November 30, 2012

A scientist calls for open access to research publications

As a child I remember being fascinated by science, and developed an overwhelming urge to learn how everything worked. I loved science fiction, seeing authors explore the very edges of possible futures, extrapolating out the possibly feasible to its very limits. As I grew older and began a degree in Physics, I became even more certain I wanted to be a scientist and had a vision of what real science was all about. I remember the first few months of my PhD work being quite disappointing, learning that papers often lacked the necessary details to reproduce key reactions, or that I didn’t have access to certain papers due to their age or the journal they had been published in.

I worked hard on my research, wanting to have an impact and learn more about something I found interesting and that I hoped would one day result in new discoveries. Once I had enough results to publish, I began working on my very first paper, one that my supervisors encouraged me to publish in an appropriate journal for our research. I had never really considered the low level details of publication, but was shocked at how one-sided everything seemed to be. I worked for months on end in the lab, learning everything I could about my field, with my time and materials funded by one of the UK’s research councils using public funds. Once the article was ready to submit I jumped through many hoops, including signing away all of our rights to the submitted work, corrected any issues the reviewers pointed out, and finally got it published. The company we published with then sold it back to us, with many of my friends and family unable to access it despite no compensation being given to me or my university....

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