Last week I published a show at IT Conversations by Paula Le Dieu talking about Science Commons. Science Commons is a project of Creative Commons aimed at making more of scientific results and data available without copyright restrictions.
I personally believe that academic research has less impact because the primary journal publication organizations (whether for-profit or non-profit) lock up results behind copyright. Le Dieu goes through some very real scenarios where this could have negative impact. Mind you, we're not talking about private data generated by private companies, but results that you paid for in many cases with your tax dollars.
Last month, Wired Magazine had a feature on Harold Varmus, the Nobel Prize winning scientist and former director of NIH who's been on a crusade to establish online, peer-reviewed journals with real standing. So far, the Public Library of Science, or PLoS, has a family of first-rate, open access journals, all in the biosciences.