Science publishers don't care about the public
This post initially appeared on Science Blogs
Over at Pharyngula, PZ mentions a media criticism paper in the journal Public Understanding of Science. The paper shows that media outlets frequently make scientific claims that are dubious at best. I suppose this isn't very surprising, but PZ makes another great point:
It isn't open access, though, so apparently the Public is not allowed to read about the Public Understanding of Science unless they cough up $25 per article. They can read about "science" for cheap in their local tabloid, though. Isn't this part of the problem, too? Let's also put part of the blame on a science publishing industry that puts up barriers to reading the real stuff.
I made almost the exact same point a year ago when the journal Nature published an editorial praising scientists who blog and make their research available to the public. Back then, I wrote:
This stance seems disingenuous, however, for a publication that locks the vast majority of it's material behind a pay-wall.
I also left a comment on the editorial page at Nature saying: It's all well and good to talk about public accessibility of science, but how do you expect the public to get engaged when almost all primary literature is locked behind a pay-wall? I have access through my university, but when I want to blog about new research for friends and family, I'm stuck linking to abstracts and then summarizing everything in the paper.
About 3 months later, Nature removed my comment as spam, and when I e-mailed to contest the removal, I received a response telling me they'd look into it. As of this writing, the comment has not been restored. It's pretty clear to me that the major publishers don't care much about public access to science. That's why I'm cheering for PLoS - everything they publish is open access, the way it should be. It's your taxes that fund the research, you should have access to the results without me or anyone else being a mediator.