European commission report on free dissemination of government-funded science

By Howard Rheingold, published at 10 May 2007 - 8:12pm, last updated 12 years 27 weeks ago.

Tom Abate reports in the San Francisco Chronicle's juicy new blog, The Technology Chronicles, on movements toward retaining scientific information as a public good in an era of privatization:

The London Guardian reports that a European Commission study is calling for the free dissemination of government-funded science research over the Internet.

To boil down a complex issue, scientists must publish or perish, and their journals are now owned by a few large firms. This has led to complaints that the cost of subscribing to scientific journals (which averaged $840 a year in 2000 according to a Chronicle story) is retarding the spread of knowledge. Scientists generally feel obliged to publish in these expensive journals because they confer the prestige upon which researchers depend.

Last year the National Institutes of Health -- arguably the world's largest government sponsor of scientific research -- "encouraged" researchers who received its support to submit manuscripts to the PubMedCentral database for free release within a year of publication in a paid journal.

Rather than simply complain about the status quo in science publishing, some Bay Area scientists started the Public Library of Science as a scientific alternative press. Along similar lines, Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig has launched a Science Commons project.

These are dense but vital issues in an economy that depends on innovation. Thanks to Amy Gahran of the Poynter Institute for flagging the European report and stirring the pot.