PLoS Chairman of the Board Harold Varmus applauds the newly enacted NIH public access policy as a positive step toward ensuring greater access to and better use of the scientific literature.
This very nicely discusses some of the recent changes that are making Open Access to scientific information a going concern. Anyone receiving money from NIH has to deposit the accepted manuscripts into PubMed Central and allow freely available viewing within 12 months.
He also mentions the continuing problem of copyright. Many journals require the authors to turn over all rights to the journal in order to have the paper published. This is becoming a problem in the Web 2.0 world, since the concerns of the author do not often match those of the publisher.
As Varmus writes:
Finally, unless authors modify their copyright agreements with journals before publication—something they are urged to do—journals will continue to retain inappropriate control over the use of their articles, which is currently confined largely to reading online for most articles in PMC.
Harvard has recently addressed this. Faculty members must grant a non-exclusive license to the University for it to post on a website it maintains, one that is open and free. Faculty can opt out of this on a case by case basis if the journal will not permit this.
Moreover, the nuisance of writing to the Provost every time a desired journal refuses to conform to the Harvard policy may cause faculty members to rethink their choice of venue, thereby minimizing use of the “opt-out” option.
The journals make their reputation based on the reputations of its author scientists. If a journal has a restrictive copyright policy, these scientists may go elsewhere, putting pressure on the journal to adopt more open access.
This story is not over yet. But it has the potential to revolutionize scientific publishing. Stay tuned.