Nature’s special issue on the disruption taking place in scientific publishing

Nature’s 28th March 2013 issue took an in-depth look at all the changes that have been, and will be, taking place in scientific publishing, from the rise of “open access” to the hopefully soon-to-be launched Digital Public Library of America which could well be described as Big Information. Back in 2002, Google had a go at digitizing every book, but created an outcry, running into lawsuits from both publishers and authors, claiming (surprise, surprise) copyright infringement. They did reach a settlement in the end, but had to rein back on the level of access provided. No doubt having taken careful note of the problems that Google encountered, the DPLA has taken pains to avoid running into similar problems while aiming to provide a broader online library to the world.

I’ve been carrying this particular issue of Nature around with me all this week, in an attempt to read the articles before blogging about them, but so far I’ve only been able to dip in and out and, in the world of blog-posting, one can’t hang around – time was getting on. So, here’s glimpse which I hope, will whet your appetite.

It’s very clear from what I’ve read so far, that it’s worth getting your hands on a copy and having a read. Here are some of the topics covered:

  • The costs of publishing are not always as high as we’re often led to believe. There’s a wide variation in pricing, but subscription publishers remain opaque about their pricing even though the pressure is on as 11% of the world’s journals are now published in fully open access journals. Nature presents some expert opinions on how to hasten open access.
  • Despite this success with open access, there’s still a big incentive for authors to submit their papers to the prestigious subscription journals.
  • Will libraries have to re-invent themselves to get involved, becoming data archives and managing data sets for their users?
  • Unfortunately, the success of open-access has also led to scams and corruption: there are unscrupulous ” predatory publishers” out there who take fees, but provide a shoddy service. How can authors avoid these and make sure they only use the reputable publishers?
  • The internet itself will change the way articles are disseminated and retrieved
  • And of course, no feature on this topic would be complete without looking at the copyright issues.

Scientific publishing is an industry in transition, much work is still to be done, but the outcomes are already having a significant effect on the way academic research is both published, stored and retrieved. It deserves a 9 on the 1-10 scale of Disruptive Searcher topics.

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