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In praise of….

Every day the UK newspaper The Guardian does a quirky little third editorial entitled “In praise of…” Previous subjects have been Tintin, Corks, village shops, Ronnie Scott’s… you get the idea. Well, this Saturday it was “In praise of… Open access” – as a follow up to the RCUK report.

It is short enough that I will quote it in full.

    “Information wants to be free” has been a rallying cry of the digital age. This week three of Britain’s public funding bodies, the Medical Research Council, the Economic and Social Research Council, and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, added their voices, announcing they would require studies they had funded to be placed in open online archives. Although some details remain to be worked out – notably the time lag between journal publication and online archiving – this marks a leap towards allowing free access to the fruits of Britain’s scientific research. The three research councils are following in the wake of the Wellcome Trust’s decision to require recipients of its medical research grants to make their results available online within six months of publication. This marks a serious challenge to the former middlemen of research, the journal publishers who have enjoyed a profitable business model of being able to charge substantial margins on free content and effectively compulsory purchase. That is a model that cannot not survive long into the digital era, when online publication and distribution see marginal costs disappear towards zero. This newspaper has campaigned for publicly funded data to be made available, and the case is even more compelling for publicly funded research. This maximises the benefits to society and the taxpayers’ investment. Information ought to be free and should be helped to escape its chains.

There are lots of blog comments about this on the Guardian blog site “comment is free” where you can also find a piece from Richard Smith, one of our Board of Directors, called “Give it to me straight, doc“, arguing for the public’s right of free access to medical research.

Thanks Ginny for the link.

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