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Wall Street Journal on Open Access & the UC System

Full text of this lengthy article is available to subscribers of the Wall
Street Journal.


>From the Wall Street Journal -- http://online.wsj.com/article/ 

Peer Pressure
Scholarly Journals' Premier Status Is Diluted by Web
More Research Is Free Online Amid Spurt of Start-Ups;
Publishers' Profits at Risk
A Revolt on UC's Campuses

BERKELEY, Calif. -- From a stool at Yali's cafe, near the University of
California campus, Michael Eisen is loudly trashing the big players in
academic publishing. Hefty subscription fees for journals are blocking
scientific progress, he says, and academics who think they have full
access to timely literature are kidding themselves. "They're just wrong,"  
Dr. Eisen says. He suggests scholarly journals be free and accessible to
everyone on the Web.

This may sound like the ranting of a campus radical, but Dr. Eisen is a
well known computational biologist at a nearby national laboratory and a
Berkeley faculty member. He is also a co-founder of a nonprofit startup
called the Public Library of Science, which produces its own scholarly
journals, in competition with established publishers, distributed free

It's a campus twist on a raging Internet-era debate about who should
control information and what it should cost. For decades, traditional
scholarly journals have held an exalted and lucrative position as arbiters
of academic excellence, controlling what's published and made available to
the wider community. These days, research is increasingly available on
free university Web sites and through start-up outfits. Scholarly journals
are finding their privileged position under attack.

The 10-campus University of California system has emerged as a hotbed of
insurgency against this $5 billion global market. Faculty members are
competing against publishers with free or inexpensive journals of their
own. Two UC scientists organized a world-wide boycott against a unit of
Reed Elsevier -- the Anglo-Dutch giant that publishes 1,800 periodicals --
protesting its fees. The UC administration itself has jumped into the
fray. It's urging scholars to deposit working papers and monographs into a
free database in addition to submitting them for publication elsewhere. It
has also battled with publishers, including nonprofits, to lower prices.

"We have to take back control from the publishers," says Daniel
Greenstein, associate vice provost for the UC system, which spends $30
million a year on scholarly periodicals.


Write to Bernard Wysocki Jr. at bernie.wysocki@wsj.com

Copyright 2005 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.