Ok, so I’m following Evolution 2012 vicariously via Twitter, and clearly the big event of the night has been Rosemary Redfield’s talk, which happened (by coincidence?) to coincide with the release of the paper from her lab (as well as a companion paper from another lab) in Science refuting the “arsenic life” story, which got such a big media splash a year or so ago. When Carl Zimmer posted that the embargo on the paper had been lifted, I immediately went to Science, to find (of course) that the paper, clearly one of interest to the general public, seemed to be behind a paywall. I tweeted my disappointment, and within seconds, Carl responded that it’s available at Arxiv, and much to my delight, it was.

I may be wrong (and I hope not), but I think this is one more nail in the coffin of the Nature/Science/Elsevier model for scientific publishing. Look at it rationally. Here was a study, funded by NASA (i. e. by the public), proposing what is by any standard a revolutionary claim, and which, by the way, is now freely available online. And two studies that directly refute it are hidden behind a publisher’s paywall? Come on. I’m not one to rant about my rights as a taxpayer, but in this case I’m tempted to. What we have is a situation in which the public has funded questionable science, but our ability to judge it is being blocked, first by an “embargo”, and second by the financial interests of a private party. Enough! I know that there are a lot of financial implications of the Open Access model to work through, but the time has past when publicly funded science can be hidden from public scrutiny.