There is a White House-backed petition being sent around trying to pass mandates that government-funded scientific research be made available on open-access websites. It will be interesting to see how that plays out.
Personally, I have mixed thoughts on the matter. Generally speaking, I am definitely in favor of making research available to the general public. That’s what science is all about! And while those of us working for institutions like universities have access to just about anything we’d like to read, that is not the case for scientists working in other professions, including people working for The Nature Conservancy, for instance.
However, I do worry a bit that the publishing companies will be less likely to publish articles if they aren’t receiving revenue from charging for access, or that they’ll bump up the authorship costs (you have to pay to get your papers published, if you didn’t know). I’m pretty liberal, so extended government control doesn’t really bother me, but I am worried about unforeseen responses on the part of the publishing companies. And what about research that isn’t government-funded? There could be all sorts of downstream effects of this type of mandate. But at least people in power are interested in seeing some change for the better happen!