Paywalls keep the public from seeing publicly funded research.
A huge proportion of scientific research is funded by governments. But a lot of publicly funded research either never gets published, or winds up behind a journal’s paywall, so you have to buy a subscription or be affiliated with a university to read it.
Now, the UK has announced that all research funded by its main grant-funding bodies must, within six months of being published, be made available “open access,” meaning that anyone can read it.
A few months ago we wrote about how many federally funded clinical trials in the US are never published at all, leading to a gap in the publicly available knowledge about drugs. Though accepting federal funding means agreeing to list your paper on the Pub Med database within 12 months of publishing, there are no real rules in the US about when publishing should happen, and as yet there are no requirements about making such research freely available.
This new UK regulation doesn’t address the issue of government-funded research that goes unpublished. But making what is published available for free is a big step towards making research the public pays for available to the public.
The regulation is in response to a growing desire among scientists and laypeople for research to be available to anyone who wants it. The rule affects about $4.35 billion worth of research funding annually, so we’ll be seeing plenty more open access papers in the next few years.
[via The Scientist]