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Public access to research under attack

The University of Copenhagen's communication department clashed with the Society of Danish Science Editors this week in debate over who gets to read research and the cost of access to science

The University of Copenhagen was caught in conflict over public access to its scientific publications this week. An email from the vice president of communications Jasper Steen Winkel was the immediate cause. It described the university’s ‘open access’ policy, which roughly means that people should not have to pay to read expensive scientific publications.

Currently a hot topic in the research world ‘open access’ journals allow anybody to read their publications upsetting the centuries old scientific publishing industry. They do this by removing financial, legal and technical blocks to the information whilst still retaining the peer review process.

But Jørgen Burchardt, chairman of the Society of Danish Science Editors, took offence at the vice president’s message. He responded by publishing a rebuke of the open access concept in our sister newspaper Uniavisen, decrying »a one-sided post« and »unilateral politicization«.

Unrecognisable Complaints

In his message to the vice president of communications, Burchardt argues that quality should be the only real consideration for publishing, adding

»It would be a disaster for science, if free entry is added to quality«

He further claims that open access policies will mean approximately six percent less funding for researchers and questions the long term viability of the model. He also disagrees with the description of journals as expensive despite some, such as the Journal of Comparative Neurology charging over $20,000 annually.

The vice president responded assertively to the comment, saying the allegations were »unrecognisable«, that most of the communication involved requirements from outside bodies and that »the news provided a brief guide to available systems for doing so«. He also points out that many UCPH researchers have been using open access publishing for years without complaint.

See the universities open access policies yourself

You can find more information on the universities open access policies here. As well as the original comments in Danish by Jørgen Burchardt here and the response by Jasper Steen Winkel here.

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