Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

TA journal article + Wikipedia summary

Declan Butler, Publish in Wikipedia or perish, Nature News, December 16, 2008.  Free for a week before it moves behind a pay well (like all Nature News stories).  Excerpt:

Wikipedia, meet RNA. Anyone submitting to a section of the journal RNA Biology [published by Landes Bioscience] will, in the future, be required to also submit a Wikipedia page that summarizes the work. The journal will then peer review the page before publishing it in Wikipedia.

The initiative is a collaboration between the journal and the RNA family database (Rfam) consortium led by the UK Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.... "The novelty is that for the first time it creates a link between Wikipedia and traditional journal publishing, with its peer-review element," says Alex Bateman, who co-heads the Rfam database. The aim, Bateman says, is to boost the quality of the scientific content on Wikipedia while using the entries to update the Sanger database....

The first paper scheduled is "A Survey of Nematode SmY RNAs"; its corresponding Wikipedia summary can be found here.

The goal is to encourage more scientists who work on RNA to get involved in creating and updating public data on RNA families, while being rewarded by the traditional method of a citable publication, says Sean Eddy, a computational biologist at the Janelia Farm Research Campus of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Ashburn, Virginia, and a co-author of the nematode article....


  • Very interesting.  This policy helps the journal (by spreading the word about new work) and Wikipedia (by adding high-quality contributions written for a lay audience).  It uses the fact that Wikipedia aspires to be the "sum of all human knowledge" --ambitious but still just a summary-- and does not allow original research.
  • This policy doesn't replace OA archiving for the peer-reviewed manuscript, and it doesn't have to.  A journal could easily do both.  Unfortunately, however, Landes Bioscience (publisher of RNA Journal) does not do both.  It does not permit postprint archiving.  OA Wikipedia summaries are a step up from OA abstracts, which most TA journals provide nowadays, but not much more than that.  They're a step up because Wikipedia summaries are longer than abstracts and open to user edits.  But access to summaries is no substitute for access to full texts --which, btw, is the problem with some publisher-suggested alternatives (1, 2, 3) to the NIH policy.
  • Compare the RNA Journal policy with the Emerald Asset (Accessible Scholarship Shared in an Electronic Environment) pilot project launched by Emerald in January 2007.  Emerald offered to waive the publication fees at its hybrid OA journals for authors willing to write "a summary of their research findings highlighting their practical application".  This not only gave readers the benefit of an OA summary, but gave them the benefit of the OA full-text article as well.  At the same time, it removed the publication fee which lowers author uptake at most hybrid OA journals. 

Update (1/13/09). Also see Kent Anderson's comment and the discussion it generated on the Scholarly Kitchen blog.