Six Funders Working To Set Science Free

Tate Williams | Inside Philanthropy | December 3, 2014

Sharing information is easier than ever, but much scientific research remains maddeningly walled-off in publications charging thousands of dollars for access. Some prominent funders are part of a growing movement to make science more open.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recently made a strong statement in favor of the accessibility of research with the announcement that it was implementing the world's strongest mandate for grantees to provide open access to their results. Gates is the latest funder to take a stand against scientific journals holding research hostage behind outrageous paywalls, and instead pushing for widespread dissemination and reuse of scientific discovery.

The move is an important milestone in the push for open science, a movement that has been escalating over the past decade or so. In a nutshell, before the Internet, research results were exchanged almost entirely by publishers of commercial, print journals to which researchers and libraries had to subscribe (this is a good little primer). Sounds like a fine system, but one problem is that most published research is funded by public grants. So the idea that the public can’t even read a study that the federal government paid for is messed up. Not only that, but even as the ease of exchanging information has increased, the cost of access has gone through the roof. It’s prohibitively expensive for average people, but also other scientists, especially in less wealthy countries...