A Setback for Open Science?
"Open Science" took a real walloping this week. First, Gina Kolata from the New York Times published an article exposing the increasingly predatory nature of open access journals. Then, Evegeny Mosorov, author of The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom, published an essay over at The Baffler that quite deconstructs the "open source" movement along with the guy who created it, conference producer Tim O Reilly. And Tuesday, we heard that Mendeley, a portal that opens up access to scientific research is to be bought out by the publishing giant, Reed Elsevier for about $70 million, a move that one commenter compared to "Haliburton buying Greenpeace."
I was introduced to the open science movement by Joseph Jackson, organizer of the Open Science Summit. My first question was how would business models even function in an environment of giving things away for free. I’ve always been leary of such offers. Everything comes at a price. “It’s free as in freedom, not free beer,” Joseph was quick to tell me at a the conference pre-reception held at his DIY bio lab in Sunnyvale where he handed out . . . . free beer.
Who can argue with “open?” It’s such a great term, as Mosorov argues in his essay. It's a big tent that can house a large crowd. Going to Jackson’s conferences, I’ve got to know that crowd a bit. The open access movement seems to be at the core of open science, and is certainly not without its appeal. What scientist doesn’t want free access to all the research that exists in a field? In our first video interview, we had Jonathan Eisen to the program just after he won the Benjamin Franklin award for open science. He’s the managing editor of one of the PLoS journals and brother to the co-foudner of the pioneering open access publication, Michael Eisen. When we interviewed Jonathan, he’d just uploaded all his dad’s research papers to Mendeley. Why? So anyone could read them. And for free. To the Eisen brothers, "paywall" is an evil term.