Open Access Publishing

The Public Library of Science was founded in 2001 and published a letter urging publishers to open access to research published in their journals (I remember this letter being presented at an ISMB conference then). PLOS launched a series of open access journals when the response wasn’t particularly enthusiastic from the publishers. Those PLOS journals have had some success since, as have those at Biomed Central, another open access publisher.

There has been resistance from scientific publishers to the open access movement. Some fully opposing it, others like Nature Publishing Group’s official opinion is that it has no position, but that the business model is unproven and peer review an expensive endeavor. Nature has been experimenting with open source models though through the Molecular Systems Biology (an open access Nature journal) supporting self-archiving through public repositories, making an exception for papers reporting genomes and their open text mining initiative.

And now a new development: Wednesday, President Bush signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2007 (H.R. 2764), which requires all NIH-funded published research to be deposited into PubMed Central (and thus open access) within 12 months of publication. The open access movement has just made a large step forward considering the annual NIH budget is over 29 billion and a lot of research articles are produced off that budget. A Blog Around the Clock has a lot of links and discussion about this new law.

Some of the chatter:

Gordon’s Notes feels the Alliance for Taxpayer Access (a group that pushed for this) is cleverly named, giving a more fiscal conservative feel to the whole endevour, and…:

…wonder[s] if Bush knew what he signed. The open access provision would have been buried deeply in the bill.

Petermr’s feels:

The hard work continues. But now all fulltext derived from NIH work will be available on PubMed. Other funders will follow suit (if they are not ahead). So our journal-eating-robot OSCAR will have huge amounts of text to mine.The good news is that we believe that this text-mining will, in itself, uncover new science. How much we don’t know, but we hope it’s significant. And if so, that will be a further argument for freeing the fulltext of every science publication.

And one commenter there points to this document (warning: downloads pdf file) in response to a enquiry about the last provision of the law that says “Provided, That the NIH shall implement the public access policy in a manner consistent with copyright law.”

Martin Fenner states in his Nature Network blog “Gobbleygook,”:

…this change will probably have a big impact on how most biomedical journals do their business. A wonderful christmas present for all scientists.

You can read more about the new law and the discussion from the link to Bora Zivkovic’s “Blog Around the Clock” or the Open Access News Blog. Additionally, Nature held a “web focus” on open access with debate, information and more.

One thing is for certain, this will change science publishing.