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Open-Access as Moral Choice?

Mike Taylor, a computer programmer with Index Data and a research associate at the University of Bristol, argues in The Guardian that, for researchers, "publishing science behind paywalls is immoral." Scientists, he says, are supposed to be generating knowledge, knowledge that should be shared with the world.

Taylor further counters the common argument that publishing in traditional journals like Science, Nature, and Cell is necessary for a scientist's career to flourish. In the UK, he notes that both the Research Excellence Framework and the Wellcome Trust say that impact factors or the prestige of the journal in which a study is published should not be used to judge its quality — the Wellcome Trust says work should be judged on its own merits. Additionally, Taylor says that many open-access journals don't charge processing fees, and, those that do, charge about $900, which he notes is a small portion of most research grants — despite common complaints about the expense of publishing in such journals.

"We're scientists. Our job is to make knowledge," he adds. "If we make it, then brick it up behind a wall, we're wasting our time and our funders' money – which ultimately means we're squandering the world's wealth."