World wide web creator sees open access future for academic publishing

Jan 29, 2013 by Sunanda Creagh
“I think that the open access activists will win out”: world wide web creator, Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

Activists pushing for free, open access to academic papers will eventually defeat publishers who seek to lock scholarly findings behind paywalls, the founder of the world wide web said today.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who revolutionised the way we access information on the internet through the creation of the world wide web over 20 years ago, has been a vocal proponent for making data freely available while also protecting people's privacy.

Higher and individuals pay millions every year to academic journals to subscribe to but open access , including the recently deceased Aaron Swartz, have been pushing for free access to scholarly findings.

"I think that the open access activists will win out," said Sir Tim, speaking at the launch of the $40 million CSIRO's Digital Productivity and Services Flagship on Tuesday.

"A lot of publishers realise that's the way that is going. The unfortunate death of Aaron Swartz brought… that whole battle to many people's attention," he said, adding that an open access model gives the most benefit to the most people.

"There is a fairness argument, for people in Africa, people who are not at large universities, there are people who just don't have access to the papers," he said, adding that access to the data that informs is also important.

"A lot of the data is publicly funded already so it should be available and a lot of the publishers are moving to open access models."

When asked about an Australian government proposal for individual data logs to be stored for up to two years, Sir Tim said it was important for governments to be able to fight and state sponsored .

"Having said that, there are the dangers of snooping on people. If you do snoop on people, you are not going to get a criminal. They are going to use Tor," he said, referring to a system that allows to communicate anonymously.

"That [logged] information will not go to stopping serious criminals, only people who have taken out too many library books."

Such a system would produce a world in which a teenager who needs to visit an online forum to find out information about his or her health or sexuality would have that information tracked for two years and data on powerful people's web habits could be stolen and used for blackmail, he said.

Sir Tim warned Australians to "beware a government that has the ability to control what you can see on the web".

Danny Kingsley, Executive Officer for the Australian Open Access Support Group, welcomed Sir Tim's comments on the future of open access publishing.

"There is no doubt that open access is necessary for humanity to be able to effectively tackle the very real large scale issues the world is facing. We need the entire research community sharing their findings to build solutions," she said.

"This is not happening when many of the world's researchers or their institutions are simply unable to afford subscriptions to journals. But there are large barriers, no matter how strong the argument for the fairness of open access."

Dr Kingsley said the promotions and grants systems that most Western researchers operate under supports the current status quo.

"Until the emphasis on publication in established high impact subscription journals and on metrics as a measure of quality is altered, open access will face ongoing challenges. The recent implementation of open access policies by Australia's two main funding bodies, the National Health and Medical Research Council and more recently the Australian Research Council are a very good sign for in Australia."

Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy said the CSIRO's Digital Productivity and Services Flagship "will play a key role in helping to address Australia's productivity challenge."

Mr Conroy said the flagship, which will focus on research into health, government services and secure infrastructure, will contribute to the economy "through real and measurable improvements to the services sector".

"Australia depends on such improvements in efficiencies," he said.

Explore further: Google Trends info is placed on inbox duty for subscribers

Related Stories

Reading more into open access

Mar 08, 2012

For many years, the traditional method to access researchers’ scholarly works, particularly in the sciences and social sciences, has been through paid subscriptions to journals. But in recent years, a ...

Recommended for you

LinkedIn membership hits 300 million

Apr 18, 2014

The career-focused social network LinkedIn announced Friday it has 300 million members, with more than half the total outside the United States.

Researchers uncover likely creator of Bitcoin

Apr 18, 2014

The primary author of the celebrated Bitcoin paper, and therefore probable creator of Bitcoin, is most likely Nick Szabo, a blogger and former George Washington University law professor, according to students ...

White House updating online privacy policy

Apr 18, 2014

A new Obama administration privacy policy out Friday explains how the government will gather the user data of online visitors to WhiteHouse.gov, mobile apps and social media sites. It also clarifies that ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (2) Jan 29, 2013
Couldn't agree with him more.
All the scientific open access community needs is an international body to organize peer review. Without that publishers still have the upper hand.

More news stories

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

A homemade solar lamp for developing countries

(Phys.org) —The solar lamp developed by the start-up LEDsafari is a more effective, safer, and less expensive form of illumination than the traditional oil lamp currently used by more than one billion people ...

UAE reports 12 new cases of MERS

Health authorities in the United Arab Emirates have announced 12 new cases of infection by the MERS coronavirus, but insisted the patients would be cured within two weeks.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...