Winston Hide, is an associate professor of bioinformatics and computational biology at the Harvard School of Public Health. He was also — until recently — the associate editor of the prestigious (and expensive!) Elsevier journal Genomics. In a column in The Guardian, he explains why he resigned from Genomics: people are dying because scientists in poor companies can't afford proprietary journals. He will devote his efforts to open access alternatives to Genomics from now on.
My work on biomedical research in developing countries has shown me that lack of access to current publications has a severe impact.
The vast majority of biomedical scientists in Africa attempt to perform globally competitive research without up-to-date access to the wealth of biomedical literature taken for granted at western institutions. In Africa, your university may have subscriptions to only a handful of scientific journals.
In reality, the modus operandi is "please can you send me a pdf". Alternatively some researchers spend part of their research grant to buy a subscription to the journal they need.
The majority of the science in Elsevier's journals is conducted at public expense, or with a large public subsidy. The peer reviewing process is also undertaken by publicly subsidized scientists whom Elsevier does not pay. The institutions that these scientists work for have to pay very large amounts of money in order to receive the journals their work contributes to.