Tag Archives: publication

Making Science Proprietary

I have no idea what is driving this, whether it be a crass payback for campaign contributions (as implied in the full article) or a desire to stop those irritating amateur bloggers from trying to replicate “settled science,” but it is, as a reader said who sent it to me, “annoying:”

There are some things science needs to survive, and to thrive: eager, hardworking scientists; a grasp of reality and a desire to understand it; and an open and clear atmosphere to communicate and discuss results.

That last bit there seems to be having a problem. Communication is key to science; without it you are some nerd tinkering in your basement. With it, the world can learn about your work and build on it.

Recently, government-sponsored agencies like NIH have moved toward open access of scientific findings. That is, the results are published where anyone can see them, and in fact (for the NIH) after 12 months the papers must be publicly accessible. This is, in my opinion (and that of a lot of others, including a pile of Nobel laureates) a good thing. Astronomers, for example, almost always post their papers on Astro-ph, a place where journal-accepted papers can be accessed before they are published.

John Conyers (D-MI) apparently has a problem with this. He is pushing a bill through Congress that will literally ban the open access of these papers, forcing scientists to only publish in journals. This may not sound like a big deal, but journals are very expensive. They can cost a fortune: The Astrophysical Journal costs over $2000/year, and they charge scientists to publish in them! So this bill would force scientists to spend money to publish, and force you to spend money to read them.

I continue to be confused how research funded with public monies can be “proprietary,” but interestingly this seems to be a claim pioneered in the climate community, more as a way to escape criticism and scrutiny than to make money (the Real Climate guys have, from time to time, argued for example that certain NASA data and algorithms are proprietary and cannot be released for scrutiny – see comments here, for example.)