Open access: quality and quantity

Added by Stephane Goldstein on 09 February 2007 12:54

Leading open access publisher BioMed Central held a workshop (?Open access: how can we achieve quality and quantity??) at the Royal College of Physicians, in London, on 8 February.  Apart from an unfortunate piece of irony - holding a meeting on open access in a room full of locked bookcases - the event was interesting, well-organised and confident, even if somewhat self-congratulatory.  Two points in particular caught my attention.

1. Publishing meets social networking?  OK, it’s yet another cliché, but there was quite a buzz about the potential to develop post-publication interactivity on journal content.  In a sense, this stretches the scope and meaning of ‘publication’ by allowing for open commentary and annotation, and hence dialogue and debate, on a dynamic and ongoing basis.  The notable example presented at the meeting was the case of PLoS One, but there may be others.  This is not a substitute for peer review, but could provide for a form of quality assessment by facilitating critical discussion by the community.  Hype or hope?

2. How do researchers (and, in the case of clinicians, practitioners) use journals?  The meeting pointed to cases of poor or even dangerous conclusions being reached through reading abstracts rather than whole journal articles.  Contenting oneself with reading just the abstract is hardly unusual, and there are all sorts of good reasons for this - one of which may be that only the abstract is freely available (which, of course, open access proponents don’t fail to underline). The problem is when this leads to misinterpretation, especially if the abstract is poorly-written. So is there a case for seeking empirical evidence on how journals are used - and perhaps by extension on how content is cited?  What research has there been in this area?  Comments welcome…

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