In one sense, this is subversive; in another sense, it is just a natural outgrowth of an organic movement the seeds of which were planted in 1984 (a year that does have other connotations) when Richard Stallman kicked off the Free Software Foundation.
This morning, at the 10th LCA in Hobart, Arthur Sale, a professor of computing (research) at the University of Tasmania kicked off a mini-conference titled "Free as in Freedom" with a talk on "Beyond open source."
Sale spoke about the moves to make research papers which are publicly funded available to everyone. He touched on the way some institutions have gone about making such papers available, pointing to the example of his own university which makes a good deal of its research accessible.
Sale also mentioned arXiv.org which provides access to more than half a million research papers in theoretical physics, mathematics, computer science, biology, quantitative biology, quantitative finance and statistics.
He said the one thing standing in the way of such research data being freely available was the publishing industry which collated the research papers, edited, printed and sold them at a high cost.
The research itself was paid for by governments and research institutions; the scientists and researchers sent their work on to publishers and there the process of putting a price on it began.
Sale was asked whether it was not better to have some kind of public site where all research could be submitted in view of the fact that it would eliminate the need for each and every institution to run a site specifically to host the research papers.
His response was that if a public site was involved then the submission of research would become a voluntary thing and the percentage of people who did submit papers would be low; a university could make it a condition of employment and the number of people who met these terms would then be much higher.