Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Monday, June 09, 2008

User experience, OA vs. TA

Richard Gayle, Some science journals are messed up, A Man With A Ph.D., June 5, 2008.

So I see this interesting name for an article - Why snakes don’t have legs - in my newsfeed. I click on thru ... and get this page. Great. ScienceDirect which usually charges for journal access. But this is an article from 1999. Surely it will be open by now?

Nope. They want $31.50 for a nine year old article. With no abstract or any other way to determine whether this article is worth the price. $31.50! First off, few articles in science today that are nine years old are worth $5, much less $31.50. Secondly, with no abstract how am I to even figure out if it is worth the price? ...

I went to PubMed, the database of journal articles, and did a search for “snakes AND legs”. Got 48 articles. The critical one appears to be by Cohn and Tickle “Developmental basis of limblessness and axial patterning in snakes” in Nature from June 1999. Great. Now I have a subscription to Nature so this article is available to me but if you wanted to read it without a subscription it would cost $35! Wow! But at least now it has an abstract. ...

Sounds really interesting to me but still not sure it is worth $35. But right above that link from PubMed is another one - from Current Biology with pictures. “How the snake lost its legs”. It is a ScienceDirect link also but this one is available for free. And it has nice pictures while discussing the Cohn and Tickle article.

So partial success. Now I have a better idea of the article’s content. All the other links from PubMed ... have costs to access, up to $39.

Except for this nifty one from the Journal of Experimental Biology - “Becoming airborne without legs: the kinematics of take-off in a flying snake, Chrysopelea paradisi” ... Open access and more recently published. Not exactly on topic but it comes with movies! These were just not possible to see without online access. And the movies are really cool and help explain what the author of the paper was describing. ...

Back to the topic. I went to Google and searched “Cohn Tickle snake”. The top response is from a USA Today article about why snakes do not have legs. In the article there are links to Martin J. Cohn and Cheryll Tickle. Clicking the Cohn link takes me to his page at the University of Florida. Not a lot here but there is a link to his personal site.

Now we get the Cohn lab page. I could just email him and ask for a copy of the paper (a slightly updated approach to the old method of sending reprint requests by snail mail). But there is a link to Publications.

And here we find the PDF to the paper I was looking for. A quick runthrough reveals that it is a paper I will find interesting ... But I would not have paid over $30 for it. ...