Michael Ashburner on Open Access

BioMed Central has posted videos of interviews of some notable scientists. Included is a video of friend of evolgen (and enemy of Prof. Steve Steve) Michael Ashburner espousing the virtues of open access. Ashburner was a signatory on the letter to Science encouraging publishers to make their journals publicly available. He also walks the walk, proclaiming that he will not publish in non-open access journal, nor review articles for non-open access journals. Not only is he in favor of open access publishing, he also pushes for open access software.

One of Ashburner’s recent project has involved mining the scientific literature and providing smart databases. He points out that open access literature allows people who mine scientific papers to make their results available. Even thought he and his colleagues are free to search any article they have access to, they can’t share those results with people who can’t access the protected literature. In the video, he lists three reasons to publish in open access journals: it’s the moral high ground, it increases the amount of people who read your articles, and you maintain the copyright on your work. Additionally, he points out that non-open access journals are scam because universities end up paying for the research twice — once to generate the results and again to access them.

(Via BioMed Central blog.)


  1. #1 Jonathan Eisen
    August 31, 2007

    Well, I already liked Ashburner but knowing that he has taken the full OA plunge moves him even further up my rankings. As for Steve Steve, maybe Ashburner was worried about igniting him with a cig?

  2. #2 JSinger
    September 4, 2007

    He also walks the walk, proclaiming that he will not publish in non-open access journal…

    I’m always a little alarmed by PI’s making pronouncements like that. Is sacrificing your postdocs’ and grad students’ careers for your ideology really “the moral high ground”? Frankly, that tells you quite a bit about what passes for “morality” in academia.

    I’m hoping (and expecting) that open access will win out in the long term, and it’s already much less of a sacrifice to publish in OA journals for any but the most important results. But those results are precisely what make or break the careers of the people who, y’know, actually did the work.

  3. #3 RPM
    September 4, 2007

    How does publishing in Open Access journals negatively affect the careers of his students/post-docs? There are high impact open access journals (ie, Plos Biology), and there are open access journals that are field specific.

  4. #4 JSinger
    September 4, 2007

    There are high impact open access journals (ie, Plos Biology)…

    Like I said, the level of OA journals has gone up considerably in the last few years, and most work can be published in one without having to make any sacrifice.

    But surely you’re aware of what you’re conceding by setting PLoS as the upper bound for your publications? I certainly wouldn’t have my current position if my old PI had as much “moral high ground” as Ashburner does.

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