July 31, 2004

The status quo just can't stand

In my last post, I would have liked to have given you all a link to the full text of the article by Just et al. from the August edition of Brain, entitled "Cortical activation and synchronization during sentence comprehension in high-functioning autism: evidence of underconnectivity". But instead I just linked to the abstract, because unless you have a subscription to Brain, the full-text link would have taken you to an Oxford University Press screen informing you that "You may access this article (from the computer you are currently using) for 24 hours for US$27.50", and I suspect that only a few of you care enough about the topic to pay that much for that little.

If you really want to read the article, and don't have a subscription, you might be able to find a public library in a big city that subscribes. Otherwise, you'll have to pay, or wait a while.

Brain is published by Oxford University Press, and like many other publishers, OUP is dipping its toes in the water of Open Access. According to this item at Peter Suber's excellent Open Access News, there was a news note in the July 27 Library Journal to the effect that

"After positive initial results from Oxford University Press's open access 'experiment' with Nucleic Acids Research (NAR), the press announced it will move to a full open access publishing model from January 2005. It has been published under a subscription model for 32 years and includes around 1000 original research papers per year; OUP said NAR was 'the first journal of such stature to make a complete switch from a subscription to OA model.' Said Martin Richardson, managing director of Oxford Journals, 'To fulfill our role as a university press we felt a responsibility to the scholarly communities we represent to explore it as a viable publishing model.' Rachel Goode, communications manager, noted that there is a huge correlation between institutions that subscribe to NAR and authors who contribute to it, making the journal a particularly good candidate for open access."

Sounds promising. But there's one more sentence in the quote from Rachel Goode:

"'I don't think the market is ready beyond certain subject areas,' she said."

Oof. But before you get too depressed about this July 27 quote, here's a July 28 quote from another Open Access News posting. The speaker is the director of the National Institutes of Health, and the quotation is taken from an article in The Scientist:

"National Institutes of Health (NIH) director Elias Zerhouni indicated at a gathering of 43 scientific journal publishers and editors Wednesday (July 28) that eventually all NIH-financed research will be freely available to the public. Zerhouni stopped short of setting deadlines for depositing full-text materials in the searchable PubMed database, as recommended in a House Appropriations Committee report released earlier this month. Instead, he asked the publishing executives to inform him how best to manage material so that the public can freely use it. 'The public needs to have access to what they've paid for,' Zerhouni told commercial and nonprofit publishing executives at a meeting he called on the NIH campus....'The status quo just can't stand.' " [emphasis added]

There are significant economic issues here, both theoretical and practical, but he's right.

The Just et al. paper that I wish you could read is directly in Zerhouni's cross hairs. The acknowledgement at the end explains that "This research was supported by the University of Pittsburgh-Carnegie Mellon University-University of Illinois at Chicago Collaborative Program of Excellence in Autism (CPEA), Grant P01-HD35469 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development." And NICHD in turn is "is part of the National Institutes of Health, the biomedical research arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services".


Posted by Mark Liberman at July 31, 2004 09:37 AM