The good news is that the Globe and Mail, one of Canada's national newspapers, has a reasonable, balanced article about the open access issue. The bad news is that you can't read it, because the article itself is closed access (paywall). Irony, anyone?
This year, the University of Toronto's library system will spend $20-million on acquisitions. But less than one-third of that money will go to books. The majority will pay for the rising subscription costs of academic journals. "It's alarming," says Carole Moore, the university's chief librarian.
Along with colleagues across the country, she has watched the price of the latest research skyrocket, with top titles such as medical journal Brain Research now hitting $21,000 or more for annual subscriptions.
"This is very big money," says Jean-Claude Guedon, a professor of comparative literature at the University of Montreal who founded Canada's first electronic, open-access journal, Surfaces, in 1991. "This is research that is financed by government and the articles are paid for by libraries funded by government. Then there are these guys in the middle that extract profit."
To get around that, the open-access movement is attempting to establish high-quality publications to rival the titles of established houses. At the forefront is the Public Library of Science, a non-profit organization that has established several journals with the help of some deep-pocketed supporters, including Bill Gates.
There also are efforts to create collections of research apart from the traditional journal format. PubMed Central, maintained by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, is a digital library of peer-reviewed manuscripts. Several universities are following suit by posting archived faculty work.
But this research must be submitted by researchers themselves. And so far uptake has been weak. That has led some funding bodies - including the powerful NIH and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research - to consider requiring researchers to post work that they help pay for in an open-access format.
"I think of it as a democratic question. Open access is part of the public's right to know," says University of British Columbia professor John Willinsky.