Scientific Communication

I want to highlight two excellent items related to scientific communication:

The first is a post by Tim Lamber on Deltoid in which he reproduces a comment by John Mashey. Mashey provides a very nice description of how scientists should deal with members of the media. Rather than merely berating bad science reporting (as some are wont to do), Mashey suggests some more pro-active ways for scientists to support good science news.

The second item is an Editorial in PLoS Biology entitled “When Is Open Access Not Open Access?”. In the article, Catriona MacCallum draws the distinction between Open Access and Free Access:

As the original Bethesda definition makes clear, open access allows for unrestricted derivative use; free access does not. So the beauty of open-access publishing is not just that you can download and read an article for personal use. You can also redistribute it, make derivative copies of it…, use it for educational purposes, or, most importantly, for purposes that we can’t yet envisage.

MacCallum goes on to point out the importance of this distinction, with examples from various publishers (and even allusions to blogospheric issues with links to blogs). In a way, PLoS appears to be drawing a line in the sand to distinguish themselves from some of the traditional publishers (ie, Nature) who have been taking steps toward becoming Open Access. This distinction has come up before in regards to Nature (see this post for my take and some other links). In the end, Nature is still excelling in their web2.0 goodness, and they seem to “get it” when it comes to Open Access (ie, their take on PRISM). But there is a difference between Open Access and Free Access — one that shouldn’t be lost in the push to make research freely available.


  1. #1 Deepak
    October 16, 2007

    This reminds of the old free vs. open source debate in some ways although the specifics are very different. Free access and open access are definitely not the same beast, although they could be. The challenge remains .. how can we keep access to scientific literature free, open and viable. Someone has to pay somewhere, even if it is not the consumer.

  2. #2 Pedro Beltrao
    October 18, 2007

    I think there will be some sort of official announcement but if I am not mistaken authors currently submitting to Molecular Systems Biology decide what type license to publish with (allowing or not derivatives). The decision is up to the author that in my view is a balanced option.

  3. #3 Pedro Beltrao
    November 1, 2007

    Just to give an update. The editors of MSB have posted on the blog an announcement about the change in policies regarding derivatives.

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