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May 2, 2012
UK Academics Move to Free Up Taxpayer-Funded Research
The Guardian reports that the UK government has engaged Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales
to help with a project intended to unlock taxpayer-funded research.
One of the little-reported aspects of the current situation in academic research publishing is that much (most?) of the work that is put into these very expensive academic journals is paid for by the taxpayer. In the US there are funding agencies like NIH, CDC and of course ARPA that funnel taxpayer dollars to researchers. In the UK and elsewhere there are similar agencies and grant programs that make this research possible.
Given, then, that the work was paid for by the public it seems a wholly fair question to ask by what rights are the fruits of that work concealed from the public behind expensive paywalls. Wales acknowledges that academic publishers bring value to the process of research publication. However, adding value doesn't equate to having a monopoly lock. Or at least it shouldn't. The effort, dubbed the "Gateway to Research project", has about two years, and currently about UKP 2 million to create an open access environment. They're working with several partners in the UK, including representatives from academia, librarians, and publishers.
There are a number of thorny questions to be hashed out - it's not just as simple as moving research papers from expensive journals to a free Web site. How will research be accessed? How will it be vetted? What processes are necessary for updating or outright retraction of research? What other research materials might be valuable in such a portal - personally I'd like to see the inclusion of things like molecular models, part descriptions, software simulations, data sets, data analysis tools and much more. But can anyone make head or tail of this if it all gets dumped into one portal?
All of these are good and tough questions. Now the next question we want to be asking is: why limit this to just the UK? Where is the US effort?
(h/t Donna Wentworth... yes THAT Donna Wentworth for the pointer)
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