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Publishing for the future of science

March 17th, 2008 by dwentworth

In the past few weeks, we saw two remarkable stories emerge from research in the life sciences — remarkable not just because they made headlines, but because they give us a tantalizing glimpse of the potential for a new kind of publishing in science.

In the first, as Aaron Rowe at Wired News reported and Cory Doctorow blogged, a pair of researchers from Australia developed a blood test for African sleeping sickness — a relatively simple test that Rowe points out can be conducted without the “fancy equipment found in upscale medical labs.” Notably, the researchers published the findings at PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases under a Creative Commons Attribution License — making freely available not only the results but the lab protocols for conducting the test itself.

In the second, we discovered that butterflies may remember what they learned as caterpillars — findings that were published (once again) by PLoS, then picked up by multiple media outlets, including New Scientist, National Geographic, Science, Wired News and NPR’s Morning Edition.

So what do these stories have to do with the future of scientific publishing? The PLoS One tagline is “Publishing science, accelerating research,” and for good reason: it is one of the pioneering open access publishers demonstrating the value of moving beyond the paper metaphor in the digital age — so that publishing can serve the progress of science, not hamper it. In the traditional publishing model, we “reward” good science by locking it up with legal and technical restrictions — making it less, not more useful to the people who can make sense of it. PLoS One makes every article it publishes available under the Creative Commons Attribution License — enabling maximum redistribution and reuse of the research while ensuring that the authors retain their copyrights and are properly credited for their work.

At Science Commons, we’re working toward a future where a published “paper” is dynamic — or as UK journalist Richard Poynder put it, “no longer simply an article to be viewed by as many eyeballs as possible,” but “the launch pad” for verifying and extending research. When a researcher clicks through to read an article, for instance, she should be able not only to see how the research was conducted, but also to click to order the research materials she needs to replicate the data.

These articles represent just a snapshot of the brilliant research that’s already being published openly. With the NIH open access mandate going into effect on April 7, we’ll start to see even more of the benefits that new models for scientific publishing can bring.

3 Responses

  1. OpenScience: Licensing, Aussie goodness & usual suspects | Learning with the Fang, on March 17th, 2008 at 7:16 pm

    […] reader is helping me triangulate my way toward the pointy end of the Open Science movement. Today, this article from ScienceCommons blog gave me three encouraging […]

  2. Haran, on March 20th, 2008 at 2:49 am

    Great to see such innovative research being shared in this manner. Just one point though, the article on sleeping sickness was published in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, not PLoS One.

  3. dwentworth, on March 24th, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    Thanks so much for the correction; Ive now corrected the text above 🙂