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Towards electronic journals

Owl Monkey on robotic armNYT -- Pamela Burdman reportes that "when Dr. Miguel Nicolelis, a neurobiologist at Duke University, decided to release a groundbreaking study in an upstart online journal, his colleagues were flabbergasted. The research, demonstrating how brain implants enabled monkeys to operate a robotic arm, was a shoo-in for acceptance in premier journals like Nature or Science. " But Nicolelis opted for an electronic journal and joined a stream of other researchers doing the same. It's a long-running debate on Nature.

"Usually you want to publish your best work in well-established journals to have the widest possible penetration," Dr. Nicolelis said. "My idea was the opposite. We need to open up the dissemination of scientific results." The journal Dr. Nicolelis chose — PLoS Biology, a publication of the Public Library of Science — aims to do just that by putting peer-reviewed scientific papers online free at the Plosbiology.org.

In my small third level college, we give away thousands of euro each year to the pulp version of journals. The money could be spent on books that make daunting programming assignments more accessible for struggling students. There may come a point where the hopeless high subscriptions are discarded for open access electronic publishing.

I do not believe the imposition of high subscription prices helps subsidise access for people in developing countries. People in India often pay half of their stipend on reserach articles. We owe it to the developing world to ensure highly visible access to open archives. Furthermore, compassion demands that we embrace open access publishing. You cannot foster an educated population if the price of the necessary materials is beyond reach.


Pamela Burdman -- "A Quiet Revolt Puts Costly Journals on Web"
Photo by Jim Wallace, Duke University.
Nature -- "Access to the literature: the debate continues"
Raja Simhan in The Hindi Business Line -- "Take it, it's free," June, 2004
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