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What's in the Autoclave? A Blog about Science

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Open access to scientific papers [Apr. 7th, 2008|04:22 pm]
What's in the Autoclave? A Blog about Science
As of today, all newly-accepted-for-publication peer-reviewed scientific manuscripts describing work funded (in whole or in part) by that National Institutes of Health must be submitted to an open-access online database called PubMed Central within one year of their publication in a print journal.

That was a complicated sentence. Sorry.

Anyway, the policy statement is here.

The issue of open access has been a contentious one. It is, of course, expensive for a publisher to run a scientific journal -- they generally have relatively small audiences. A large part of their revenue comes from access fees charged to Universities that allow investigators to access the journals' content over the Internet (rather than charging individual investigators, the University or its library are charged a blanket fee instead.) On the other hand, the content of the journal is not generated by the journal itself -- it is generated by the investigators who have received public funding. Open access advocates argue that if the public paid for the studies, it shouldn't have to pay again to read them. The new compromise is to allow journals this one-year window of exclusivity, after which time the information must go into the central PubMed database. There's still a bit of confusion, I think, as to whether the journals should automatically submit this material to PubMed Central themselves or if it is up to the individual investigator to be compliant -- at this point, I think it's up the individuals -- but I suspect that open access is here to stay. How this will affect the economics of scientific publishing remains to be seen. (Note also that there are some major loopholes as well: this doesn't cover privately funded research, such as that performed at a pharmaceutical/biotechnology company.)