17 December 2010

Pay per view science

There’s a nice article on the pressures facing academic libraries that delves into costs and the commercialization of knowledge. I agree with much of what Robert Darnton says is there, but wanted to play Devil’s advocate:

(T)hose publishers add very little value to the research process, and most of the research is ultimately funded by American taxpayers through the National Institutes of Health and other organizations.

First, a challenge to those who think publishers add little value: try publishing your own journal. It can be done, and is getting easier all the time. But it is hardly a trivial matter. PLoS is not a “two people in a garage” operation by any stretch of the imagination.

Second, I’m getting a little tired of the implied argument that because much science is funded by the American National Institutes of Health (or some other federal agency), all science should be free to Americans. (In fairness, Darnton doesn’t make that argument explicitly.)

If a research project is not funded by U.S. taxpayers, why should the scientists have to make the results free to the American public?

Some journals that normally have paywalls offer an open access option for authors. Maybe we should have the reverse, too: open access journals could have an option that allows independent researchers to charge for their science. A $1 fee through PayPal, say, that would go directly to the researchers.

Maybe this could become a new way to fund research: pay per view fees on articles that went straight to authors could help fund the next projects.


Mike Mike said...

The thing is, there's a lot of articles I'd pay $1 for instant online access to. There are probably no articles I'd pay $25+ for (which is the going rate for online access for single articles.)

It's hard to imagine that most articles would be in-demand enough to make those small payments add up.

Zen said...

It certainly wouldn't replace an R01 for a cell biology lab, no. But for some labs, a few hundred bucks here and there could grease a few wheels, so to speak.