Nobelpreisträgertreffen

Open Access: A media talk

Kroto again. On Tuesday there was a press talk with Sir Harold Kroto, Bora Zivkovic from PLoS and Jason Wilde from Nature. Since all participants had a lot to say and the time schedule was very tight, the discussion could not immerse into the material properly.

Most of you might know that the Open Access Movement tries to solve the problem of misparity, that public research is published in magazines which the normal population does not read since it would be too expensive. The idea is that scientific results and articles written about such should be freely accessible. There are different approaches to that. Natures publishing policy allows authors to publish their articles on their own website or in academic archives after a period of six months. PLoS proceeds from there and is completely accessible.

The bottom line is that both magazines have the same problem: Even if you publish online only there are costs for editors, servers and so on. Those costs have to be borne. There are several methods to earn that money: subscriptions, advertisement, author’s fees and external financing. Since subscriptions are an anathema to the Open Access Movement, magazines like PLoS try to cover the expenses through the other three methods.

An allegation that is often made to open access magazines is, that they don’t stick to the peer-review-process accepted by the scientific community. For such procedures articles would be made anonymous and given to other scientists to be checked on plausibility and scientificness. Since we are still talking about the people behind such projects, there has been a lot of critic. Bora emphasized that PLoS sticks to the procedures. At this point Sir Kroto jumped in and pointed out that in critical cases the scientific community has also declined bad papers and the peer-review-process is just one method to seize the quality of science.

Research at public institutions is always altruistic as well, claimed Kroto. He did not understand why research results should only be published in commercial journals. That is not a plea for Open Access but at least it’s a supporting statement.

An interesting aspect of the discussion was how the publishing society is changing anyway at the moment and how established brands have to adapt to it. Bora interpreted Nature’s investments in social networks, blogs, forums and commentaries as a sign that the magazine is preparing for its transposition to open access. The sceptical expression on Jason Wilde’s face was marvellous and it is sad, that I was not able to catch it with my camera. Jason legitimated his company’s actions stating that it is logical to come on that market since going online needs social networking as an instrument for scientific communication.

Linked to that is the aspect of the documentation of scientific discussions. If articles are not just openly accessible but can also be commented, then scientific dissent and scientific progress are viewable and documented. For me this suggestion, that was made by Bora, sounds like you switch scientific journals to more blog-like formats (with better search functions).

The next step would be that you write articles toghether in a wikipedia-like format. That way the peer-review-process would be part of the writing process. I can’t really imagine that for chemistry because there are patents, the possession of knowledge and the hazard that someone “steals” your topic at stake. I do think though that this structure of the scientific community of chemists is not good, but I also don’t see any process to more open scientific procedures.

By the end of the panel there were many unanswered questions left. For me the question of parallel formations by the creative commons, the flatrate for culture and the open access movement would be interesting and I will surely pick up that topics in my own blog.

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 » Paula Schramm is a chemist and doing her PhD at the University of Stuttgart. i-56e669b40c1f215ed1c1539d606a346d-Paula_Schramm_45.jpg



 » Jessica Riccò is the translator of this blog and likes the idea of open access. i-b1d38961410ec576e2bf2c7411f43df3-Jessica_45.jpg