Thursday, February 16, 2012

Calling on AAAS to Deposit all Archives of Science in Pubmed Central

Much has been written recently about a call to boycott Elsevier due to their outrageous policies regarding academic publishing.  I support the boycott but I also agree with many others who have said it perhaps unnecessarily singles out one publisher over others who also have publishing policies that could, well, use a bit of work.  And one such publisher is AAAS - the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Today, the annual meeting of AAAS begins today in Vancouver.  I was supposed to be there by now, but thanks to some technical problems at Alaska Airlines, I am back in Davis for the day.  AAAS has some policies regarding openness that I believe are unnecessary and not in the general interest of scientific progress.  One is the strange "talk embargoes" I have written about recently.  Another, which is much more problematic, is the fact that Science Magazine (published by AAAS) does not deposit archival content in Pubmed Central.  Now, mind you, I think all scientific publishing funded by taxpayer money should be openly and freely available immediately. But that is not going to happen immediately.

One helpful tool in making scientific literature freely available is Pubmed Central.  Most scientific societies I know of deposit published material in Pubmed Central after some initial delay of 3-6-12 months.  But for reasons that are not entirely clear (to me at least, or to a Google search), AAAS clings to their archival material making it only available through their own web site.  Sure - they do allow authors to deposit their version of their manuscripts in Pubmed Central after a delay.  But most alas do not do this.  And I note - this option is only open to NIH and Wellcome Trust funded work.  So much material cannot be deposited anyway.

AAAS's policy seems unnecessarily closed accessy and limits the impact and spread of the knowledge contained within papers in Science.  I note - this policy is yet another reason to not publish in Science and to instead choose either fully open access journals or ones that at least release their stranglehold on the papers after a short delay.

Today I call on AAAS to make archival literature from Science Magazine available in Pubmed Central.  And I call on others out there, such as those at the AAAS meeting, to pressure AAAS to do this.  Write blog posts.  Call and email AAAS members and leadership.  Email AAAS.  And so on.

Ideally everyone would just publish in fully open access journals and the journals would deposit material in archives.  But until that happens, we need to make every effort to increase the amount of literature getting into Pubmed Central and other archives.  So - pressure AAAS.  And while everyone is at it, please deposit whatever you can in preprint servers, in various repositories and in Pubmed Central.  Every little bit helps.


  1. New England Journal of Medicine does the same thing. No surprise of course. Wouldn't it be nice during their 200th anniversary year to do something the public interest? A comment on my blog post about this clarified they do open some on their web site but minimize PMC deposit

  2. I completely agree with you, Jonathan. Here's some insight. Having worked at a National Lab technical library in the past, I can tell you that "journals" have two ways of paying for themselves: subscriptions (which is the reason for the initial delay of 3-6-12 months) and archived articles. Libraries across the country pay HUGE (I recall 38 thousand annually to one in particular) amounts of money to have unrestricted access to archived material from publishers such as AAAS or Elsevier. Publishers get researchers to write articles or they have exclusive rights to conference proceedings that other researchers need in the future to publish additional articles on the same or related scientific topic. By holding on to the archived material, scientists and libraries (including university libraries who provide research material to students / future scientists / professors) they get money to stay in business by making money off of you, the writer. As they say, "It's just business" and this is the business of information "sharing" and the publishers are making a killing. Imagine $38K from EACH library every year, for access to ONE publisher ~ It's no wonder libraries are being threatened with closure by Congress.

  3. Time for libraries to cancel subscription to many of these "journals"


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