Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, September 15, 2006

"A new era in digital scholarship"

Richard K. Johnson, Will Research Sharing Keep Pace with the Internet? The Journal of Neuroscience, September 14, 2006.  Excerpt:

The ways scientists share and use research are changing rapidly, fundamentally, and irreversibly....These changes signal a new era of digital scholarship. Many of yesterday’s limitations on research and learning are being swept away by the Internet. For the first time in history, we have a practical opportunity for efficient, unlimited sharing of information at virtually no cost beyond that of providing it to the first reader.

Many elements comprising the process of scientific exchange have been quick to respond to the opportunity....However, journals have been comparatively slow to embrace the potential of the ubiquitous network. True, online editions are now the norm for most journals and online reference linking has made it easier to navigate the literature. But fundamentally, most online journals are simply digital editions of their print analogs. Little changed since they were invented >300 years ago....

[T]he scientific paper and its historic container, the journal, are poised for change. The possibilities and demands of science together with new enabling technologies are just too compelling to resist....

The Internet offers the opportunity to eliminate access barriers that limit use of scientific findings, to share research freely among all potential readers. Because scientific discovery is a cumulative process, with new knowledge building on earlier findings, it is counterproductive to keep research locked up like books in a fourteenth century monastery....

To its credit, the Society for Neuroscience is taking steps to embrace change rather than guard the status quo that seduces so many successful organizations. The guiding principles of SfN's Open Access Publishing Strategy well capture the spirit with which all societies should approach the transition ahead: recognize the value and likelihood of open access publishing and be ready with an effective strategy when this happens; maintain the ethos of scientific publishing (i.e., that it is by and for scientists and that the advancement of science ranks above all other publishing motives); maintain peer review as an essential element in any open access format (Society for Neuroscience, 2006).