It is a shame that academic output is locked up in expensive journals, which academics and students from developed and, more importantly, the developing world have to pay for. In an irony, so-called Open Access journals charge academics for their work to be published. For example fees levied by Open Access journals vary quite markedly but, as a guideline, BioMed Central charges £330 per article for most of its journals, and PLoS charges US$1,500 (approx. £800).
This is morally and ethically unacceptable due to the barriers it creates in access to knowledge.
The Budapest Open Access Initiative (http://www.soros.org/openaccess/read.shtml ) defines open access as:
There are many degrees and kinds of wider and easier access to this literature. By ‘open access’ to this literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.
Those opposed to open access bandy the term peer-review. This is most amusing as conditional (fee) access journals pay nothing to academics for peer-review. With web technologies allowing for ease of collaboration and publishing the whole idea of an external body regulating the flows of knowledge is a redundant idea. Media reports suggest they are making use of public relations experts and lobbying groups to make their case (read report from Scientific American).
Prof Peter Subers from SPARC makes an excellent case for Open Access journals here.