No matter what you're studying - astrophysics, zoology, business, or any of the other dozens of disciplines offered by your university - you probably spend a significant amount of time writing research papers. Your university library likely subscribes to some of the academic journals that you’ll need to conduct your research, but only the largest, best-endowed schools have access to anything even approaching the majority of available academic research publications. Are you getting access to what you need?
Chances are a good portion of the articles that you'll find useful are the result of research funded by the U.S. government. Government grants account for fully half of the output from university-based researchers and scholars in the U.S. In biology and biomedical-related disciplines alone - for example - the National Institutes of Health fund research that result in a tremendous 65,000 academic articles each year.
Yet: even though taxpayer money funds this research, the resulting articles are often published in journals to which your library cannot afford to subscribe. Your library may not even be able to afford to subscribe to journals that the university’s own employees - your professors - publish their research in.
Many organizations have been working together to change the status quo in this system - the scholarly publishing system. For example, there were two initiatives presented to the 109th U.S. Congress designed to make the results of federally funded research publicly available that will likely be reconsidered this year: the NIH Public Access Policy and the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA). These initiatives focus on removing access barriers by making the peer-reviewed results of taxpayer-funded research available online for no extra charge to the American public - including researchers, teachers, and students like yourself.
Visit these ATA pages for a comprehensive overview and status update on legislative activities related to public access:
Students have an important role to play in supporting the growing call for public access to federally funded research, Take Action.
Actions students have taken:
February 26, 2009
No Taxation Without Information from The Hoya
February 29, 2008
Editorial: A New Approach to Scholarship Access from The Oberlin Review
October 10, 2007
File-Sharing Students Fight Copyright Constraints from The New York Times
May 1, 2007
Resolution in support of the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006 [PDF] from Trinity University Association of Student Representatives
Resolution in support of taxpayer access to federally funded research [PDF] from the Association of Students of Oberlin College
April 27, 2007
Access For All from Harvard University's student newspaper, The Harvard Crimson
November 16, 2006
Tax-funded research should be made available to those in need, from San Jose State University's student newspaper, The Spartan Daily
June 6, 2006
Students speak out. University of Florida Student Senate passes a resolution in support of the Act.
May 11, 2006
Editorial: Free and open - Online research a great asset for all
Ohio University Post
"…As Lieberman pointed out, not everyone has a library next door, and as the nation becomes more and more digital, it only makes sense to require documents that would be readily available at the reference desk now to be easily reached via the Web. It comes down to accountability, both of the public whose dollars are being spent and of the various government agencies who are allocating the funds. An open system will prevent different departments from investigating the same issues, and unguarded information will promote further work."