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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

More on journal evolution

Gregory M. Lamb, Is this the end of the scholarly journal?  Christian Science Monitor, January 24, 2007.  Excerpt:

Scientific advances sometimes come as lightning flashes of inspiration. But when scientists sit down to record and take credit for what they've found, they still use much the same method they have for decades an article published in a scholarly journal.

But science's hidebound traditions are changing. The Internet has opened up new forms of publishing in which anyone in the world can find and read a scientific paper. And papers themselves are becoming more interactive, leading readers to the underlying data, videos, and discussions that augment their value. With blogs and e-books providing easy means of self-publishing, some observers are speculating that scholarly journals and their controversial system of peer reviews may not be needed at all.

"The traditional journal publishing medium we've grown used to really needs to evolve and change because that's not the way people are accessing information," says Mark Gerstein, a professor of biomedical informatics at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. Dr. Gerstein cowrote an article, "The Death of the Scientific Paper," which appeared last year on The-Scientist.com, an online science magazine.

If the hopes of innovators bear fruit, scientific advances will come ever more quickly as online publishing makes past research easier to access and share widely.

Two new scientific publications, both available only online, may signal what's ahead. The PLoS ONE, a journal begun by the Public Library of Science (PLoS) last month, aims to put as many new scientific articles as possible on the Internet to be read by anyone, free of charge. The Journal of Visualized Experiments, or JoVE, is a kind of YouTube for researchers. It operates on the theory that a short video showing how an experiment is done is better than thousands of words that attempt to describe it....

Since the early days of the Web, observers have speculated that scientists might simply post new research on their own or in communal websites and let search engines find it, thereby bypassing the peer-reviewed journals altogether. If the research proves valuable, other sites will link to it, and the results would be "published" far faster than waiting for a journal to accept them.

Already, an online database called arXiv, hosted by Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., contains more than 400,000 scientific papers posted by their authors without peer review. (The papers often appear later in peer-reviewed journals)....

Gerstein says he thinks scientific journals, and some kind of peer review, will be around for a long time. Publishing in prestigious journals is "deeply intertwined with [scientists'] reputations and their promotions," he says. "You still want to get the stamp of approval of a journal."

PS:  Another accurate and interesting article betrayed by the headline writer.