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Re: OA Now

On 29 Mar 2006, at 20:34, Peter Banks wrote:

The perfectly reasonable drive for more access to scientific information does not require a movement to OA journals.

In my field (Endocrinology) at least, there are far more highly cited OA papers from non-OA journals than from OA journals. According to ISI, there were 421709 citations in Endocrinology and Metabolism in 2004. 35.3% of the total citations came from only 4 journals--Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, Endocrinolgy, Diabetes, and Diabetes Care.
The fact that, in most fields, including Endocrinology, established journals have, so far, continued to play a dominant role can't logically be used to indicate that a move towards open access is impossible, or unnecessary. It simply indicates that such a move has not yet happened on a wide scale in that particular field. Given the huge momentum that well established journals have, few expect traditional journals to disappear overnight.

c.f. the fact that most music, by value, is still (I think!) currently bought on CD, doesn't change the fact that paid download of tunes looks set to become ever more important.

If you look outside Endocrinology, other subject areas provide a different picture. They can positive evidence of what is possible, which is surely more significant that negative evidence of what 'hasn't happened yet' in a given field. For example, in Bioinformatics and Genomics, the journals BMC Bioinformatics, BMC Genomics, Genome Biology, Nucleic Acids Research and PLoS Computational Biology are leaders in the field and all make 100% of their research open access, with the end result that a large fraction of the articles and citations in that field are oa (it would be interesting to gather the actual stats on how high the proportion is)

The first two journals, from the Endocrine Society, publish reviewed manuscripts upon acceptance. The Society's Rapid Electronic Publication makes research papers accessible to subscribers up to 12 weeks before the print and online journals are published. Diabetes and Diabetes Care are freely accessible 3 months after publication, and accepted manuscripts may be placed on acceptance in any institutional reposity. A Rapid Electronic Publishing option is likely soon. An institutional subscription to any of these journals is less than $1000--a bit less than the "price of a Toyota Camry" so often mentioned as the standard journal price in the general media.

By comparison, BMC Endocrine Disorders is not even ranked by ISI. It may well be a good journal, but the statistics aren't there to cause authors to choose it.
If the scientific community relied entirely on ISI impact factors, no new journals would ever be started, since no new journal has an impact factor for the first few years. Even more problematically, ISI's process for deciding which journals it can afford to spend the money to track is highly subjective, with the result that many of the most highly cited new journals are not yet tracked.

For example, ISI's own cited reference data shows that BMC Biology would be in the top 5% of all tracked ISI journals, by impact factor, if it were tracked - and yet ISI does not yet track it. The problem here, if there is one, isn't with open access, but with the tracking systems of one particular indexing service. ISI is not (or certainly should not be) the ultimate and only arbiter of what works in science publishing.

Fortunately. ISI is not the only source of metrics as to the success and quality of journals - there are plenty of others (Scopus and Google Scholar, for a start).

Matt Cockerill
BioMed Central