Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

NASA Opens Research to Public: Why That's a Big Deal

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

NASA Opens Research to Public: Why That's a Big Deal

Article excerpt

It has been a good week for science and space enthusiasts.

NASA announced last Tuesday that they would be releasing hundreds of peer-reviewed, scholarly articles on NASA-funded research projects online. The articles are entirely free to access for any member of the public.

The new service is a big deal for the space agency, which has been gathering scientific information on a huge variety of topics since it was established in 1958.

The move comes amid a greater push for scientists to make their research free to the public for others to learn from and to build upon. One computer programmer and research associate at the Britain's University of Bristol went as far as to call the practice of sealing scientific research behind a journal's paywall "immoral."

"If you are a scientist, your job is to bring new knowledge into the world. And if you bring new knowledge into the world, it's immoral to hide it," he wrote in a 2013 editorial published in The Guardian.

NASA's treasure trove of scientific articles can be accessed through NASA PubSpace, where anyone can search through a library of research papers already numbering in the hundreds. The papers now available to the public range from the space-related studies of how ancient Martian tsunamis may have shaped the Red Planet to closer- to-home examinations of how climate change affects the movement of Earth's magnetic poles.

And that's just the beginning.

According to NASA's website, all articles in peer-reviewed scholarly journals and will now be required to be publicly accessible via PubSpace. There will be some exceptions for articles that concern national security and patents, but minus those exceptions, every future academic paper on research funded by NASA will be available to the public for free.

NASA's new policy is because of a 2013 request from the Obama administration to increase public access to the results of all federally funded research, according to a NASA press release. The request applied to all science-funding agencies that are backed by money from the US government.

This is only the latest in several NASA initiatives to increase public access to the organization. NASA's website has an "Open Government" section that outlines various initiatives to make the agency more available to the public through programs that promote machine-readability of NASA documents, open-source software development, and financial data transparency.

PubSpace has the potential to be a game-changer beyond NASA, however.

Traditionally, academic journal articles require subscriptions to access, which can cost potential viewers a lot. By allowing free, convenient online access, this research will be accessible to all sorts of people and institutions who couldn't afford it. Also, the consolidation of articles from multiple journals into one site will make it a good deal more convenient for those who wish to access the information. …

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