Our newest policy formalises our support for universal access to publicly-funded research.
We propose that if publicly-funded research is published in a paywalled journal, the authors must, without delay, publish a version of that content in an Open Access (OA) format. The SHERPA/RoMEO resource identifies that 74% of publishers allow authors to do just that ("post-print" is the term used for the copy of the manuscript after peer-review and corrections, once it has been accepted for publication).
While the OA requirement cannot be enforced for privately-funded research, an inability to pay must not prevent public access to government-funded research. Of course, some findings may be sensitive for a range of reasons. In this case, the results would not be published in a paywalled journal, either (as the only barrier to access in those journals is the ability to pay).
The urgent need for Open Access
Restricting knowledge is not only elitist; it can also represent an existential threat. Humanity has big problems to solve, and we need many minds directed towards solving these problems.
A common restriction on publicly-funded research is that if it published in a paywalled journal, the content must be published as OA within the next 12 months. This delay is unacceptable in today's world of fast-paced scientific research.
Opening up access to peer-reviewed articles will allow science will progress faster. If we don't solve some of our biggest problems in short order, we may lose the ability to solve them.
Wider issues with the publishing system
The peer review system for scientific publishing is not perfect, but it has got us to where we are today.
Beyond issues of scientific rigour, many journal publishers operate on a model that can only be described as predatory. OA journals charge authors a fee to publish, and paywalled charge fees to access material. Under both models, articles are reviewed for free by academics, as a service to the community. Trading on prestige or the fact that they fill a niche, academic publishers' margins are astronomical.
A handful of publishers hold an oligopoly on academic publishing, which is bad for competition. Further, the publishing market is constrained in that the nature of a study dictates the most appropriate journal in which to publish it.
The ways in which we fund scientific research and the importance the academic community places on an individual's publication record also create perverse incentives and biases in research. We propose a step towards more open access to research as part of wider reform in the academic publishing system.