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Wellcome joins chorus calling for free online access to medical research

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Wellcome Trust no longer wants to pay for medical research that ends up guarded behind a pay wall, and the U.K.'s largest private funder of medical research is considering several ways to bring a proverbial wrecking ball to such pay walls and make research papers available for free online under an open-access framework.

The charity's efforts are a direct assault on the model that the publishers of go-to journals such as Nature and Science have used to charge universities millions of dollars for access to academic research. Wellcome, which pumps more than £600 million ($952 million) per year into medical research, aims to attach some strings to its grants that would, for instance, require that research funded by the charity become available free to the public within 6 months of publication, The Guardian reports.

Evidently, more than 9,000 researchers have pledged their support to a grassroots effort dubbed the "academic spring" that calls for a boycott of pay-only academic journals and support of open access publishing, according to The Guardian. Wellcome isn't endorsing a boycott of the established journals that charge subscription fees, but the charity has backed a plan to create an open-access journal called eLife that would compete with Nature and Science. And that move alone could propel the "academic spring" movement.

Highly respected scientists, of course, have already begun to flee from the stalwarts of academic publishing and bring their medical research to open-access journals, such as those provided by the nonprofit Public Library of Science (PLoS). And, yes, PLoS has diligent peer-review processes for its articles. Yet many academics can't resist the professional perks and status of getting their work into Nature or Science, which offer a measure of validation and draw lots of notice to their work in the scientific community.

However, with research dollars becoming harder to find for many university labs, and groups like Wellcome starting to put some teeth behind their open-access requests to funding recipients, major change in the scientific publishing world is likely in the offing.

- get more in The Guardian's article

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