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Biotech Science

Faster and Open Access to Scientific Results 50

Tim O'Reilly has a post about how the prominent scholarly journal Nature has recently launched an open-access service for pre-publication research and presentations. In Nature Precedings, all content is released under a Creative Commons Attribution License, and can be commented and voted on. The service will cover research in biology, chemistry, and earth science, much like does for physics, mathematics, and computer science.
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Faster and Open Access to Scientific Results

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  • Vote on it? (Score:4, Funny)

    by houghi ( 78078 ) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @11:50AM (#19595743)

    ... and can be commented and voted on ...

    I hope they have something about gravity, because I would love to see what happens if the majority voted against it.

    (No, I do not RTFA)
    • Most research is published by academics. Academics tend to work at universities. Universities usually tie promotions and career advancement to the number of publications. 300 citatations = Full Professor or some such thing. I don't know how willing they'd be to publish there if they don't get a citation out of it.

      2 cents,

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Seiruu ( 808321 )
        Being published in Open Access Journals apparently gives a higher chance of being cited. Not that strange, considering it's easier to access.

        Across many fields, journal articles made openly available on the Internet are more heavily cited than those that remain behind subscription barriers, evidence that open-access articles have a greater impact on research. This chart shows results from a 10-year tracking of citations. Shown is the ratio of citations of open-access articles to citations of closed-access a

        • It may make lesser known publications more well known, and get more citations, but it likely won't make a difference on important publications. The internet in general has made it so that the size of most bibliographies is huge (in my field 20-30 citations in a 10 page paper is common). However, despite increased access, good papers are still the ones most cited. These important works will be cited regardless of how hard it is to find (although these papers can generally be found at any university or com
          • by Seiruu ( 808321 )

            It may make lesser known publications more well known, and get more citations, but it likely won't make a difference on important publications. The internet in general has made it so that the size of most bibliographies is huge (in my field 20-30 citations in a 10 page paper is common). However, despite increased access, good papers are still the ones most cited.

            While I can see the logic in that, it's also true that simply because papers aren't as groundbreaking, or 'of extreme important to others in the field', doesn't mean it's not sound science that others won't be able to build their work on. And we both know that kind of journal bias is going on, among other things. I believe OA repositories and OA journals aren't claiming that they have stuff of equal quality given the same frequency, but simply stuff that's also sound science which can also be very useful t

    • by Chris_Keene ( 87914 ) * on Thursday June 21, 2007 @04:34PM (#19599855) Homepage Journal
      In a nutshell.
      For many years researchers (academics) carry out some research, write up the findings and try and get the results published in the the most prestigious journal as possible (there are tens of thousands of journals now available), on submitting to a journal, a paper is peer reviewed. Peer-review is carried out by other academics (normally for free), they will either reject, make corrections or just (rarely) simply accept an article for publication in a journal.

      For years this was fine. Then the web happened. (well the web was originally designed for communicated research). Journals became online journals, requiring authentication to prove you are part of a paying institution. Academics could access them from anywhere, print their own copy, access them the same time as others etc. The advantages were huge. But something else happened, journal prices increased way out of proportion with inflation, sometimes 10% a year. End result, libraries had to cancel them.

      So two points:
      One: Your article, the result of years of research, can only be read be a very small number of people who work at Universities (and other research organisations) which can afford to subscribed to the journal (and not even Harvard can subscribe to them all). Your work is hidden to the vast population of the world. Even when it was tax payers money paying for it

      Two: The key to academic publishing is the peer review, it's the step that ensures quality. That is done by other academics for free (and overseen by an editor(s) also normally for free).

      Hang on, your University, and Research Funding body (such as the nsf) have paid for months/years of research, which you have written up, peer reviewed by others for free, and now a journal - which charges huge amounts for access - takes the copyright, pays you nothing, pays the peer reviewers nothing, formats and proof-reads it, and then sells it to Universities (basically the very people who supplied the content) for huge amount of cash. Universities rely on journals and have to pay what ever the price. Meanwhile academics are not allowed to send their own research to their peers, colleagues and students because the publisher now owns the copyright. It is (cliché alert) a licence to print money.

      Open access (making research free to all) comes in two forms:
      - open access journals, which are freely available on the web (either working at no cost, costs covered by a sponsor or by charging institutions to submit articles).
      - Author deposits their article on to their institution's website, namely in to an Institutional Repository (or a subject specific website such as ArcXiv), as well as submitting it to a journal. This means the article is always freely available online.

      The advantages of making research (normally publicly funded) free to all, are numerous and hard to exaggerate. Hobby scientists, school children, the press, the third world, and smaller universities have access to research that they just could not afford to access in the past (and of course, unlike freely available research, subscription only research can not easily be googles).

      The main two software systems for Institutional Repositories are Dspace (MIT/HP) and Eprints (Southampton, UK).

      Nature, they are a pain, they are one of the biggest journals, and they of course know it. If we (my university) were to subscribe to Nature online, we would have to cancel hundreds of other important journals, probably more. We can just not afford it.
  • Science databases (Score:5, Informative)

    by the_kanzure ( 1100087 ) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @11:51AM (#19595767) Homepage
    Here's an important list of science databases []. Don't forget CiteSeer, PubMed Central, Google Scholar, Science Direct, American Chemical Society, Institute of Physics, IEEE, EBSCO Host, etc. Also, an older discussion [] might be useful, and this one [] and online science information portals [].
  • At last (Score:3, Funny)

    by niceone ( 992278 ) * on Thursday June 21, 2007 @12:09PM (#19596037) Journal
    A way to get first post at Nature. And possibly be modded -1 troll.
  • Cool subject (Score:3, Informative)

    by Seiruu ( 808321 ) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @12:10PM (#19596047)
    This site is very informative on the topic of Open Access. []
  • by pimpimpim ( 811140 ) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @12:12PM (#19596069)
    Isn't that what has been doing for ages already?

    In germany there is an UNESCO backed project trying to open scientific information as a whole []

    I personally would be glad if scientific publishing would open up. Of course, someone has to do the editorial work, but currently many journals actually dare to ask money for publishing with them, ask thousands of dollars for including color pictures, and to subscribe to them is not cheap as well. This unfortunately gives the smaller universities a huge disadvantage, even when the people working there might be very good. Also, I suggest that peer review gets some working through, by either always opening up the names of the reviewers, or anonymizing the article. As it is now, many articles get good or bad reviews based mainly on personal views, or on the fact that the reviewer wants to publish the same subject and has an interest in delaying it. With these things fixed, science would get a step in the right direction becoming the honest thing it should be.

    • by aibob ( 1035288 ) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @12:27PM (#19596295)

      Isn't that what has been doing for ages already?
      But this service is specifically intended for fields which are not covered by Quoting []

      We do not accept submissions from fields in the physical sciences that are are already well served by preprint servers such as
      • by Seiruu ( 808321 )
        No big deal really.

        ArXiv is not the only OA repository/journal around.

        Check out [] for biology and medicine topics.

        There's really nothing special about opening up such a repository, except that it's Nature doing it, and it's sort of a hybrid model to "compete" with existing OA sources.
        • by FleaPlus ( 6935 )
          Check out [] for biology and medicine topics.

          I love PLoS Biology, but it also costs $2500 [] to publish in it. Nature Precedings seems more intended for the sort of rapid-fire result publication which wouldn't be economical or feasible with an actual peer-reviewed journal.
          • by Seiruu ( 808321 )
            Good point.

            Actually, I've always wondered whether Open Access isn't a bit too extreme as an alternative towards commercial scholarly publishing outlets.

            I can completely understand their view of it being "too costly for universities" and how it's not entirely "fair" for scientists to pay for something other scientists have worked for just because journals act as the mediators, but to be completely "free of charge" for users while charging the author(s) for publishing is financially even worse for the scienti
            • I wouldn't mind some sort of middle ground like that, provided there were some stipulations -- no exclusivity agreements from journals that charge access fees, and some sort of common OA repository for all articles which are based on research funded by tax dollars. I find it a little obnoxious/offensive that my tax dollars fund scientific research that I then have to buy back from a publishing company at exorbitant cost if I want to, you know, actually use or see. I'm not going so far as to say that all pub
            • by JanneM ( 7445 )
              to be completely "free of charge" for users while charging the author(s) for publishing is financially even worse for the scientist(s) in question.

              Most research is funded and includes funds for this phase, including money for conferences and journal publication - some journals charge both the author (a per-page fee, and extra for every image or illustration) and reader, in case you didn't know that. PLOS do reduce or waive the fee for people that do not have funding, so it's not like good research would sta
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by munpfazy ( 694689 )
        >Isn't that what has been doing for ages already?

        That was my thought. I'm happy to see they've made it clear that they're not competing with (Not that they'd stand a chance in hell of winning if they tried now.)

        Of course, arxiv has the serious advantage that it's *not* directly associated with a commercial journal. That seems like it could be a serious handicap.

        For example, last I knew, Science explicitely granted authors the freedom to publish preprints (but not, sadly, post-pri
      • by SETIGuy ( 33768 ) *

        But this service is specifically intended for fields which are not covered by

        The reason there are fields not covered by or a similar preprint server is not that there aren't preprint server, it's the heinous copyright restrictions that are typical in some fields. Some journals will require that you certify that the work will not be made available in electronic form or they may require that you sign all distribution rights over to them. Such Journals do exist in astronomy, too. I do

    • by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Thursday June 21, 2007 @01:24PM (#19597083) Homepage Journal
      This unfortunately gives the smaller universities a huge disadvantage, even when the people working there might be very good

      Most universities base political progress within the organization, at least in science, largely on the number and prestigiousness of journal articles published by an author/researcher/scientist.

      If publishing in Nature and Science is going to get you a nice raise, a full professorship, tenure, chairmanship, etc. then that's what people are going to do. Is that different in small universities? If not, they need to do some introspection.

      This scheme is also under pressure from women in science who have to balance their biological clock with their career ambitions, therefore the system is already seen as broken from a sexism perspective. Unfortunately, the replacement system is still in the requirements phase.
      • I was probably unclear. My point was not related to the preprint server, but with the question: How are you going to keep up with your literature of you don't have access to a broad range of journals and have to pay 20 euro per individual article ir you really want to have it. From the same money you also have to go to conferences, or get students. This is based on personal experience: I went from a place with access to almost every journal in the field to a place where they don't have even the basic APS jo
  • wonderful (Score:5, Informative)

    by iHasaFlavour ( 1118257 ) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @12:24PM (#19596227) Homepage
    Anything like this is great, really great.

    I'm writing up my phd, and for months (years if you actually include research time), I had to beg/borrow access to pay per bloody paper portals, or hunt around for non locked up copies of papers. Even then I have often had to rely on abstracts and what other people cite papers for as a guide to what I myself can cite, it's not easy.
    I guess it would be if I were more monied, but I'm not. Yes my uni has subs to some portals, but not them all, and usually not the ones I find in the middle of the night after searching for hours.

    Anything that makes new research more readily available is great news in my book.
    • Re:wonderful (Score:4, Insightful)

      by digitalderbs ( 718388 ) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @01:44PM (#19597373)
      This won't eliminate that process (at least yet). These are not a suitable replacement for citations of peer-reviewed journals, and as a member of the scientific community, I would expect worthwhile submission through this system to be processed through the formal peer-reviewed system.

      this system is good for at least two reasons, in my mind :

      1. eliminates abstract citations, which are nearly worthless because they're not archived : i.e. citing conversation, manuscripts in progress, "results not shown."
      2. can save time for the authors if the rest of the community thinks the study is a waste of time by modding down articles. Mind you, this will probably not deter scientists trying to pad their publication lists.

      However, I'm in favor of having publicly available peer-reviewed journals. This is a necessary first step to that -- the only requirement now is the participation of "peers" and credibility of the journals. (chicken and the egg problem)
    • Dude, just ask the primary author to send you a reprint. How hard is that?
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Seiruu ( 808321 )
        Journals own the copyright of your paper (once it's been peer reviewed and approved).

        So you're technically not allowed to do that.
        • Back when I was publishing papers in journals like Theoretical Computer Science and The Journal of Logic Programming, they always sent me a big stack of reprints that I could do whatever I wanted with. I got requests (often from researchers in the 3rd world or eastern Europe) and would just send them one. Maybe they don't do that any more?
        • Re:wonderful (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Metasquares ( 555685 ) <slashdot&metasquared,com> on Thursday June 21, 2007 @02:59PM (#19598453) Homepage
          You're correct, but most of us don't care. Until the journals write my papers for me, the public's right to access that information and my own right to dictate what to do with my content, as the author, trumps the journals' right to restrict access in the name of profit. When we receive neither compensation for nor rights to our own work, the intellectual property system is broken.

          As scientists, it is our mission to advance our fields. A necessary precondition to this is enabling access to our work for the widest audience possible, so other scientists may build upon or refine our methods. I would argue that any "scientist" holding back results in the name of personal gain is not a scientist at all.
          • by Seiruu ( 808321 )
            I agree with that vision. However, the reality is that once scientists option to publish in a commercial journal, they've already made the decision to "sell their souls" as opposed to other ways to share their results to the scientific community. That being the case, it wouldn't make sense for them to endanger their relation with the commercial publishing world by doing something like violating their copyright agreements with said commercial publishers.
  • It's important to note that the primary way of relating new work in computer science is through peer-reviewed conference proceedings, which tend to be a bit faster. Is there a reason to use a service like this if you're a computer scientist?

    Also, will people be concerned about releasing docs to something informal like this? There are already issues with people "stealing" ideas or perhaps arriving at the same idea independently. A service like this may make the distinction even harder to characterize.

    • note that the primary way of relating new work in computer science is through peer-reviewed conference proceedings

      My experience with conferences has been that they're for-profit, and beyond that, don't really care for anything else; and the only reason most `researchers' don't care is 'cause their institution is paying for the thing, and the more you publish, the more important you appear (even if you publish obvious barely readable crap). Of course there are exceptions...
      • CS work is very different than other fields. Conferences are held by the major organizations (IEEE and ACM), and most all of them are peer reviewed full papers. Other fields accept papers into a conference based on abstracts and you submit the paper afterward. In computer science/engineering things are very different.

        As the field is growing so fast, we can't wait for journals to get the final version of a paper (additionally this would result in too many groups doing the same work simultaneously). Confe
  • by RasmusW ( 56000 ) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @01:01PM (#19596749) Homepage

    While it's certainly very nice that the big journals like Nature take steps towards offering Open Access to (some of) their material, it has already been a growing trend in certain research areas for the past, say, five years or so. I do research in the field of Bioinformatics/Molecular Biology and except for high-profile stuff that could go into Science or Nature, I simply will not publish anything in a journal that is not Open Access.

    The journal being Open Access is of tremendous importance to the researcher as it makes it _much_ more likely, that your paper will actually be found and read by other scientists. I know this from my own literature searches: hits found the PubMed [] database links to the journal webpage, and if no Open Access version is available, it really have to look like a promising paper, before I spend my time ordering through the University Library.

    Also, it should be noted that an ever increasing number of Open Access journal exists in the areas of Life Science in general - for example all the BMC journals [], the PLoS journals [] and even journals from "old school" publishers such as Oxford University Press (e.g. Nucleic Acids Research []) have gone Open Access. Also an increasing number of traditional journal now offer an Open Access option, where your pay to make your specific paper availably under Open Access.

    • I somewhat disagree with your vision of things.

      I have just finished a MSc in bioinformatics (I looked at your page, and I am going in the "opposite" direction, from CS to Biology) and it seems to me that biologists are very closed with regards to, say, marker data. At least the ones that I know take it as a competitive advantage to lock data as much as possible.

      From my MSc I have published only on closed journals (Bioinformatics and Molecular Ecology Notes) and people around mostly (like 90%+) publish on cl
      • by RasmusW ( 56000 )

        The way I see it most journals (even the closed access ones) actually require that you make your data available. This is especially true for DNA microarray studies, where you will be required to deposit the data in a public database - for example ArrayExpress [] or the Gene Expression Omnibus [] at NCBI. Personally I see the publication of the data as a very important way to drive citation of your papers. When I link to data on the department webserver, I group the data into specific directories depending on the

    • The problem with only publishing in open access journals is that they may not be considered the "best" in some fields. In my field, the most respected journals still cost money. I'd like to think that the quality of my work matters more than the journal in which it appears, but I know plenty of colleagues who would look at where I published and never read the article itself. Maybe this won't be such a big deal for me after tenure...

      That said, I would love to see all journals become open access. The pu
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Nature Precedings needs to have a good rating system for open, community-based review to work well. Currently submitted articles can be voted for, but that does not tell one how many would have voted against it.

    With open preprint systems, being able to find useful and reliable ideas and data in articles is perhaps more important than being able to submit one. This becomes apparent as the number of articles increase when searching can return hundreds and thousands of articles. One can't go through all of the
  • Precedings is aesthetically almost identical to Dave Bacon's Scirate []. They're both good designs, but I can't help but wonder if Nature took some inspiration from Scirate in their design process.
  • About bloody time! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by quixote9 ( 999874 ) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @07:14PM (#19601939) Homepage
    Journals charging for scientific content is piracy, in the real sense of the word. Consider:

    --almost all scientific work that appears in journals like Nature or Science has been done on government grants. You already paid once.

    --page charges are included in most grant funding. The author pays the journal so much per page of his/her article to cover the journal's costs. The journal not only doesn't pay the author(s), it RECEIVES payment from the author. You, once again, have paid for that.

    --The journal then charges you for the content. That's the third time you're paying for it.

    The amount they charge is non-trivial. $30 / per electronic copy in Nature's case, for instance. The cost to them is whatever that space on their server costs. A tenth of a cent, perhaps? (The other aspects of their costs they've already been paid for a couple of times.)

    It's about bloody time they published ALL their articles under CC. The commenter who said scientific work is about open and free access has it absolutely right. Anything less than that is indeed not science.
  • science - we need faster and faster access to knowledge
    politics&business - we need longer copyrights/patents/trademarks/etc
    theology - we need no knowledge whatsoever

      someone pls help me, it's soooo hard to choose the best one

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