It has long been obvious that the days of closed scientific publishing are just as numbered as those of all restrictive practices. In the age of the free flow of bits sharing information will only ever get easier (as Cory Doctorow is fond of pointing out).
As workers in text mining it is, of course, frustrating that we often can't apply our algorithms as widely as would be useful for scientific users of our systems because of journal access restrictions. (The results are real; see for example our recent contribution to a PLoS One paper about oral cancer, Incorporation of prior information from the medical literature in GWAS of oral cancer identifies novel susceptibility variant on chromosome 4 - the AdAPT method, in press April 2012.)
A recent report suggests that the losses associated with these restrictions are more than £100 million per year:
Text mining, for example, is a relatively new research method where computer programmes hunt through databases of plain-text research articles, looking for associations and connections – between drugs and side effects, for example, or between genes and disease – that a person scouring through papers one by one may never notice.
In March, JISC, a government-funded agency that champions the use of digital technology in UK universities for research and teaching, published a report. This said that if text mining enabled just a 2% increase in productivity for scientists, it would be worth £123m-£157m in working time per year.
But the process requires research articles to be accessed, copied, analysed and annotated – all of which could be illegal under current copyright laws.
It is time to open up!