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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Open Science going Mainstream?

It is encouraging to see more and more articles in the mainstream press on Open Science and the changes in scientific publication. For example USA Today has "Is this the end of scholarly journal?" Here are the examples cited:
Two new scientific publications, both available only online, may signal what's ahead. The PLoS ONE (plosone.org), a journal begun by the Public Library of Science (PLoS) last month, aims to put as many new scientific articles as possible on the Internet to be read by anyone, free of charge. The Journal of Visualized Experiments, or JoVE (myjove.com), is a kind of YouTube for researchers. It operates on the theory that a short video showing how an experiment is done is better than thousands of words that attempt to describe it.


Since its launch Dec. 20, PLoS ONE has published well over 100 papers and expects to publish 15 to 20 more per week. Readers access the articles for free. PLoS ONE pays its way by charging authors $1,250 to publish an article. While that might seem a barrier to publication, Surridge says most research is financed by grants or large institutions, meaning individual scientists rarely have to pay themselves. But just in case, PLoS ONE is waiving the fee for any authors who request it.
I had not really considered PLoS ONE to be a vehicle for our work because of the hefty author charges but I might consider it now if they really are serious about waiving the fee simply by request. From my conversations with people at the NC science blogging conference, such fees are not that much of a barrier for molecular biologists who are used to paying page charges. But things are different in chemistry.

I also have reported on JoVE and I think that it is a great idea, especially since there are no fees for authors or readers. But don't discount YouTube for science - I think it is perfectly suited to communicate experimental details.

Thanks to Deepak for the link.


  • I wonder if this changes the approach to publishing. Not everything should be published in a scholarly journal. If other means of disseminating scientific data become more acceptable and only good science is submitted for publication, then the fees can easily be wrapped up into grant applications, and may no longer be an issue.

    By Anonymous Deepak, at 10:12 AM  

  • Well there is no way to prevent bad science from being published in journals (reviewers only do so much) or anywhere else. The reader has to evaluate it based on the data provided. The more raw data is provided the easier it is to evaluate.

    By Blogger Jean-Claude Bradley, at 10:30 AM  

  • Which brings up another question? Should data be treated under a license different from the creative commons license that PLoS One uses? Published text can be CC, but perhaps we need an alternative (Data Commons/Science Commons) for scientific data.

    By Anonymous Deepak, at 11:55 AM  

  • Deepak,
    Well those of us interested in open science would like the data to be as open as possible. What would you want to accomplish with a special license for data?

    By Blogger Jean-Claude Bradley, at 12:02 PM  

  • I am not really sure actually. Just wondering out aloud if there should be an equivalent of the creative commons license for data sets, so that some level of attribution can be provided when that data is used for results put on various websites, etc.

    By Anonymous Deepak, at 1:06 PM  

  • Because we use Wikispaces, everything we put on there, including data, automatically gets a CC license.

    By Blogger Jean-Claude Bradley, at 1:12 PM  

  • You could argue that it is more important for the data to be under a CC licence than the paper itself. For papers 'free to read' is what most people care about, but the value of being able to take and reevaluate the data in a paper is just huge.

    Ayway, what I really wanted to say was that yes PLoS is really serious about waiving fees for authors without the resources to meet them. We are so serious about this that information about whether an author has asked for a waiver is kept away from the editors making decisions on papers. So finances are no reasons not to submit to PLoS journals.

    Chris Surridge, Managing Editor PLoS ONE.

    By Anonymous Chris Surridge, at 1:24 PM  

  • Chris - that is really good to hear

    By Blogger Jean-Claude Bradley, at 1:49 PM  

  • Chris,

    Definitely good to hear.

    As far as the data is concerned I completely agree with you the real value comes from the data. If the CC license can successfully cover data as well, that might just be the ideal scenario.

    I wonder if the trend to have data available under a CC license, like the wikispace example, will become more common? I hope it will.

    By Anonymous Deepak, at 5:19 AM  

  • About the fees: If you multiply out 15 - 20 papers / week by $1,250 isn't that about $1 million / year? I know $1 million isn't a lot for a real company, but still seems high from the perspective of how free it is to blog or wiki and that I presume the editors don't get paid. So it's just servers and a small paid staff?

    Also, about the licensing for the data. Maybe the person does have a point, although I don't really understand the vagaries of the CC / Gnu license thingies. Of course data should be completely shared for "open science". But isn't it possible that the CC license doesn't quite work for, say 3 GB of raw video microscopy data?

    By Blogger TestingTFV, at 2:36 AM  

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