Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A plan for open access and open data in chemistry

Steven M. Bachrach, Chemistry publication - making the revolution, Journal of Cheminformatics, March 17, 2009.  (The DOI-based URL doesn't work at the moment.) 

Abstract (provisional):   The advent of the Internet has been the impetus for the Open Access movement, a movement focused on expanding access to information principally by reducing the costs of journals. I argue here that the Open Access movement has had little impact on the chemistry community and has taken our attention away from the real opportunity to revolutionize scientific communication. I propose a plan that both reduces the total cost of publishing chemistry and enriches the literature through incorporation of Open Data. By publishing lots of data, available for ready re-use by all scientists, we can radically change the way science is communicated and ultimately performed.

From the body of the paper:

Most OA journals operate on an author-pays model, and so it appears that the cost of publication simply is shifted from the reader to the author....

I offer a two-tier publication model that attempts to address both the ever-increasing cost spiral and to bring new technologies to bear on scientific communication....

Tier 1 publishing: We need to reduce the number of full-service, full-feature journals and the number of articles they publish. I believe that each of us has in their minds a hierarchy of journals – those in which we publish our best works and which we read religiously, those we peruse on occasion and those that we consider rubbish. Each of us should support only those top-tier outposts of science. We should publish in, peer-review, serve on editorial boards, and ask our libraries to purchase just these journals. For all others we should decline our services and our moneys. We should end up with perhaps 20% of the total number of current journals....

This is not to say that we can completely do without all of the rest of the literature. Clearly, the other quarter of the citations in the book are important too! This brings me to the second tier.

Tier 2 publishing: The remaining say 80% of the scientific literature should be “published” within institutional repositories (IR). I place quotations around the word “publish” to indicate that this effort is quite different in kind from what is carried out in Tier 1; Tier 1 publishing includes all of the components we commonly associate with the publishing endeavor (Chart 1): fulltime staff of editors and copy-editors, peer review of articles, typesetting, widespread dissemination and archiving. Institutional repositories will provide just the role of dissemination and archiving. Authors will write and typeset the articles themselves, and then deposit in the IR. Peer review will occur by way of the community interacting through Web 2.0 tools, such as forums, wikis, tagging and blogs, which originate within the IR or are linked into it....


  • I won't comment on Bachrach's two-tier proposal.  But I will comment on one of his main premises.  It's not true that "Most OA journals operate on an author-pays model....."  We've known since 2005 that it's not true, and I'm surprised that the claim made it through peer review at a BMC journal.  In fact, most OA journals charge no fees at all
  • Bachrach's claim may be true about chemistry, but he hasn't cited any data to show it.  If anyone wants to do a manual count, go to the "for authors" section of the DOAJ and look at the chemistry journals.  Each one is tagged to indicate whether or not it charges a publication fee.   (This doesn't work if you look at the chemistry journals in the main section of the DOAJ.)

Update (3/17/09).  Bill Hooker has done the manual tallies of fee-based and no-fee OA journals in chemistry.  Looking at the full OA journals only, as opposed to hybrid OA journals, here are the results:  42% (= 38) charge publication fees, 49% (= 44) charge no fees, and 9% (= 8) are not classified one way or the other by the DOAJ.  (Thanks, Bill!)