From: Eugene Leitl (Eugene.Leitl@lrz.uni-muenchen.de)
Date: Fri Feb 15 2002 - 04:50:38 MST
By BBC News Online's Ivan Noble
Plans to extend free access to scientific and academic research papers
have received a boost with the announcement of a $3m grant from financier
and philanthropist George Soros' Open Society Institute.
The literature that should be freely accessible online is that which
scholars give to the world without expectation of payment
Budapest Open Access Initiative
Open access advocate Professor Stevan Harnad of the University of
Southampton, UK, says the money could make it easier for academics wanting
to set up their own alternatives to commercially run journals.
"The vast potential benefits of open access to research and researchers
are already there... but the subsidy lowers the entry barriers for
would-be open-access initiatives," he said.
Critics of commercial journals say their subscription charges hamper
research at institutes and in countries where research budgets are tight.
They say that researchers write and review papers for free, so the
journals should not charge to read them.
"They don't want to get paid, what they want is that other researchers
should read and use their work," Professor Harnad told BBC News Online.
"The fact that their literature is treated for trade is anathema," he
Some commercial journals have extended the amount of literature they make
available for free in response to a boycott campaign by scientists calling
themselves the Public Library of Science.
But journal publishers defend their charges as necessary to finance their
The new money for open alternatives comes as part of a new declaration
called the Budapest Open Access Initiative, signed by dozens of
institutions and hundreds of researchers.
They say they are not opposed to commercial journals, but want to see an
alternative system of free access journals and self- archiving set up in
"The literature that should be freely accessible online is that which
scholars give to the world without expectation of payment," reads the
It calls for "free availability on the public internet, permitting any
users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the
full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data
to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose".
Professor Harnad's colleagues Chris Gutteridge and Rob Tansley developed a
piece of software called Eprints, which, they hope, makes the process of
publishing easier and therefore cheaper.
He says the Soros money could be used to "seed" schemes where academics
will pay a small fee to have their papers reviewed but users will pay
nothing to read them.
"To start up and fill an institutional Eprint Archive costs less than
$10,000; to start up and fill an alternative journal costs less than
$50,000; so $3m can do a lot of good in three years," he says.
More important though than the money, he adds, is for there to be a
critical mass of research available from free archives online.
"It's a question of when the dominos start falling," he said.
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