One of the consistently propagated tropes in the Open Access debate is “The Public’s” right to know about research that their tax dollars. As I opined whilst curating the Real Scientists account the other week, “The Public” isn’t a simple thing to define, and their wants and needs, indeed desires to access taxpayer-funded research are many and varied.
One thing I would like to see in #FutureTimeChem is the funding bodies that do provide the $$$ for research, and who do urge us as scientists to make access to that research open, to lift their game when it comes to providing the means for us to do so. I don’t mean just stumping up the $1000-2500 per article to enable Gold OA publishing, but actively supporting (i.e. cooperatively funding) international efforts like arXiv, and bioRxiv, and equivalents in other disciplines.
Additionally I would love it if these same funding bodies themselves acted as repositories that the public could browse to see the outcomes that their tax dollars payed for, if they wish to do so.
I imagine a future where every funded project had its own web page hosted by the funding body, where the progress reports, initial funding application,* any progress reports,* and publications were aggregated and easy for the public to find, and importantly, easy for indexing bodies to index.
*Of course there are caveats to this. There would have to be a considerable embargo period before public disclosure of the funding application, and progress reports. Many researchers would not want to open up the field to every competitor in every corner of the planet straight away. So a staged release, starting I humbly suggest with the first public disclosure via publication, or conference proceedings would be necessary. The initial grant success could however be trumpeted with something a little more substantial than the one sentence title we currently get from the NHMRC, more like these one paragraph descriptions from the ARC
This is a really quick and dirty HTML mockup of such a Portal for the web page of a fictitious grant to design inhibitors to combat space bugs.
Would the progress reports that we write satisfy a non-expert member of the public? Or are these “Executive Summaries” already too technical? Should there be links to even more humanised non-technical summaries? I understand that some funding bodies are already moving in these directions, and that’s great. So long as they focus on who their audience actually is. “The public” or the scientific researchers who see to research and build on these discoveries?