Monday, Nov 24, 2003
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Sir, I read the editorial, "Opening access to science" ( Nov. 8 ) with interest, although this has been sidelined by other unsavoury political events that took place on that day. I would like to make a few comments here. The internet began as an effort to network many academicians at CERN (Centre Européen de recherche nucléaire), so as to enable better communications between academicians. However, this medium has since become an important medium for commercial enterprise and the creation of new commodities. Right now scientific publishing is an industry with revenues exceeding $10 billion per year. However, increased costs have placed university libraries in a difficult position. To counter this, ARL (American Research Libraries) started an alliance called SPARC (www.arl.org/sparc) . BioMed Central (www.biomedcentral.com) has been trying to make open-access publishing a viable commercial business model. PLoS, a non-profit organisation run for and by scientists, has now created yet another open access research journal (www.plos.org) . PubMed (www.pubmedcentral.gov) has become a public repository for these open-access works.
Organisations such as Wellcome Trust in the U.K. and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in the U.S. encourage authors to publish in open access journals by paying the $1500 publication charges, which is less than one per cent of the money spent on the research that leads to the publication. As the publication of the paper does not depend on the payment of the page charges, this will not affect scientists in third world countries. Further, the author retains the copyright for the paper and only allows free and unrestricted non-commercial use of the work by others. In an era of greed and war mongers, this is a courageous effort.
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