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Answer by Tirumalai Kamala:

The lack of ethics inherent in the current model of academic peer-reviewed scientific publishing is not just theoretical. In 2012, there was a revolt within academia, pithily called Academic Spring.

Why unethical? Unethical because costs inherent to paper publishing evaporated with electronic publishing. Taxpayers fund much if not most research published in these journals so journals can’t claim cost of research. Scientists like myself do the peer-review for free. Journals have already cut their costs to the bone by outsourcing editing to Third World back offices. I should know. My in-press articles? Not that I have many but I used to back and forth with offices in Mumbai or Chennai in India.

Yes, open-access journals are a potential solution to counter the current stranglehold by academic publishers who wave the mythical power of prestige to hold scientists in thrall. Yet open-access journals haven’t increased in prestige to effectively compete. Why? Simple. Status quo of submitting to pay walled so-called prestigious journals stays in place.

For this status quo to topple, top researchers with ample funding, solid publication record and tenure need to start submitting their best work to open-access but they don’t. Why? It takes courage. Few scientists, famous or not, have that kind of courage. There was one and he was instrumental in getting the Academic Spring going. Who is he? He’s Timothy Gowers, a Fields Medal winning mathematician. His shot across the bow? This 2012 blog post.
Page on wordpress.com
Here, Gowers declares that he will no longer submit or review for Elsevier, the world’s largest scientific publisher.

Another problem with open-access is that much of the current model subsidizes free back-end reading access through prohibitive front-end costs paid by the authors. These days, when money in biomedical research is so tight that even at NIH many of the labs I knew are downsizing or closing down, which labs can afford to shell out an extra $2000 or more for a full-length 6 to 8 page research article?

For this indefensible scientific status quo to go the way of the dodo, more courageous scientists need to step up and take their place with Gowers. Are there enough with that kind of courage? Who knows? I have rarely met truly courageous people, scientists or otherwise. The signs are promising though. See this article by among others, Mark Walport, then head of the Wellcome Trust, a big UK science funder, making the case for open data in science.
Page on thelancet.com

If science funding agencies like the Wellcome Trust fund not just the research but also its publication, access to scientific research data should become more freely available. This is about something much more important than just an Academic Spring, free of stranglehold by academic publishers. It is about making scientific enterprise more transparent and more accountable to the general public so that they trust it more. Increasing trust in the scientific enterprise in turn increases its credibility so that the public trusts scientists more than quacks and celebrities on scientific matters.

Nov 23, 2014 update: More promising signs that the current model of science publishing dominated by paywalled elite science journals is starting to crumble.

1.  Randy Schekman who won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine has made it his lab’s policy to no longer publish in these journals.
Randy Schekman: first, a breakthrough in cell research. Now for one in publishing
How journals like Nature, Cell and Science are damaging science | Randy Schekman

2. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation just announced a two-fer.
a. Starting in January 2017, researchers funded by it will be required to publish in immediate open-access journals.
b. The Gates Foundation will pay the author fees charged by such open-access journals.
Gates Foundation to require immediate free access for journal articles

Dec 3, 2014 update: Yesterday, Nature announced it is making all articles free to view, as a pilot program over the next year.
<i>Nature</i> makes all articles free to view

Why are many scientific articles pay-to-read?

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