Here’s something that any student or academic can do to promote the free flow of scientific and scholarly inquiry: pressure your college or university to sign the Compact for Open-Access Publishing Equity. It’s a statement of solidarity among institutions of higher learning to promote open-access publishing.
In the more specific language of the Compact, universities commit to “the timely establishment of durable mechanisms for underwriting reasonable publication charges for articles written by its faculty and published in fee-based open-access journals and for which other institutions would not be expected to provide funds.”
This imperative is growing stronger every day now that publishers are trying to roll back the existing open-access rules for federally funded research. Under the Research Works Act, introduced in December, the federal government could not require open access rules for the research it funds. In other words, highly lucrative commercial journal publishers would have a protected market for taxpayer-subsidized research for which it would hold the copyrights. A sweet deal!
Open access is getting a lot more attention these days now that more than 5,700 researchers are calling for a boycott of Elsevier, one of the leading publishers of scientific journals. It started when mathematician Timothy Gowers of Cambridge University announced that he would no longer have anything to do with Elsevier-publisher journals; he would neither submit articles or act as a referee or editor for them. Soon the boycott had spread.