Friday, August 23, 2013

Open Access

Science has a piece this week stating that now more than 50% of "published" papers are open access and in the biotech world it exceeds 60%. The lowest number is in engineering. They state:

Efforts to give the public free access to peer-reviewed papers have reached a milestone: One-half of all papers are now freely available within a year or two of publication, concludes a new study sponsored by the European Commission. That means so called open-access publishing has reached a “tipping point” and will now accelerate, suggests √Čric Archambault, the lead author of the study and president of Science-Metrix Inc. in Montreal, Canada. “Things are likely to move much faster now.” But some open access observers have been quick to criticize the study, which yielded a number twice as high as other analyses.

This is a most interesting indication of several things. First the biotech world is fast moving and having the ability to get results from a broad base of sources makes it move quicker. Engineering is a slow plodding field. Just look at IEEE publications most of which are recast papers written by a mass of faculty and students rehashing what a single person did decades ago. So who cares. In contrast having access to the latest papers can result in the conversation and ideas spreading at the speed of light, literally.

The next issue is the whole question of peer reviewed papers. Peer review is time consuming and does not always do what was intended, for at heart it is all too often a political process. Open non-anonymous commentaries would be more effective, not the type that one finds after some blog post, but well though out "letter" replying to the papers. I suspect we may very well see a change in that direction, and as PLOS and others move forward perhaps a web site can combine rapid publications with credible named reviews written to be informative not just snarky bits which we all too often see.