Academic journals will be required to give immediate access to papers that are publicly funded. The rule that allowed publishers to keep tax-financed publications behind a paywall for a year will be ended by the new policy.
Only research funded by federal offices with R&D expenditures of $100 million or more had to be published in open access. The New York Times estimates that the new directive applies to 400 agencies and requires that publications be made available in machine-readable formats.
Cornell's open repository of research papers has improved access to studies. A few for-profit journals hold onto publication. Half of all journal articles are controlled by five corporations according to a report from the University of Montreal. The publishers make a lot of money by charging for study submission and publishing rights. The firm with the highest revenue in 2010 was Elsevier.
The University of California system used to have an $11 million annual subscription to Elsevier. The situation is even more difficult for researchers in low- and middle-income countries who don't have subscription deals with journal publishers.
The publishers argue that they provide a valuable service. Not everyone in the academic community agrees. Journals don't pay staffers to evaluate the experimental results and conduct scientific validity checks, even though they judge whether works are worth publishing and reviewing. Researchers are able to work on a volunteer basis.
Academic publishing is a triple-pay system, in which the state funds most research, pays the salaries of most of those checking the quality of research, and then buys most of the published product. Government funded institutions and universities are the largest clients of journal publishers.
Taxpayers in the U.S. spend a huge amount of money on research that they can't get for free. That will change soon.