I am very excited that the new year brings an exciting opportunity for me. I was solicited, and I accepted an Academic Editor position with the open-access journal PLoS One. PLoS one invited me to join to increase the presence of ecological and marine biological studies at the journal. Many of you may have noticed my hints in the last month.
For those of you who don’t know, or have a skewed view, here is what the open-access concept represents. Publications are full text, peer-reviewed articles, that occur online and can be accessed at no charge to the user. Note that these are permanent and the review process is designed for quick turnarounds between submission and publication. After acceptance, publication occurs almost immediately. Papers are again free to download, copy, and distribute.
Why did I join? I whole-heartedly believe in open-access journals. I have to admit Bora’s consistent championing of open access and some thoughtful words from Jonathan A. Eisen began my own thoughts on open access. One of the most important aspects of science is communication, both among scientists and between scientists and the public. How can this occur freely when scientific papers are hidden behind walls of memberships and subscription fees? What concerns me is that access to information, research often paid for by the public through taxes, is a privilege of wealthy academic institutions and well-funded scientist or laboratories. A close friend of mine is the head science librarian for a university. His tales of dropping major journals as subscriptions rise is horrifying. Most universities are not increasing library budgets enough to meet drastic increases in journal subscriptions. Even well-funded, individual scientists can afford subscriptions to only a few journals thereby making much of the literature difficult at best to access. I encountered this all too frequently on my $12,500 year graduate stipend in Boston. There are some journals that have gone through great lengths to keep individual subscription fees down. I both subscribe and publish at these journals. But other journals have become enlisted in the megaconglomerate publishing houses that are for profit. Can/should the dissemination of scientific knowledge be for profit?
Open-access journals can only make science more transparent.