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The Research Works Act (RWA): why Scientific Publishing needs FOSS Methods

FSM - I'm sure I don't need to explain SOPA or ACTA to regular readers of Free Software Magazine. They're toxic. End of. But RWA? It stands for Research Works Act. It's not the big sexy beast of the other two but it is, in its way, just as insidious and as harmful to the freedom of scientific publishing as SOPA and ACTA are to internet freedom and it's all interconnected. Here's why.

Traditionally, scientists do research and publish the results in Journals. In my day, that mean dead tree publications. In the age of the internet, the journals have gone digital but, paper or electronic, access to them was and is problematical. One massive hurdle of course is cost and the other hurdle is the ability to access and use them freely and openly (with attribution). The central issue is similar to the choice between proprietary software like Windows and Apple and software based on GNU/Linux: one is closed but the other is open and free under the GPL. Of course, Microsoft and Apple are private companies but those scientists working in Universities and research institutes funded by government, that is to say, the taxypayer, are effectively public employees.