Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Lancet editorial on OA

Clinical knowledge: from access to action, The Lancet, editorial, March 8, 2008. (Thanks to Dave Chokshi.) Free registration is required for access to the full text.

When the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences recently voted for a motion on open access, a cold shudder ran through the spine of the traditional publishing community. ...

The widespread interpretation of this policy is dramatic, even revolutionary. ... Advocates of open access have welcomed Harvard's policy. We too see great merit in a university collecting, archiving, and sharing the products of its intellectual endeavour directly with a wider audience. ... The Lancet understands that several leading universities are now preparing to follow Harvard's example.

Meanwhile, the open-access movement is progressing, although more slowly than many of its most zealous advocates would wish. Although BioMed Central has grown substantially during the past 3 years, it has yet to capture the quality end of the research sector. The Public Library of Science has been more successful. ... But open archiving has been less successful, although government mandates are likely to increase future publication on internet repositories.

How have traditional publishers responded to the research community's interest in wider access to medical science? With too little imagination, according to some critics. The priority for a few medical publishers has been cost-cutting and job losses. This strategy is unlikely to send a positive signal to the medical research community. ...

What should editors and publishers do? They need to cast dullness to one side, and become leaders instead of followers. They need to start shaping the physician's information world, instead of reacting to it. They need to pay less attention to their financial bottom line, and commit themselves to a larger, more inspiring mission—to join doctors in working to achieve the highest attainable standards of health for the communities they serve. Most medical publishers have forgotten that mission. It is time they returned to it.

Update. See also my comments at

Update. Also see the comments from Lancet readers on this editorial.