Have you ever thought it would be wonderful if online journal papers linked to reactions by blog writer? If so, you’ll be heartened by a new addition to the bunch of mash-ups that make the blogosphere so very interesting.
[When it isn’t a heavily edited mix of music or video, a ‘mash-up’ is a web application integrating several information sources. For example, see Yahoo Pipes management of RSS feeds or the many Google Maps of data-sets such as public bathrooms in San Fransisco.]
This mash-up is called Postgenomic. Hosted by the Nature Publishing Group, “Postgenomic collects posts from hundreds of science blogs and then does useful and interesting things with that data.” That doesn’t say much, so think of it as Technorati for science bloggers. As expected, it has a heavy emphasis on the good folk at ScienceBlogs, a collection of writers who write about a mix of science, culture and politics. (Today, my favourite item from them comes from Jonah Lehrer, who blogs on a paper titled Human relational memory requires time and sleep.)
Of course, this sort of connection-building would greatly facilitated by greater use of open access publications like Open Medicine – which can only be a good thing. Consider the possibilities of mash-ups connecting Wikipedia with peer-reviewed open access journal articles. The director of the Public Knowledge Project has done so in a study of Wikipedia’s use of open access scholarship.
- John Willinsky. What open access research can do for Wikipedia. First Monday, Volume 12, Issue 3 (2007). [Hat tip to the BioMed Central Blog for mention of this article.]
In that paper he recommends several strategies that can help Wiki editors – and the rest of us – find open access materials using Google Scholar. My own recommendations for finding academic papers ‘in the open’ include:
- Use the ‘Find Articles’ search tool at the Directory of Open Access Journals. The results will be current and have good references to other online material.
- If you are aware of the name of a researcher, faculty, research group or laboratory, check their websites. These often archive journal papers, newspaper articles, unpublished manuscripts, pre-prints, presentations and dissertations. Even when publishers require embargoes, researchers often ignore them.
- Use your favourite search engine to hunt for file extensions associated with archived documents by including PDF, DOC, and PPT as a search term.
We can expect more mash-ups connecting the ivory tower with the blogosphere, and this will doubtless be part of a trend towards greater reliance on open source journals. Most bloggers will follow the path of least resistance, and communities of highly educated readers will express preferences for full access to topical research results. Taxpayers will doubtless want access to publicly-funded research.
Scholars should too. There’s already good evidence that open access publishing makes research more available than the papers locked behind pay-walls. Don’t take my word for it though; take it from peer-reviewed authority:
- Eysenbach G (2006) Citation Advantage of Open Access Articles. PLoS Biol 4(5): e157.
An editorial in that journal draws upon this research to conclude:
[I]t adds objective support to the belief we have always held that open-access publication speeds up scientific dialog between researchers and, consequently, should be extended to the whole scientific literature as quickly as possible.
- MacCallum CJ, Parthasarathy H (2006) Open Access Increases Citation Rate. PLoS Biol 4(5): e176.
According to Peter Suber, one of the most vocal supporters of open access publishing, it’s only a matter of time. As a new generation of researchers replaces the old, expectations about the availability of information will change.
Scholars who grew up with the internet are steadily replacing those who grew up without it. Scholars who expect to put everything they write online, who expect to find everything they need online, and who expect unlocked content they may read, search, link, copy, cut/paste, crawl, print, and redistribute, are replacing those who never expected these boons and got used to them, if at all, [by] looking over their shoulder for the copyright police. Scholars who expect to find the very best literature online, harmlessly cohabiting with crap, are replacing scholars who, despite themselves perhaps, still associate everything online with crap.
So, here’s a question to researchers: Given the choice, why would you not publish in an open access journal? Perhaps you think traditional journals offer something that open access cannot. If so, the comments are open to your suggestions.