Resisting the open access flood
by Jack Stilgoe
There’s an interesting conversation taking place in blogworld that gets to the heart of the public value of science. Our citizen scientists are rightly worried about an industry front that just been set up by “the pit bull of PR.” The arguments for making research open access are irresistible. PRISM’s aim is to counter them with an easy-to-understand but utterly disingenuous line that open access means state control of science. First, this is untrue. Second, it assumes uses a model of unfettered science that is way out of date. Third, it sidesteps the real debate that is taking place about open access. Which is why so many people have taken against it.
There are important questions about making publishing work when the author pays rather than the subscriber. The Wellcome Trust, who took an early lead on the open access debate, have been working with universities and publishers to make it work. While some publishers put ever more fingers into the an increasingly cracked dyke, others are building boats. The people at the Nature, whose prestige makes it very expensive to run, are grappling with these questions, knowing that their model can’t survive forever. Unfortunately, not all publishers are as thoughtful.