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Scenes from the life of open access

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Here, with Berkeley biologist Michael Eisen, a co-founder of the Public Library of Science (PLOS):

Yesterday the Gina Kolata published a story in the New York Times about the fact that many clinical studies are not published. This is a serious problem and it’s a good thing that it is being brought to light.

But her article contains a weird section in which a researcher at the University of Florida explains why she hadn’t published the results of one of her studies: …

“It was a small study and our hypothesis was not proven,” Dr. Cooper-DeHoff said. “That’s like three strikes against me for publication.” Her only option, she reasoned, would be to turn to an open-access journal that charges authors to publish. “They are superexpensive and accept everything,” she said. Last year she decided to post her results on clinicaltrials.gov.

Why is that sentence in there? First, it’s completely false. There are superexpensive open access journals, and there are open access journals that accept everything. But I don’t know of any open access journal that does both, and neither statement applies to the journals (from PLOS, BMC, Frontiers, eLife and others) that publish most open access papers.

So the squabbles have begun. That’s a good thing in its way. Let people say what they want against the system, so that false claims may be sooner exposed for the good of all.

Open access science publishing is long overdue. I (O’Leary for News) have sometimes been shilled to pay US$32 for a review in Nature of a science book aimed at educated non-specialists/lay people that retails in the $20–$30 range. Granted, copping a review in Nature is a coup, but…is a reviewer’s opinion worth more than the book even if it is published in Nature?

Most of us are not big institutions that get government grants. But  things are changing, we hear. Stay tuned.

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There are other ways of getting articles that aren't open access. For example, you could try a library or emailing the author. Or try the #icanhazpdf hashtag on twitter. The charges for articles are ridiculous, but I haven't seen the calculations for the pricing. I'm amazed that anyone buys article that way. Bob O'H

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