Why Are Research Papers Locked Up And Unavailable To The Public?
Currently in the US any research done from public grant monies must be available to the public. That means data, and also any papers written by the principal investigators. This is a good rule, and a good law. There are some exceptions but they are very rare. No longer can the academic institution or principal investigators sell their research papers through those third party scholarly article companies. Still, often colleges and university research centers which are funded by an endowment or foundation can hold those research findings and papers for a fee or perhaps just hide them altogether as intellectual property.
Still, if it is a publicly funded university, I think I do still have a problem with that, in so much as the principal investigators are on the payroll of the institution and that institution is partly publicly funded. This debate has been going on a while, and it’s been in the news often when someone unlocks that research and sends it out online to the world. Interestingly enough, the Russians, Chinese and other often spy on these university and college research centers, so they already have the information, whereas, our own innovators, entrepreneurs, scientists and corporations do not. Think on that for a moment while I continue this dialogue.
There was an interesting article recently in the New York Times (Sunday Review) titled; “Should All Research Papers Be Free?” by Kate Murphy, published on March 12, 2016 which questioned the locking up of research papers and charging huge fees for Journal Articles.
Many years back there was a breach in the system at MIT where all the research papers, normally for sale were put onto the web for all to view. Some applauded this sort of “moral-hacking” while others condemned it as theft. Whether this was a modern electronic era Robin Hood act or not is hard to say in hindsight with all the new laws requiring publicly funded research to be free to citizens (unless it involves national security). Nevertheless, the Electronic Freedom Foundation is happy to report that the unlocking of research papers is fairer than it has ever been, even if they admit there is still work to be done and advise the situation will require continued monitoring.
If Universities hold data under lock-and-key and we taxpayers pay other universities to research the same thing, when it is already known, we waste money in research duplication – how does this assist our nation, forward progress or advance technology for our future. You decide.