Weekly news: The academic spring – removing the paywall to knowledge

WE ALL love open access, don’t we? The very fact that you are reading this newsletter is testament to the power of the internet in providing free and easy access to huge volumes of information. But what about those who make their living by restricting access to information to anybody who isn’t prepared to pay for it?

The world of scientific publishing is a strange one. Publishers invite researchers to submit their work, so they can consider publishing it. They send it around to a few experts for comment, and may then invite the researchers to re-write the text accordingly. They may then elect to publish the research, and of course charge a substantial sum to anybody that wants to read it.

Who makes money out of this procedure? Certainly not the academics, who are not paid for their contributions to the journal. Not the peer reviewers either. Only the publishers make any money, by taking the work of others and building a wall around it.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with making a profit. But in the specific case of scientific publishing, much research that leads to this profit is paid for by the taxpayer. This knowledge is publicly-funded, and should therefore be publicly owned. Instead, we give it freely to private businesses, who then charge us to see it.

This week saw the UK’s science minister David Willets write in the Guardian newspaper about this stranglehold on knowledge. I rarely find myself agreeing with any politician, but this was one of those rare occasions.  The same day, a report from the country’s academic information quango JISC concluded that around £30 million per year could be saved in journal subscriptions if publicly-funded knowledge was freely available.

More valuable than that, though, is the benefit of sharing information freely just because it is the right thing to do. In the USA, a policy of open access has been found to accelerate commercialisation of research as well as steering follow-up research in more worthwhile directions.

They way forward is clear: publicly-funded research should only be published in open-access journals (such as PLoS), and never behind a paywall.

I hope you find the LabHomepage website, and this weekly newsletter, useful. Comments and feedback are always welcome: thesecretlabproject@gmail.com. Please help us build our circulation base by forwarding this to any friends that might like it, and suggest they subscribe at http://eepurl.com/itOV2

best wishes

Russ Swan

editor, LabHomepage.com




1. How to double the resolution of FT mass spectrometry

A NEW computational trick developed by researchers at the University of Warwick, UK, is said to double the resolution, sensitivity, and mass accuracy of Fourier Transform Mass Spectrometry (FTMS) with no cost penalty. The new approach hinges around the phasing issue that…



2. Industrial microscopes promise top results in quality control

OLYMPUS reports that the use of microscopes is expanding in a number of industrial sectors, as the needs of advanced metrology and quality control become more sophisticated. The company also notes that the users of microscopes in



3. Selecting embryos for chromosome numbers boosts IVF success rate

A SIGNIFICANT increase in the success rate of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) procedures is reported today by BlueGnome, with the results of the first randomised study of pre-implantation…



4. Proliferation assays make for easier 3D cell culture

AMSBIO says its new range of Cultrex 3D proliferation assays make downstream 3D cell culture applications much easier to manage. 3D cell culture is a booming technique…



5. Kits promise reduced bias through bi-directional RNA sequencing

AN EASY, flexible, and non-biased method to generate directional single, paired-end, and multiplexed libraries from mRNA- or rRNA-depleted total RNA is promised…



6. Measuring total sulphur quickly and reliably

INDUCTIVELY Coupled Plasma – Optical Emission Spectrometry (ICP-OES) is a powerful and sensitive technique employed by Warwick Analytical Service to determine total sulphur in both,…



7. Piezo micromanipulator is ‘world’s smallest’

A NEW 3D piezo-operated micromanipulator from Warner has a fully-featured controller to facilitate high precision positioning. The company says the Sensapex manipulator is the world’s…



8. Heated stage plays vital role in flycatcher reproductive study

A STUDY into bird hybridisation at Uppsala University, Sweden, has been able to make progress only because of its use of TH60-6 warm stage from Linkam Scientific…



9. Evaporators optimised for environmental research

MONITORING substances that are potentially harmful to health is a core activity for many organisations, including government agencies and private firms checking they are not…



10. Thermo Fisher’s latest invention: water

ULTRA High Pressure Liquid Chromatography (UHPLC) is a powerful separation technique involving high pressure (around 350bar, 5000psi or more) and small stationary phase…




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