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One step closer to open science

You know the news already:

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Max Planck Society and the Wellcome Trust announced today that they are to support a new, top-tier, open access journal for biomedical and life sciences research. The three organisations aim to establish a new journal that will attract and define the very best research publications from across these fields. All research published in the journal will make highly significant contributions that will extend the boundaries of scientific knowledge.

Cameron has already commented on the issue, but I would like to add a few more thoughts. The concept of “top-tier journal” obviously resulted in some negative comments from the open science community, with which I fundamentally agree. However in practical terms, it is actually a step in a right direction – it will create an direct and indirect incentives to publish in open journals. As nobody expects scientists to grow up (well, I do, but that’s a topic for another post), we need more carrots to shift the system towards openness.

But that’s not the end of the story. As I have written last year, we needed some large scale experiment in Open Science – not to make some significant change, but to significantly change dynamics of the system. Launching new OA journal by science funders might have directly several positive outcomes but at the same time it is going to spark some interesting discussions on obvious topics such as sustainability of OA, future of journals, marketing costs, quality filtering, impact of publications, etc. However, given that these areas aren’t unexplored (OA publishing isn’t something exotic or new and PLoS has been heavily experimenting in OA for the last couple of years), I look forward to discussions outside of the topic of publishing narratives of research. As people acknowledge OA and try to think about the next step, open data or open notebook science will get a way more attention than they receive at the moment.

5 replies on “One step closer to open science”

  1. I am not convinced that a journal article is at all (Open or not) the right platform for Open Science. Unless they radically change the editorial requirements for papers around machine readability, meaning (use of ontologies, unique identifiers), requirements for enough experimental detail, access to original raw experimental data, etc… unless all that is *also* done by this journa, it will just be another Glossy that a Open Science community really is not waiting for.

  2. At OAI7 there was interesting talk on nanopublications (that is a experimentally [with broad definition of what 'experimental' means] verified assertion expressed as a triple) – that actually might be a better venue for Open Science than any of current publishing models. However, a serious discussions on nanopublications will not happen unless we drift away from old way of publishing, measuring impact, etc. Glossy or not, the new journal might prepare ground for the next idea – research reporting has to change dramatically and OA might not be sufficient.

    That said I think folks at involved institutions are smart people – I wouldn't be surprised if most of the things you ask for ended in the submission guidelines. They might already know that "freely available" isn't that much of a difference in the long term.

  3. I guess you are referring to the talk by Barend Mons? I think there is certainly room for this kind of nanopublication, but the gap between the current publication and this nanopublication is enormous. I think we first needs to seek something in between. With the funding these three partners can throw in, they can in fact develop a publishing platform that does things right. They have no excuse not to. I believe in incremental evolution (well, it worked for my existence), and while a publishing revolution sounds good to me, I think the larger scholarly community would rather see the current publication evolve into something 21st century… oh hell, into something late 20th century would be nice already.

  4. Yes, that's his talk. The gap is indeed large and I wonder if BMC's Research Notes could drift in that direction. FigShare is also heading towards the same idea. That might be the evolution you refer to. Only if we could get past initial "sky will fall if we do that"…

  5. Unconvinced about nanopubs for the same reason as I am about the RDF thing in general — almost useless without mature, consensual ontologies to provide reliable values for two of the three parts of the triple.

    Main thing I'd like to see from the new journal's sponsors is an enormous general repository for supporting data…

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