Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

David Baltimore on OA

R. Ramachandran, 'Moral conundrum' in medical research, Frontline, March 2008.  An interview with David Baltimore, Nobel laureate and President of the AAAS.  Excerpt:

As the president of the AAAS, would you like to change its policy of open access to its journal Science, which has been a ticklish issue?

Ah! (Laughs) Yeah, you are right. It’s a ticklish issue. [The] AAAS depends on the Science magazine. If Science magazine were to go away, there would be no AAAS. So all the good things that we do – and there are a lot of them – are dependent on the income from Science. When I became president [PS: February 2006], I really investigated whether we can go to open access. But I am convinced that it is difficult. I think we could be perhaps a little more adventurous than we are, but internal people are not very forthcoming. Now there will be a new editor of Science magazine as of March [PS: Bruce Alberts]. In fact, I chaired the committee that found him. And he comes from a much more open access background. So there may be changes. We’ll see....

Considering that the bulk of the research in the U.S. is through public funding, is there any demand from the scientific community itself that scientific communication should be open?

The real problem is with must-have peer review. So you just can’t publish anything you want. It’s got to go through peer review. The question is who is going to pay for it? All right. The answer has been you pay for it through journal subscriptions. But you only have journal subscriptions if you have to pay for the journal. So if you have complete open access, then it will be hard to provide quality control. So at the moment we are debating that issue. Are there ways of providing quality control that don’t require the journal to be on sale but on open access. It’s a continuing debate. Now PLoS [Public Library of Science] journal was started [with open access] and is quite successful. But it is subsidised by the Moore Foundation and others. Could it finally find a business model that will allow it to be self-sufficient? That’s still an open question as far as I know....


  • There are many business models for peer-reviewed OA journals, and at least two of them have already made for-profit OA publishers profitable:  the fee-based model used at Hindawi and the no-fee model used at Medknow.  (PLoS is a non-profit OA publisher.)  Moreover, quite apart from the business models of OA journals, OA repositories can provide OA to peer-reviewed articles, and about two-thirds of peer-reviewed TA journals already give blanket permission for author initiated self-archiving.
  • For a full answer to the objection that OA might defund peer review, see my article from September 2007.  For a full argument that OA improves rather than degrades quality control, see my article from October 2006.