August 8, 2013

University of California to offer free public access to research

The University of California = the largest university system in the world and considered by many to be the most influential will now be making its research results available to the public for free. This decision came after a long battle with the for-profit publishing industry which charges both for publishing articles in journals and then charge again for access to those journals.

As reported by TechCrunch Universities pay millions for access to their colleague’s research, with subscriptions costs up to $40,000 for a single journal and publishing costs many times more for more prestigious closed-access journals. “It’s still ludicrous how much it costs to publish research,” said molecular biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, Michael Eisen.

The San Jose Mercury News reported that the policy will apply to 8,000 faculty members and roughly 40,000 papers they produce each year “on subjects such as planetary magnetic fields, modern Israeli fiction and a host of other topics”. Legislation approving this initiative passed the California Assembly in spite of significant opposition for industry lobbyists, but the fate of the bill is largely irrelevant as the UC system has taken the matter into its own hands. “Taxpayers pay for this research, and we the people, we own it,” said Mike Gatto, D-Burbank, who co-authored the bill with Republican Assemblyman Brian Nestandet. “So it just makes sense to cut out the middlemen who charge taxpayers for something we already own.”

The “Open Access” movement already had signification momentum. The White House is on board and has pledged a significant $100 million to promote open access and to require all federally-funded research to be free of charge. More than 175 research institutions around the world have approved similar initiatives including Duke, Emory, Princeton, Wellesley and the University of Kansas and some schools or departments, such as the Harvard Business School and the Stanford School of Education, have also joined in. With the University of California now giving its stamp of approval, open access may now become the “defacto standard” for public research throughout the world.

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