Taxpayer funded research should be available to taxpayers

Much of the research that is conducted on wildland fire and other topics is funded by taxpayers, but the results of the research are not always available to the public. It is common for government agencies to publish their findings in scientific journals under a copyright. In order to read the paper you have to pay substantial fees to either subscribe to the publication or buy access to a single article.

Government funded research should be published immediately on the internet and made available at no charge to everyone. In the present system, government agencies sometimes pay thousands of dollars in page charges for a paper to be published in a journal, then the journal collects substantial access fees from taxpayers who want access to the information. This makes no sense, when the government agency could publish the information on the web at no cost while making it available to everyone at no cost.

We have written about this previously, HERE and HERE.

There are at least two initiatives working to make taxpayer funded research available to the public. One is the Alliance for Taxpayer Access. The other is a new online pledge, called Research Without Walls, where those who assist in the peer review process for conferences or journals pledge to only do so only if the accepted publications are made available to the public for free via the internet. The web domain “Research Without Walls” was first registered on October 10, 2011 and as of today, October 21, has 89 signatories. It will be interesting to see how much interest it generates.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.