I will start by asserting my unwavering support for open access journals. If I was in charge, there would be no subscriptions. Zero. Regular readers will know my socialist tendencies. Knowledge should not be a privilege. Things are better than what they were, yet still the vast majority of primary literature is unavailable to the vast majority. I am a big proponent of making all forms of education completely free and widely accessible. I hope that the trends continue, and as more and more journals migrate online freeing them from printing costs, the savings are passed on to the consumers.
PLOS One is a glowing example of how to do open access right and I believe, a glimpse into the future. The benefits of open access, online-only formats are immediately apparent. The breadth of research far exceeds that of any traditional journal. Articles range the gamut of disciplines, and encompass all article types (review, research, methods, etc.). What’s more, this style permits the reporting of replication studies and negative results; two neglected areas, the importance of which have only recently been fully realized. Sounds great, doesn’t it? So why are so many people, if not fully opposed, ostensibly reluctant to open access?
Good all capitalistic greed ranks highly. Involved parties assert that they won’t make as much money if they are required to provide their products for free. A shrewd observation. But I have yet to hear a convincing argument against government subsidized publishing. The money is there. If we can rustle up $54,000,000,000 to buy shiny new tanks and missiles (for the sole purpose of terrify anyone who can’t remember the lyrics to The Star-Spangled Banner), then the ‘we can’t afford it’ proclamation carries no weight whatsoever. Most people are agreed however, that some things are more important than profit: healthcare, emergency services, etc. And for the most part, education is usually included in that list too. I think a concerted effort to make all primary literature open access is one of the most important cultural advances currently facing the scientific world. Once we have achieved this feat, it would not be long before we will look back with a mixture wonder and pity at the way things used to be.