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Friday, May 23, 2008

Notes from the RSC meeting on OA in chemistry

Christoph Steinbeck has blogged some notes about the Royal Society of Chemistry meeting, Open Access Publishing in the Chemical Sciences (London, May 22, 2008).  Excerpt:

...Peter Murray-Rust set the scene by emphasising the importance for Open Data. He showed some fantastic work on data extraction by OSCAR from theses, where his group had parsed a synthetic chemistry thesis into an interactive graph of a reaction network. He also showed an SVG animation of this graph as a reaction sequence, all automatically generated from an OSCAR run. Peter pointed out in the subsequent discussion that data cannot be copyrighted, which was acknowledged by all publishers in the audience. The reality is different, however, because publisher’s licenses often prevent downloading of more than few articles in a row. Detection of a robotic download for text mining comes with the danger of the whole university being disconnected. It is unclear to me how robotically parsing papers and extracting data would damage the bushiness model of publishers. It could, of course, lower the number of subscriptions from

Ian Russell of ALPSP presented on Open Access models and how those of uses by ALPSP members. He pointed out that a lot of long-tail publishers publish only two or three journals, quite in contrast to ACS and RSC, for example. He stated that making profit is good, because it can be reinvested into innovation. I’m not sure if I’ve seen much innovation in the publishing business before the emergence of the Open Access model. He further commented on self-archiving stating that only pre-peer-review manuscripts can be self-archived without permission from the publisher. A librarian in the audience pointed out that duplication of costs by mixed read-pays and author-pays models have significantly increased the libraries expenses and Ian Russell comment was that there are no cost-savings in Open Access. Not sure if this helps. My impression is that it is not in the interest of publishers to resolve this conflict.

Robert Kiley, Wellcome Trust, summarized the Trust’s OA policy, where Trust-funded research needs to be put into pubmedcentral six month after publication. If I remember right, the Trust funds more than 90% of Biomedical research in Britain. The NIH now has a similar policy, and so has European Research Council; Robert mentioned that most text mining so far is based on PubMed abstracts, but that the full text would be required for serious efforts. He further pointed out that the number-one option for researchers to comply with the Trust’s OA policy would be to publish in a true Open Access Journal (BMC, PLOS, etc.). The second-best choice would be to publish anywhere and self-archive. The least preferable choice would be to publish with the ACS (one of the very few publishers without a Wellcome-Trust compliant OA policy) and try to change the copyright notice....The Trust is in contact with publishers to make sure that authors have a wide variety of journal with open access policies to choose from. Robert highlighted the importance of OA for the long-term preservation of articles and data therein, with special emphasis on future-proofing the record of medicine....

My own talk went about Chemistry at EBI and in European Bioinformatics in general.

Simon Coles, University of Southampton, talked about building repositories to preserve chemical data and publications....

So, what it the bottom line from this meeting? The important message is perhaps that OA publishing has not yet quite reached chemistry but that there are grass-root movements which are going to revolutionize the way in which we publish science and scientific data, starting at the very first moment when research is performed in the lab.