Creating Easier Access To Public Research

Aug 13, 2013

State Senator Daniel Biss

A new law requires Illinois' public universities to consider making their research available for free. But it does not require it.

Taxpayer dollars help fund a lot of research at state universities, the findings of which are typically published in scholarly journals. Activists say that's a problem, because the journals are way too expensive for most people to access.

Initially, Sen. Daniel Biss, an Evanston Democrat and former math professor at the University of Chicago, introduced a plan that would have required all state universities in Illinois to make faculty articles available for free online.

But after concerns from professors and journals, the new law instead requires task forces at the schools study the issue.

"My theory is that once we start serious, careful discussions on campus about this issue we’re doing to find that most campuses are going to want to adopt open access policies," Biss said.

Biss says if they don't, then the General Assembly can decide if more aggressive action is needed.

Biss says he introduced the legislation in memory of Aaron Swartz, an Internet activist and prodigy who grew up in Highland Park. Swartz killed himself in January, following after he was indicted by the Department of Justice for downloading a massive amount of scholarly articles from J-STOR, an online service, over M-I-T's network.