A prominent critic of scientific journals that charge subscriptions to read government-funded research results has launched a high-profile protest by posting five copyrighted Science papers on his personal website.
“I am taking a stand [on] the accessibility of research carried out by the government,” geneticist Michael Eisen of the University of California, Berkeley, tells ScienceInsider. “But I’m not interested in breaking the law.”
Eisen posted the papers without asking permission of the copyright holders, an apparent violation of U.S. law. But it would be up to the authors of the papers, not the journal, to take any legal action against Eisen, copyright lawyers say.
Yesterday, Eisen caused a stir in social media by downloading and then reposting the papers, which appear in today’s issue of Science and describe discoveries about martian geochemistry by NASA’s Curiosity rover. Eisen says he was “astonished” to discover that the papers were behind Science’s paywall, and that NASA should have pushed to make them freely available because many of the authors were government employees. “The research was funded with $2.5 billion of tax money,” Eisen says. “It's more than just a missed opportunity for NASA. It should be a scandal.”
Eisen is no stranger to the fight for making scientific research accessible. He helped launch the open-access publishing movement by co-founding the Public Library of Science (PLOS), which publishes several free journals. Open-access journals give free access to readers and pay their bills by charging scientists a publication fee, while traditional journals charge subscribers or libraries.