Although I’m not a big fan of Government spending I’d like to offer a suggestion to President Obama and the big spending gang – negotiate an agreement with all the leading scientific journals that will make all scientific papers free or very low cost to anybody. A big frustration and a possible impediment to innovation is the fact that many science papers are “locked away” by expensive subscription paywalls at leading scientific journals. One can understand that those journals are struggling to survive and need money, but the current practice of charging exhorbitant fees so only libraries and a handful of specialists can read the leading edge research is misguided at best and intellectual crime at worse.
Since journals operate on what is usually a very low budget, the government could offer very modest amounts – probably something equal to 1.5 to 2 times their current subscription fees to keep the journals ticking and happy. Authors would be happy to see many times the audience for papers often destined to obscurity.
I think I’d actually favor a “no cost” option that required all research papers funded in any way by any grants or portions of grants to be made public by the author upon publication, but the “new” science community seems to be incredibly stubborn about changes and very protective when territory is threatened so I’m guessing they would likely reject that out of hand, using the argument that the journals should continue to act as a sort of “referee” and organizer of relevant research content. I think this used to make more sense than now as politics have become too much a part of the research and publications framework (I think mostly in the climate sciences), raising several important issues about publications standards, peer review, and data sharing.