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Open Access 2.0: Power in our own hands!

September 1, 2011 - 15:47 -- Bart G.J. Knols

When students embark on research in the field of malaria they receive a pile of published articles from their supervisors to bring them up to speed. Great papers in Nature and Science, and students, for sure, hope that one day their names will appear in the list of authors on an article in one of these journals. Remember that feeling? I sure do. And did. But the world is changing...

What students do not know is that the articles they pick up from their desktops are embedded in an industry of academic publishers that many feel is becoming increasingly ugly. An article in The Guardian of this week leaves little to be imagined. The tone is harsh, but the key message is certainly thought-provoking.

This very morning I reviewed an article for a journal that belongs to one of these giants in the publishing industry. Took me a couple of hours - for which I see absolutely nothing in return. In fact, like many of you, I receive numerous requests from Editors (who often also get paid nothing or very little) each year, and again they take my time for free. Journal upon journal is launched, and believe me, it is not for our sake but in the end always for one thing...profit.

Dr. Tom Olijhoek (Netherlands) has recently started a LinkedIn discussion group where Open Access and publishing issues can be discussed. I may encourage you to join this group here. It is high time that as malaria professionals we free ourselves from the chains of those that have the ultimate outcome of our hard work (the manuscript) in their hands and parasitize chunks from our often limited research budgets in terms of publication or subscription costs. Ask your librarian how much they bleed each year and struggle to pay the bills.

A year ago we started with the MalariaWorld Journal (MWJ) and we're slowly picking up on the number of papers we publish on this platform. Some of them have scored over a 1000 hits already, showing that they are widely read. Remember - you read and publish for free in MWJ, the way it should be.

True, we don't have an impact factor and are not listed on PubMed (yet), but if everyone that matters gets to see your paper this should not be a big deal. And for those of you whose career progression depends on citation indices, impact factors and the h-index, well, it is never too late to have a word with your Department Head. Ask him or her what the link is between effective malaria control/elimination in the real world and impact factors.

MalariaWorld Journal wants to be ahead of the game - we believe in a future where scientific results should be shared openly with anyone in need of these, and use modern tools (e.g. social media) to make sure that the world will get to see your article. No subscriptions, no publication charges.

Dr. Olijhoek, in collaboration with the Dutch Malaria Foundation, intends to develop an 'Access to Scientific Information on Malaria Index'. An idea that was copied from the hugely successful Access to Medicines Index. This latter index has had a profound impact on pharmaceutical companies to improve their access to medicines practices for societies in need.

What can be done for drugs can be done for scientific information. Publishers depend on us - you -, we are their clientele. It is time that we unite and voice our wishes and needs better and concerted.

Only then will we be able to change the industry and gain universal access to scientific information for what it is needed: to combat malaria and ultimately declare our victory over it.


Submitted by Guest (not verified) on

One of the problems with the whole publishing thing is the scoring of journals started many years ago by the science citation index. It eventually means that the main concern becomes where and not what you publish - but then it has always been a case of who you know and not what you know so I suppose we shouldn't be too upset about all this.

Submitted by Tom Olijhoek on

Bart, well put! Let me elaborate a bit more on the idea of an Index.
The Index would measure the open access content of a journal, thus providing a tool for validating journals using their open access index.The more authors will start using this tool to determine where they want to publish their latest results, the more publishers will feel compelled to adopt the open access model for publication. So the success of the Index ultimately depends on the committment of us all.
As I see it the Index will provide us with a power factor to provoke a much needed change in the way scientific information is shared.
Some people may feel that open access will lead to a flood of papers with no more means of quality control. I think we can develop a natural means of selection here, by replacing the bottleneck of peer review with a more open system, for instance with consumer based ranking. Ranking from users (comparable to facebook 'likes') replacing Peer Review would still ensure the quality of publications. This would be the case because the ranking would be done by all the experts cq all the people who need the information and are knowledgable about it. Unlike peer review however, which is done by a relatively small group of experts, this system would have the advantage of being less prone to biases, faster and allowing a more useful grouping of papers in more areas of expertise. In addition experts can require a reputation which would be weighted in when they validate scientific publications. This would ensure that the best experts (by reputation) would have the greatest influence in the final ranking. Such a system would also be much more scalable i.e. capable of handling the ever increasing number of areas of expertise and the increase in number of corresponding papers in a way that peer review could never manage.
In order to make these ideas come true we will need all the input we can get. I therefore strongly urge you, the malaria research community, to use the MalariaWorld platform to share your views on these matters.

Submitted by Guest (not verified) on

I promote open access system. This time there are 'partially' open access journals that demand authors to pay. Many of these journals are listed in databases like Pubmed central. This improves their reach-ability to multidisciplinary researchers. For example, every-time when a researcher need to read one malaria issue, s/he may have interest to see it from biomedical, clinical, public health, sociology point of view. In one journal one web system, the reader can not be satisfied from titles listed only in one journal, which does not allow to see things from different angle (discipline). This may be the reason why many researchers rush to find issues on big databases first and then go to specific journals for detail later. i.e. just like first taste and then eat.
Finally, I wish malariaworld journal to be indexed in the common databases so that issues can also reach to non-member scientists.
If all these are malariologist- an internist when he deals with malaria patient, a sociologist during his outreach program in malaria endemic area, a biomedical researcher when s/he deals with rodent malaria, many professionals....but how many of them go first for open malaria resources to solve their immediate problem?