Efforts to make scientific literature freely available for all have gathered pace in recent months. But the complexity of the issues and the difficulties in bringing about change in scientific publishing are also becoming increasingly apparent.
In this article, Les Grivell examines the different approaches being used to free up access to scientific information. Self-archiving — whereby scientists publish copies of their work in freely available, searchable databases — could in theory open up access to the world's scientific literature almost overnight. But there are technical problems that need to be resolved, and widespread ignorance of the potential of the approach.
Another avenue — to produce open-access journals by charging authors to publish papers — is being piloted through initiatives such as the Public Library of Science and its journal PLoS Biology. But some doubt whether such a model is financially viable in the long term.
Reference: EMBO reports 5, 3 222-225 (2004)