Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Monday, May 19, 2008

Liberating chemical facts

On his blog today, Peter Murray-Rust offers a preview of his talk at this week's meeting, Open Access Publishing in the Chemical Sciences (London, May 22, 2008). He welcomes feedback that he can incorporate before Thursday.  Excerpt:

...Most chemistry publishing is closed access, not even allowing Green self-archiving (unless paid for). There is no sign that any of the major closed publishers (ACS, RSC, Wiley, Springer, Elsevier, Nature) are likely to change in the immediate future. There are Open Access publishers, the most prominent in the PLoS or BMC camps. They have little market share at present and they will have to work very hard to change this. (This is not true in bioscience where the Open Access publishers are making major advances).

They have been challenged by the various Open Access (or Free Access) archiving mandates, most notably from the NIH. Some of them, particularly the ACS, see this as unacceptable government action leading to the destruction of scholarly publishing....

I hope the meeting does not discuss these played out issues or it will be mainly a non-productive talking shop. Where we differ we are unlikely to agree as a result of a few hours presentations.

What I hope we can do is to look to what is technically possible and desirable in the future of chemical publishing. Chemistry has enormous potential - it could be one of the most exciting data-driven sciences.

But it isn’t....

The melting point of X is Y (temperature) at Z (pressure) is a fact. I hope at least we can agree on that, and that it isn’t a “creative work”....

The aggregators of facts can’t keep up. Even if they could we can’t reuse the facts in their current form. Each supplier of aggregated facts has their own idiosyncratic data format, each will only let them out under licence, and these licences form an anticommons which effectively prevents their re-use.

I shall present a scenario where these facts are gathered automatically and made instantly available. It’s not fantasy - we’re actually doing it. And it’s not even expensive - it can be done on marginal costs.

But - it seriously threatens a conservative publishing industry....

Update.  Also see Stevan Harnad's comment:

Peter Murray-Rust is quite right that ACS is likely to be the very last of all publishers to go Green on OA self-archiving, but he is mistaken about most of the others on his list:

ACS: gray
Wiley: GREEN
Springer: GREEN
Elsevier: GREEN
Nature: pale-green ...