Three Arguments for Open Access

31st May 2013

Michael P. Taylor
Department of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1RJ.

Open-access publication of scholarly papers is increasingly prevalent. It is now required by many funders including the RCUK councils and the Wellcome Trust. But not all researchers welcome it, perhaps in part because it feels imposed from above. We will explore three reasons why, even if the transition period is economically difficult, open access is good news for everyone.

1. Justice. Most researchers are paid to research. Most fundamentally, it is right that the results should be disseminated as the funders wish; and all governments and charities will want the work they pay for to have the broadest possible impact.

2. Unity. The revenue model of subscription publishers is based on limiting access to content. Recent lawsuits show they are prepared to invest resources (and burn goodwill) in preventing unauthorised access. It is tragic when publishers make themselves the enemies of researchers. But this is averted when they are paid to publish, rather than for allowing access through paywalls.

3. Potential. When the inventors of the Web declined to patent its protocols, they opened the door to innovations they themselves had never dreamed of. In the same way, we can't imagine now what advances will emerge from mining and free re-use of open-access research.

Mike Taylor is a mathematician by training, a library software engineer by profession and a vertebrate palaeontologist by avocation -- so he combines a unique set of perspectives on academic publishing. In his day-job he designs and builds discovery systems for libraries, managing credentials and proxies to access subscription journals. In his spare time he researches the palaeobiology of sauropod dinosaurs, struggling to access the subscription literature that he needs for this work. An open access advocate, Mike has written for the Guardian, Independent and Times Higher Education. He holds a Ph.D in palaeontology from the University of Portsmouth and is currently an Associate Researcher in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol.


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