Field of Science

How do I feel about open-access journals? The president wants to know.

The White House is requesting comments as it formulates a policy on open-access publication, at least according to a recent email from AAAS:
The Obama Administration is seeking public input on policies concerning access to publicly-funded research results, such as those that appear in academic and scholarly journal articles. Currently, the National Institutes of Health require that research funded by its grants be made available to the public online at no charge within 12 months of publication. The Administration is seeking views as to whether this policy should be extended to other science agencies and, if so, how it should be implemented.
The comments are being collected in phases. Right now (Dec. 10 - 20) they are asking
Which Federal agencies are good candidates to adopt Public Access policies? What variables (field of science, proportion of research funded by public or private entities, etc.) should affect how public access is implemented at various agencies, including the maximum length of time between publication and public release?
Next up (Dec. 21 - 31) is
In what format should the data be submitted in order to make it easy to search and retrieve information, and to make it easy for others to link to it? Are there existing digital standards for archiving and interoperability to maximize public benefit? How are these anticipated to change?
Finally (Jan. 1 - 7) they are interested in
What are the best mechanisms to ensure compliance? What would be the best metrics of success? What are the best examples of usability in the private sector (both domestic and international)?
I'm glad they are thinking seriously about these things.


Edward said...

From the perspective of a non-scientist:

1. I'm at a loss as to why the subscription based/paid journals model has somehow managed to persist in spite of the internets. Is it a prestige thing?

2. I can only assume that self-preservation and funding are high on the list of priorities any Federal agency in the business of funding science. That being the case, I would simply point out to their various directors that the NASA model of making everything they do available to the public online is not only a boon for the science, but it also happens to be a brilliant public relations campaign.

2a. Is PLoS the model? Seems to me that surveys like this are inherently flawed when they don't first point those they are surveying to the latest version of the wheel in an effort to cut down on the noise of reinvention. I'd also add that centralized online clearinghouse for publishing government funded research would go a long way toward increasing the visibility of the less glamorous but still just as important sciences.

josh said...

Edward - why has the subscription model lasted? I can't say for sure, but although scientists tend to be socially liberal, science itself is very conservative. We're slow to adopt new ways of doing things.

This isn't totally unreasonable. The existing journal system took over a century to set up, and it works reasonably well. We'd like to be sure anything we replace it with is at least as good, and that takes time.

Also, don't discount the power of the publishing lobby.