Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The importance of OA for taxonomy research

Kevin Zelnio, PLoS ONE Publishes First Taxonomic Paper, The Other 95%, May 28, 2008.  Excerpt:

[PLoS ONE just published its first species description:] an excellent paper by Fisher and Smith on the ants of Malagasy region....

I will talk about the ant paper in a separate post. First, I would like discuss further the role of open access publishing in taxonomy.

Why should one support open access publishing of taxonomic papers?

Visibility is important to the field of systematics, where the relevance is often lost amidst the taxonomic jargon. By removing the subscription barrier, taxonomists make their work accessible and noticeable to researchers all over the world. Increasingly, the need has never been greater for high quality taxonomy. The treatment of neglected tropical diseases relies on proper identification a the pathogen or parasite. Species form the fundamental unit of much of evolution and ecology. Sound knowledge of species and their attributes is basic to all other fields of biology ranging from the molecular to the metacommunity. While scientists might not agree on what a species is, there is no doubt about their importance and the necessity to identify and describe them.

The time is now for taxonomy and taxonomists to enter the digital age. New web technologies can prove effective at linking papers, potentially increasing readership and bringing disparate fields together. For instance, a paper describing a new species of pathogenic nematode can have hyperlinked keywords that summarize the findings, i.e. "Nematoda" "Genus species sp.nov." "Genus species (of host)" "Pathogenesis" "Endoparasite" "Locality Information", etc. Other articles of interest with hyperlinked keywords can be linked together for researchers to uncover. Species names themselves can be linked to the original paper, so one can find basic information about that species. This will make it easier to ground-truth simple observations about a species that can affect interpretations in other research, such as where it has been described from, variation in characteristics between sexes and sites, behavioral and diet observations and life history traits....

Should taxonomists forego traditional publishing outlets?

The better option would be for those outlets to go online and open access! If there is some success to PLoS ONE in their venture to publish papers of a taxonomic nature, hopefully it will inspire established journals to follow suit. If you believe strongly in the force of the digital age to implement positive change in science, support open access initiatives by publishing your articles there. One may posit that hybrid journals, where authors may elect to pay an additional fee to make their article accessible online for free, is a step forward in the right direction....Peter Suber notes one should proceed with caution when electing to publish in a hybrid journal for several reasons. In particular, hybrid journal options do not free up subscription money from libraries. Because it is a risk-free strategy for journals, there is not an incentive to get rid of subscriptions fees all together, since most authors do not elect the free-access option. Many publishers still do not make their publishing model or data on the efficacy of the hybrid option available. This makes it difficult to police whether they are reducing subscription fees in relation to author uptake of the free-access option, where high fees are paid to offset subscription fees....