1 Percent versus the 99 Percent-A Case for Open Access to Papers
My November trip to DC comes at a perfect time for me to escape the craziness near the end of the semester here in Los Angeles. The Capitol is four blocks away from my room in Hotel George while I continue to write my Masters’ thesis on different cell types within the visual thalamus. Unfortunately, I hit a roadblock.
I need to write about specific connections between the two different types of light sensing cells, rods and cones, in the retina. I vaguely remember reading an article that dealt with the very topic about a year back. But not its title, authors or even the journal it was published in. After searching PubMed, the online database for medicine and life sciences, for 15 minutes or so, the right article is in front of me.
The abstract is perfect. It talks about the electrical connections between rods and cones. I need to download the entire text of the article before actually citing it as a source. However, once again my writing comes to a screeching halt.
As I try to download the article, the journal website asks me for subscription information. I don’t have any. It is the first time I have been asked for one.
Usually, I work at my University where scientific articles are freely available. I faintly remember the orientation session when the university boasted of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to provide free access to these expensive journals. I can see why this was a selling point for graduate students. Today, this one article is cutting a $32 hole in my poor grad student pocket.
But wait a second. This does not make sense. Why can I, a taxpayer, not have free access to the research I helped fund at every stage of the scientific process? How did the fruits of our investments become the properties of the corporations?