Wikimedia Blog/Drafts/Access2Research/1

Sign a petition to require free access to publicly funded researchEdit

Imagine if you could only see the first paragraph of an article on Wikipedia—and then had to pay to see the rest. Want to see the links to other articles and resources? That'll cost you even more. You probably wouldn't read articles on the site nearly as much. Maybe you'd decide that you didn't really need to know some things that badly, or you'd give up and find more easily accessible information, even if it wasn't from as good a resource.

If you don't have a university subscription, that's what it's like trying to read most academic scholarship.

It's bad enough that so much knowledge is made inaccessible, when the people least able to pay for it are often the ones who need it most. But what if you had already paid for it?

The main reading room of the Library of Congress in the Thomas Jefferson Building

On May 20, the team behind Access2Research launched a campaign to "require free access over the Internet to journal articles arising from taxpayer-funded research." Opening up publicly funded research will "provide access to patients and caregivers, students and their teachers, researchers, entrepreneurs, and other taxpayers who paid for the research".

Wikipedia depends on the energy and dedication of volunteers—academics as well as amateurs—who read and investigate sources and compile them into knowledge that we strive to keep accurate, up-to-date, verifiable, and open to public scrutiny. Our mission is to make the world's knowledge accessible to everyone.

But it's difficult to fulfill that mission when the scholarly research is inaccessible. The volunteers creating the millions and millions of articles need access to information in order to write about it. And readers of the article need to be able to check what they've read, and dig deeper into the research they started with Wikipedia. While Wikipedia is a great place to make sense of the research produced by the world's scholars, and a great starting point for anyone beginning research of their own, it doesn't take the place of scholarly literature. It's a different resource, and it depends on the availability of the resources of scholarly research.

Right now, most scholarly information is not reasonably accessible to anyone who lacks access to institutional journal subscriptions or personal wealth. If the spirit of scientific publishing is to spread knowledge for the betterment of society, we believe a model that depends on keeping it out of the hands of the public betrays that aim. We believe in open access and open licensing as fundamental forces to disseminate knowledge, support education, and accelerate discovery.

Today Wikimedia joins the thousands of individuals and organizations urging the US administration to support free access to taxpayer-funded journal articles. Please sign this petition to mandate that all publicly funded research be made freely available to the citizens of the Web.