Quietly this week, while the UK was in uproar about the activities of the last big media company in a dying industry, something of far greater import happened in the world of media and information. The UK government announced that it would be making all research papers generated within its public universities available openly, online, for free.

Currently, the hundreds of thousands of research papers thus generated are sequestered in thousands of privately produced journals, whose subscriptions -- for university and public libraries -- are exorbitant, often running into tens of thousands of dollars. Access to individual papers -- often small notes, on piddling experimental findings -- can run from 20 to 40 dollars a pop.