In article after article, the Royal Society's publishing folks rant on and on about the evils of Open Access publishing. NOTE .... THANKS TO DBERGESSON FOR POINTING OUT THE MISTAKE IN THIS BLOG. I USED A QUOTE FROM THE WRONG ROYAL SOCIETY HERE. I AM LEAVING IT IN TO KEEP THE ORIGINAL POSTING. I STILL FIND THE REAL ROYAL SOCIETIES POSITION ON OPEN ACCESS TO BE ANNOYING. SEE COMMENTS FOR MORE DETAIL.
For example, in a recent article from RSC:
But the Royal Society of Chemistry’s director of publishing, Peter Gregory, disagrees. ‘We have absolutely no interest shown from our editorial board members, or our authors, for open access publishing,’ he said.
Gregory believes that the open access author-pays model is ‘ethically flawed’, because it raises the risk that substandard science could be widely circulated without being subjected to more rigorous peer review. This could be particularly problematic in chemistry, where rapid, open access publication could be used to establish priority ahead of more time-consuming patent applications from rival groups, he added.
What this basically means is that the Royal Society wants to continue to make money publishing the results of scientific research that is largely funded by the government and the public. And that they are willing to have people suffer (e.g., die unnecessarily because their doctors do not have a subscription to the Royal Societies journals) rather than use their supposedly brilliant minds to come up with a way to make money and simultaneously make the research freely available. The NIH, Wellcome Trust, and dozens of other groups are pushing for Open Access. Yet the Royal Society is sticking to their old boys club ways (to see how old boys clubbish they are go to here).
If we actually go to the details of the Gregory quote above, I have a hard time knowing where to begin with the flawed logic here. For example, the idea that substandard science does not get published in non Open Access journals is just absurd. Consider the latest example of the Korean Cloning scam. Those articles were published in top non open access journals. Same thing with just about every other case of bad science or scientific fraud in the last twenty years. The claim by Gregory is simply unfounded. First, Open Access journals do not say there should be no peer review and they tend to be peer reviewed even more carefully than non-open access journals. Just try publishing a paper in PLoS Biology, which I have found to be more stringent than Science. Why is this? Becuase scientists are more willing to commit time to reviewing for such journals because their work benefits humanity rather than some publisher like Gregory.
Another reason Gregory's claim is unfounded is evidenced by the physics community. They put preprints out for the world to see, which allows for global peer review, rather than peer review by a select list of people. The idea that peer review as it is in current non open access journals is perfect is completely ridiculous. Sometimes you get objective reviewers, but other times you get people that, even if they wished to be objective, would probably have a hard time doing so. This is unavoidable in any peer review system. The more open the publication system and the peer review system is, the more likely it is to avoid outrageous variation in quality.
The Royal Society should be ashamed. They are preventing the distribution of scientific findings and trying to maintain a publishing system that limits the speed of scientific advances and enriches the publishers at the expense of governments and the public.
So I suggest that anyone who knows someone harmed by a doctor who did not know what they were doing, or anyone who wishes for scientific advancement to proceed at a rapid pace, to consider writing to your favorite member of the Royal Society and asking how they feel about this.
To contact the Royal Society directly go here.
I have been unable to come up with email lists of society members but if anyone can find one I will post it.