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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: derekb.lowe@gmail.com Twitter: Dereklowe

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In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

In the Pipeline

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January 19, 2012

The Research Works Act: One (Two!) Against and One For

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Posted by Derek

I noted that the Nature Publishing Group has come out against the proposed Research Works Act, which would roll back the requirement that research funded by the US government be made freely available after (at most) one year. They are, I believe, the largest and most prominent journal publisher to take such a stand (although I'll be glad to be wrong about that):

NPG and Digital Science do not support the Research Works Act.

NPG and Digital Science exist to support the creation and dissemination of human knowledge on a sustainable commercial basis. We seek to enable the open exchange of ideas, especially in scientific communities, in line with the requirements and objectives of relevant stakeholders.

Update: from the comments, the AAAS (publishers of Science) have also come out against the RWA, saying that they're fine with the current system, and that their membership in the AAP does not mean that the organization speaks for them on this issue. How about the American Chemical Society? As far as I can tell, the ACS has made no statement, and silence speaks loudly.

Meanwhile, Rich Apodaca at Depth-First surprised me with this post coming out in favor of the RWA. But read the whole thing. He is, as the Marxists used to say, interested in "heightening the contradictions", and sees the scientific publishing industry bringing down the roof on its head even faster if the act passes. And the sooner that happens, he says, the sooner we can get rid of an outmoded system:

Any scientist who has been an active participant in scientific publication as an author, reviewer, and consumer recognizes that the only remaining value added by scientific publishers today is imprimatur. Imprimatur is the implied endorsement received by authors who publish in certain scientific journals, particularly in those that earned a high level of prestige during the pre-digital period of publication scarcity.

Ironically, imprimatur remains so valuable in science that it has kept numerous publishers afloat despite wave upon wave digital destruction being visited on sister industries such as book publication and newspapers.

But imprimatur can lose its luster, particularly in an environment in which fewer and fewer scientist can actually read the publications appearing in ‘high-impact’ journals. Prestige counts for nothing in science if your peers can’t read your papers. Nevertheless, that’s where scientific publication is heading.

I'm not sure which way is faster, myself. But we agree that the current scientific publishing model is being eroded, and that this is an opportunity, not a disaster that has to be repaired with legislation.

Comments (9) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: The Scientific Literature


COMMENTS

1. jm on January 19, 2012 7:55 AM writes...

> They are, I believe, the largest and most prominent journal publisher to take such a stand

Science magazine is the world's largest scientific journal, and their publisher, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, came out against the Research Works Act as well

http://www.aaas.org/news/releases/2012/0118rwa.shtml

Permalink to Comment

2. Janne on January 19, 2012 8:08 AM writes...

I have to say, as a jobbing scientist ("working" is for people with tenure), I never actually read Nature or Science nowadays. Glamour Mag Is Glamorous I guess, but they only rarely publish anything that is relevant to what I'm actually doing.

I only really follow my fields speciality journals, especially the open access ones; they're the ones that carry the stuff that matters to me, and open access means I can read it at home (which is when I have time to browse recent releases) rather than wait until I get to work and the institutional subscription kicks in.

Permalink to Comment

3. dearieme on January 19, 2012 8:57 AM writes...

My old university department is currently planning a new lab building; the old one will (presumably) be taken over by other departments. I'll be interested to find out what, if anything, they plan by way of a library for it.

Permalink to Comment

4. Ed on January 19, 2012 9:30 AM writes...

#3 - I suggest a large glass atrium to stimulate cross-functional collaboration. Knowledge, study and the hard work of learning is so last century!

Permalink to Comment

5. Chris on January 19, 2012 11:16 AM writes...

http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2012/01/19Apple-Reinvents-Textbooks-with-iBooks-2-for-iPad.html

I wonder if Apple might have a look at academic journal publication?

Permalink to Comment

6. newnickname on January 19, 2012 12:15 PM writes...

I don't have time to be more expansive about the comparisons, but Pipeline and other blogs catalog the loss of jobs in chemistry research. There might be similar laments by those in printing and publishing about the loss of their jobs to new technology.

One other comparison, according to WSJ and other sources, as of a few years ago: textbook and technical publishing is more profitable than Big Pharma!, yet with far fewer risks.

Permalink to Comment

7. Pete on January 19, 2012 11:13 PM writes...

I'd be really interested to know how many journal articles are actually downloaded for the full published price.

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8. MikeC on January 20, 2012 11:20 AM writes...

Rich Apodaca may have a point about the Research Works Act bringing down the roof on the heads of publishers even faster: currently more than twenty universities, including Harvard, Princeton, and MIT, request/require their faculty to submit all of their publications into open access repositories. Journals can only get non-exclusive licenses for those papers. If RWA passes, that licensing model will snowball, denying publishers the 1-year exclusive license currently allowed them on NIH funded research.

University of California (folks may remember them battling Nature Publishing Group not too long ago over subscription costs) was close to adopting open access before the NIH one year rule was adopted; it wouldn't be slow in implementing it if RWA becomes law.

Permalink to Comment

9. Kent on January 31, 2012 10:20 AM writes...

It appears now that the RWA has sparked a revolt against some of the larger publisher, mostly targeting Elsevier.

http://arstechnica.com/science/news/2012/01/researchers-boycott-publisher-will-they-embrace-instant-publishing.ars

It started with a blog post by Timothy Gowers

http://gowers.wordpress.com/2012/01/21/elsevier-my-part-in-its-downfall/

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