Open Access, High Ambitions
Fueled by scientists' resentment at perceived exploitation by established publishers, and driven by new opportunities in information technology, open access publishing burst onto the scene in biomedicine about five years ago. Most readers of The Scientist will be aware of the principal, two-part, argument in its favor, namely that:
- Maximum dissemination of properly peer-reviewed research is good for authors, good for funders, and, most importantly, good for progress of science, and
- Maximum dissemination is best ensured by immediate free access to published research papers.
Open access publishing has moved rapidly from the revolutionary to the relative mainstream. Numerous journals now cater to a wide range of scientific disciplines and subdisciplines. It also spurred enterprise within the established publishing industry, where new products and services have been developed. As seen from the viewpoint of the researcher, the publishing scene is currently one of innovation and healthy competition.
The single area that has remained unexplored by the open access approach is, oddly, the one for which the case is most compelling: reports of exceptional importance and broad interest. By definition, these papers are few and far between and have a disproportionate influence on progress (or, some would say, fashion) in science. They are in the stranglehold of the handful of established behemoths of science publishing, which either do not provide open access to their papers at all or only do so after a substantial delay.
Thus the launch of Journal of Biology, the first open access journal that aims specifically to publish papers of exceptional interest, is a noteworthy event. The first issue is being mailed to you along with this issue of The Scientist. The Journal of Biology is published by BioMed Central, a sister company of The Scientist LLC.
We welcome it as a potentially valuable new addition to the constellation of high-profile journals.
Richard Gallagher (email@example.com) is editor of The Scientist.