Open Access to Scientific Research Can Save Lives
This year a high-school student in Maryland announced that he had invented a diagnostic test for pancreatic cancer. The test costs three cents per use. It works 168 times as fast and more than 400 times as accurately as the best previously existing test. It also may be able to detect ovarian and lung cancers. Jack Andraka, the inventor, is 15 years old. His cancer test is more than a medical triumph. It is also a triumph for open access, the goal of a decade-old movement to replace an obsolete and inefficient scholarly publication industry with something better for everybody: a system that allows anyone with a computer and an Internet connection free access to results of academic and scientific research—most of it paid for by taxpayers.
Without open access, Jack Andraka would not have been able to retrieve and read scientific publications on the Web, even if he had been able to locate them. He did not have thousands of dollars to spend on scholarly journal subscriptions or pay-per-view fees.