The Wellcome Trust plans to withhold a portion of grant money from scientists who do not make the results of their work freely available to the public, in a move that will embolden supporters of the growing open access movement in science. In addition, any research papers that are not freely available will not be counted as part of a scientist's track record when Wellcome assesses any future applications for research funding.As one of the major donors to scientific research in the UK, this is bound to have an effect. I support this; science requires that knowledge is shared, so that advances can be checked and built upon by multiple researchers. Repeatability is at the heart of the scientific method; while the possibility that anyone can contribute ensures both the highest level of scientific development, and protects science against cultural biases and blindspots.
The problem is the position of scientific journals as the gatekeepers of the knowledge. Published work remains the gold standard for assessing a scientist's output. The review process serves to catch and correct mistakes and omissions, and to check that a research paper says something genuinely original. The journals in turn need funding to maintain themselves, so must charge a fee. The low print runs mean that the cost of a journal is quite high, and if the work in a journal is freely available elsewhere, there is little incentive to buy them.