Day 85: Open-Access Journals Are Our Tax Dollars in Print (digitally speaking)

Date posted: April 19, 2009
Posted in: 100 Days of Science | Science education
Comments: 4 Comments


Dear fellow bloggers, Don’t you love it when you go from not knowing what you’ll write about, to not knowing how to keep your Very Exciting Topic focused, in a matter of moments? 

… and then I thought: open access! Of course!

As a longtime science journalist, I am familiar with the heavy-hitting journals: Science, Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. I have free access to their embargoed materials (subscriptions cost hundreds of dollars per year) and I know when the restrictions lift. I’ve written a lot of stories about scientific papers published in those journals. Always, I’m racing to cover them along with dozens or (usually) hundreds of other writers. 

But there’s a lot more science out there that doesn’t make it into those journals — really good, informative and interesting science. And it’s being made available, without restrictions, right here on the Internet. 

I got my first glimpse of the open access universe as soon as I started to blog. First, I discovered the journal PLoS ONE, largely through the publicity efforts of a man who calls himself Coturnix, at A Blog Around the Clock. I’ve perused PLoS ONE regularly and found no less than 10 science gems in there for “100 Days of Science. ”

I loved the PLoS journals (there’s actually a whole suite of them here) at first sight: all that original science, free for the reading. AND WHY NOT, I’ve come to think. After all, my tax dollars fed the grants that allowed those studies to happen. People complain about America’s scientific literacy, and I would submit (I do submit!) that open-access journals are a giant leap in the right direction.

I figured PLoS ONE was a lone ranger in the world of expensive science journals. Then I discovered arXiv, an open-access site for math and physics papers, through my work for Universe Today. Though the papers at arXiv aren’t always peer-reviewed — so some screening is required — there are often a handful of compelling ones that can yield unique stories.

Then, yesterday, I followed a link on a press release to a study about conserved gene expression across widely divergent taxa that geneticists are calling our “Inner Fish.” That study appeared in another open-access journal: the Journal of Biology.

And today, I got curious enough to put a question out to my 400 “friends” (strangers, actually, with common interests) on Twitter: “I’d love to know about open access science journals in addition to PLoS ONE and J. Biol, both of which rock. Any suggestions?”


Janet Strath (@JanetStrath) wrote back from London: “Re: Open Access Journals – BMC Genomics rocks … And not just because they published one of my papers :)”

The BMC journals (there are a lot of them) are a feast! If I wasn’t singing the praises of open access (and trying to spread the word) I could be writing about the sex of kiwis, or … well, let’s just say I found another delicious study that I probably will write about later this week.

William Gunn (@mrgunn; his website is here)  recommended these, which I haven’t checked out yet: Hindawi and Medknow.

And both Gunn and Jonathan Eisen (@phylogenomics; his blog is here) sent the motherlode of all open access:

The Directory.

The thing has (you ready for this?) 4,050 journals. They cover a wide range of subjects, with 154 entries in biology alone. I’m in science writers’ Heaven! I may never be stumped for a blog post topic again (or off-beat stories for my paying outlets).

May you never be either. Enjoy!

4 Responses to “Day 85: Open-Access Journals Are Our Tax Dollars in Print (digitally speaking)”

  1. Mr. Gunn on April 19th, 2009 10:32 pm

    Hey, Anne! I’m well stoked that you’re finding out about open access. DOAJ is indeed a motherlode, but check this out:

    Any NIH-funded research must be submitted to Pubmed Central, and will appear here:

  2. Journalists like PLoS ONE and Open Access « everyONE - the PLoS ONE community blog on April 20th, 2009 2:29 pm

    […] the weekend, we were pleased to read this blog post from Anne Minard – a freelance science journalist who has written stories for National Geographic […]

  3. Steve Bloom on April 20th, 2009 5:37 pm

    EGU is sponsoring a large and growing number of journals that are open-review (peer-reviewers are still anonymous) in addition to being open-access. PLoS is not open-review, although they do provide for post-publication comments.

  4. Graham Steel on April 22nd, 2009 11:38 am

    “I’m in science writers’ Heaven!”…

    Great post Anne – it’s always great to read items like this.

    Since it sounds like you’ve been well primed now by William and Jonathan etc.,

    As an active Patient Advocate, you will no doubt appreciate my own joy to discover Open Access in 2006 and I’ve been an active member of the OA Community ever since. Check out this post by Bora Zivkovic aka Coturnix:- just over half way through we get to the bit where we discuss Open Access….