back to article Gates Foundation to insist on Open Access science

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has drawn a line in the sand: as of next year, it will only fund research that is released in full, for free, immediately upon publication. The Foundation's pitching the decision as enabling greater scrutiny of research, and therefore better outcomes. A new Open Access Policy spells out …

  1. Big-nosed Pengie

    The irony fairly drips.

    Still - credit where it's due. It's a good thing.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I thought this too on first read, but on reflection I'm not so sure. The article kind of captures the point here that with the backing of a massive charitable organisation you can do lots of good things for free, but it doesn't create a new paradigm for everyone else.

      Same thing with Microsoft, I'd say. Whatever one thinks about the good or otherwise of what they did (and for my money MS was a good thing when it was busting the IBM monopoly but rapidly became a monstrosity once it had monopoly power itself) they wouldn't have been able to do it with this business model because Gates wasn't a multi-billionaire then.

      1. Gannon (J.) Dick


        "... but it doesn't create a new paradigm for everyone else."

        Einstein found a loophole in Newton's denial of Ptolemy. That evolution took 1900 years and Open Access had nothing to do with it.

        Newest date on the package wins, never mind the content. The Gates Foundation eats, sleeps, and breathes a model commercial competition useless to scientific progress.

  2. tom dial Silver badge

    Well done!

    Now my government should follow the Gates Foundation's outstanding example and insist on open access for research that the taxpayers fund, along with public ownership of all patents obtained based on the research. I do understand that the patent thing is problematic, but have in mind the extortionate behavior of Myriad Genetics wrt the BrCa patents. Sorting out and implementing such a policy seems a better way than some others for patent and other attorneys to occupy their time.

    1. Don Dumb

      Re: Well done!

      @tom dial - the problem is very little research is actually publicly funded. Certainly here in the UK, the majority of university research in many subject areas is funded by industry.

      I personally find it quite depressing, as it means that not only do most post-docs exist on fixed term contracts having to move around every few years as science mercenaries (and thus the side effect of potential conflicts of interest in having to constantly get industry to fund projects for them). But it also means that research is focused on positive results, there's no room for exploratory or 'blue sky' research which benefits society (Newton wasn't sponsored to sit there and think) and there's no appetite for negative results, which to the wider world can be more useful than positive results (this is particularly important in medicine, we need to know which treatments are detrimental not just beneficial)

      When I see the pathetic amount of public funding that goes into science I do get annoyed, the long term benefit to the country of just putting a small amount more into research.

      1. Richard 81

        Re: Well done!

        Lots of universities are adopting an open access policy though, even for industry-funded projects.

    2. Don Dumb

      Re: Well done!

      @tom dial - "along with public ownership of all patents obtained based on the research"

      I realise that I've added a second reply, but this is on a slightly different subject.

      Beware of unintended consequences. Public ownership of patents, may not have the desired result. In UK government procurement, the general policy is that the government should get free license but industry should own the IP of publicly funded work. The policy may be slightly different for research.

      The principle behind that is that the IP, say a patent, has value to exploit (for better or worse), if the government hold a patent they can't exploit it as well as industry, therefore the value of the IP generated by the taxpayer is reduced. Furthermore, the patent may be less well shared by government than industry, as a company has an interest in actually exploiting and thus a motivation to share the IP, more so than government does.

      <unrealistic idealism>

      It would perhaps be better for the government to simply not register any patents identified in publicly funded reasearch. It's a foreign idea to many (cough, *Apple*, cough) but no one *has* to register patents when they have invented something, once an invention is made public but not patented then it shouldn't ever be patentable and therefore free to society.

      </unrealistic idealism>

    3. Robert Helpmann??

      Re: Well done!

      But it is insisting that all research it funds is released, along with underlying data, on the day of publication.

      Note that it is not just the paper and results that are to be released, but the data. This is particularly important as it allows not just a check on outcomes based on duplicating the research, but a check on the analysis being performed. It is especially useful for meta-studies as the researchers would be better able to compare apples to apples.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Hopefully a lead others will follow, maybe eventually pressuring state-supported universities that all too often allow research they supported to be taken private in exchange for a cut. Everyone saw what Stanford did with Cisco, Yahoo, Sun, etc. and wanted their university to act like a VC. States that wanted state supported schools to be more self-supporting were only too happy to cooperate, unfortunately.


    I'm pretty sure the companies Bill has investments in will reap the rewards.

    What's good for Bill is good for... Bill.

    1. cambsukguy

      Re: I'm pretty sure the companies Bill has investments in will reap the rewards.

      It is good for Bill, just not in the way you are implying.

      That old saw about giving feeling good is actually true, especially when you can give immense amounts without reducing your standard of living.

      It *is* good for Bill, as well as the many recipients of his largesse.

      Me, I give for the same reason as many others do, to reduce guilt.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I'm pretty sure the companies Bill has investments in will reap the rewards.

        The worlds richest man (still) who is (apparently) giving away his fortune.

        It's all bollocks just like Bono and Geldoff's efforts.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Open science funded by a closed source monopolist rip off merchant.

  6. synonymous cowherd

    oh irony

    Nice one bill, although I find it funny how the advatage of open shared science doen't extend as far as softwarez. Of course you don't feel the need to profiteer anymore

  7. demaniak


    I hate it when the villains turn into good guys.

    It unsettles me.

  8. gobaskof Silver badge

    This is a good thing but the journal owners are just using it to rip off scientists further. I was part of a project where we were rightly told to publish open access. To publish open with most journals we have to pay money. Other groups with other grants don't publish open (plus there is the whole back catalogue) so we also pay for a subscription. Open access just becomes another revenue stream for these predatory publishers.

    What we need to do is stop the reliance on stupid journal metrics. The journals the bean counters claim rate as good, know that we must publish there to please our bureaucratic overlords. Hence they have us by the balls and can charge us insane prices both to publish and to read what is published. While providing a bit of web-hosting and a name. What really takes the biscuit is they then get us to review work for them free of charge.

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