real challenges that need to be taken into account, and right now the free content model is at best a partial solution to a very big and important problem.

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