18 December 2005

Wellcome Moves

The news that the Wellcome Trust has reached an agreement with three publishers of scientific journals to allow Wellcome-funded research published in their journals to be immediately available online and without charge to the reader is good news indeed.

Good because it will make large quantities of high-quality research immediately available, rather than after the tiresome six-month wait that some journals impose when providing a kind of pseudo-open access. Good, because it shows that the Wellcome Trust is willing to put its money where its mouth is, and to pay to get open access. Good, because by making this agreement with Blackwell, OUP and Springer, the Wellcome Trust puts pressure on the the top science publisher, Elsevier, to follow suit.

In fact, thinking about it, I was probably unkind to describe Nature as the Microsoft of the science world: that honour clearly belongs to Elsevier, both in terms of its power and resistance to opening up. Moreover, Nature, to its credit, now gets it about Wikipedia - it even made subscriber-only content freely available. And the conceptual distance between wikis and open access is surprisingly small; so maybe we're seeing the start of a historic shift at Nature.

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