Recently under the US government shutdown many scientists discovered for the first time what it is like to be cut off from science, but for others not having direct access to all the resources they require is the norm. Once upon a time, physical hard copies of academic work were so precious they were chained to their shelves. Long ago we moved on from the days when every text had to be written by hand - and consequently could have the value of many years average salary. We have moved on from the days of the printing press and the major real costs of publishing on paper. Profits of academic publishers have soared as their outgoings have diminished, yet the ivory tower publishers still charge extortionate rates to members of the public or academics in the third world or second rate institutions who want to access science.This is a bizarre situation because scientific research is created by scientists employed by academic institutions or funded by government grants. The papers are then typically reviewed and edited by academics working for free, leaving little more than typesetting for the publisher, who then takes full ownership of the copyright and locks up the paper before promptly selling it straight back to the very same scientists and institutions who created it for free in the first place, not to mention the public who pay for government funded research through taxes.
Update 21/10/13: Since the screenshots were posted to the Open Access Irony Award group it seems some of the paywalls have been removed. I received a message from the editor of Genome Biology, who stated that a paper in question "has *always* been Open Access", I can only presume a glitch in their system caused a paywall to appear at some point. I've modified the original image in order to only display below paywalls that are still in force.
For a critical whistlestop one page crash course on open access, check out the open access week info sheet:
Why not print it off and put it on your library/lab noticeboard? Find more open access week resources here. Follow the goings on of open access week on Twitter under the following hashtags: #OAWeek #OAweek13. Use the #OA hashtag all year round.
More from me on open access: