Friday, January 07, 2005

Open Access

As a member of the scientific community, I will be throwing up a few posts here on the world of science.

If you are not a professional scientist then here's a short primer on the process of peer review:

"Peer review subjects an author's work or ideas to the scrutiny of one or more others who are experts in the field. These referees each return an evaluation of the work, including suggestions for improvement, to an editor or other intermediary (typically, most of the referees' comments are eventually seen by the author as well). Evaluations usually include an explicit recommendation of what to do with the manuscript or proposal, often chosen from a menu provided by the journal or funding agency."

- from the wiki

The process works well but once a paper is published in a journal then the level of access drops considerably. Top journal subscriptions can be hundreds of dollars for individuals and several thousand for institutions. There has been a movement recently towards open access or 'author-pays' where a fee for the submission of an article is built into a scientific grant and the journals recoup their costs from other sources. Articles are then freely made available online.

The Public Library of Science is one of the leading organizations in this movement and definitely worth supporting.

To find out more about open access you can check out this essay here and also read about how one of the giants, Reed Elsevier, is moving towards this model under pressure. (Independent article from

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