Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Open Access experiment

This blog is produced using only free software.  The operating system is SuSE Linux 9.1; the editor is NVu; and the blog itself is hosted by Google.  As open-source and freely-available software comes into wider use, we also are seeing a more widespread implementation of open-access content.  Now, one of the biggest player in the scientific content arena is experimenting with open access. 

An Open Access experiment from the Nature Publishing Group

The Nature Publishing Group, in partnership with the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO), has announced that it is to launch a new online journal run on an Open Access model.

The new journal to be run by Nature Publishing Group (NPG) and EMBO is called Molecular Systems Biology; it will focus on the emerging field of systems biology at the molecular level. NPG stated its belief that "systems biology is an important field of research that has the potential to greatly advance our understanding of biology. Molecular Systems Biology will publish relevant, high-quality research in the evolving fields of bioinformatics, genomics and proteomics, microbial systems, cell signaling and computational networks, while helping to integrate data and theory to better understand the dynamic and complex nature of living systems." The publisher also intends to work together with the Systems Biology community to establish guidelines, standards and metrics for global complex datasets. The new journal will be launched next spring. Articles will be published only in an electronic version, following peer-review, and Open Access will be supported by an 'author-pays' pricing model. The author fees were not announced. [...]

The announcement came at the same time that Nature concluded an online discussion forum about Open Access publishing, edited by Nature correspondent Declan Butler. An editorial in Nature magazine suggested that one conclusion of the debate was that "one-size-fits-all solutions are ill-suited to the huge range of journals and business models, from those with low operating costs, low rejection rates and low added value to more selective journals with high costs and significant added value." The editorial is critical of political attempts to enforce one business model, but adds that, "Nature welcomes alternative models that deliver enhanced access, provided that they also foster added editorial and publishing value."

NPG and EMBO should be commended for adopting the Open Access model for Molecular Systems Biology. Such experiments by traditional publishers will help to demonstrate that Open Access business models are sustainable and can produce peer-review journals of high quality.


One of the leaders in the open-access movement is Biomed Central.  In fact, they have a website  that promotes this model, and a fairly convincing set of arguments that favor it.  They also provide a link  that enables members of the general public to send a comment to NIH regarding their initiative  to make all NIH-funded research reports available at no charge.  We have until November 16, 2004, to make comments. 

As part of on-going efforts to gather input on this issue, the NIH Director, Dr. Elias Zerhouni, held a series of discussion meetings to hear and consider the opinions and concerns of publishers, scientists, patient advocates, scientific associations, and other organizations. All of the meetings were open and were designed to ensure that in-depth discussions of stakeholder issues could occur.

After listening and carefully considering the views of publishers, patient advocates, scientists, universities, and others, the NIH drafted a proposed NIH Public Access Policy and posted it in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts on September 3, 2004, http://grants1.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-04-064.html

and in the Federal Register on September 17, 2004, http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/06jun20041800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2004/04-21097.htm.

Public comments on the draft policy are encouraged and will be accepted for 60 days from the date of publication of the policy in the Federal Register, which is until November 16, 2004.

NIH also has posted a list  of scientific references that already offer free access to some or all of their content. 

I encourage all good Blogosphere citizens to leave a comment for the NIH, expressing support for their initiative.