Scientists do research. Who funds them? The government. Who funds the government? You and me.
When scientists publish the results of their findings (the findings we paid for) in journals, those journals must be bought. In a sense, we are paying for the information twice. If you or I want access to that information we have to shell out the cost of the journal. How much? Not $12 or 24 a year. More likely you're going to pay in the thousands.
So we pay the scientists to do the research, they come up with the results, and then publishers step in, take control of the information, and we have to pay for it a second time.
Sounds a bit silly? Well, there is a bill making it's way through congress that might bring an end to this practice. If the bill passes, "US investigators funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) may soon be compelled to publish only in journals that make their research papers freely available within one year of publication."
Makes sense to me. It's only a start, but a good one. However, it makes so much sense it might be a problem. Common sense is rare export from Washington. Bush has already promised to veto the bill, should it pass.
Keep your fingers crossed.