03 June 2009

Big Open Access Win in UK

Great news:

University College London is set to become the first of the top tier of elite European universities to make all its research available for free at the click of a mouse, in a model it hopes will spread across the academic world.

UCL’s move to “open access” for all research, subject to copyright law, could boost the opportunities for rapid intellectual breakthroughs if taken up by other universities, thereby increasing economic growth.

Paul Ayris, head of the UCL library and an architect of the plan to put all its research on a freely accessible UCL website, said he had backed open access because the existing system of having to visit a library or pay a subscription fee to see research in journals erected “barriers” to the use of research. “This is not good for society if you’re looking for a cure for cancer,” he said.

What's pathetic is that some people are *still* spreading the FUD:

Martin Weale, director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, said: “If you read something in the American Economic Review, there’s a presumption that its quality has been examined with great care, and the article isn’t rubbish. But if you have open access, people who are looking for things ... will find it very difficult to sort out the wheat from the chaff.”

Hey, Martin, as you should know, open access and peer review are completely different things. The open access material at UCL can still be published in peer reviewed journals - including those that are also open access - in order "to sort the wheat from the chaff". The point is that *anyone* can access all the materials at any time - not just when publishers allow it upon payment of exorbitant fees.

Moreover, I seem to recall that there's this cute little company called Google that's pretty good at pointing people to content on the Web. And that's partly the point: once stuff is open access, all sorts of clever ways of finding it and using it are possible - and that's rarely true for traditional scientific publishing. (Via Mike Simons.)

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