Re: Free Access vs. Open Access

From: Michael Eisen <mbeisen_at_LBL.GOV>
Date: Sat, 3 Jan 2004 18:57:13 -0800

I think an important point has been lost in the various threads on this

While there is clearly disagreement about what does and should constitute
open access, I think we all agree on two things:

1) universal free access to the peer-reviewed literature, in any form, would
be a wonderful thing - both in its own right, and because it would almost
certainly lead to universal open access

2) the greatest challenge facing open access advocates is convincing authors
to make their works available freely and/or openly by either publishing in
open access journals or by self-archiving

One of the reasons that I and many others are so ardent in our defense of
the stronger form of open access - one that explicitly permits
redistribution and reuse - is because we believe that the uses these
freedoms will enable are a critical part of making open access more
attractive to authors.

A simple example is PubMed. Virtually all scientists who work in fields
whose journals are included in PubMed use this database as their primary
tool for searching the literature, and this is unlikely to change. PubMed is
free, simple, efficient and fairly comprehensive, and, with links to
journals on publisher websites it provides a gateway to the online
scientific literature. Of course, most of the articles are behind toll
barriers, and these barriers are not transparent even to scientists at the
wealthiest institutions. An exception are the articles in PubMed Central -
these are freely available to anyone, with a prominent link provided in
PubMed. Because scientists in their role as readers experience the utility
of PMC on a daily basis, they recognize the advantages of journals that
deposit their content in PMC when they choose the journals in which they
publish, and PLoS has received considerable feedback from authors who cite
immediate availability in PMC as a major reason for their choosing to
publish with us (I'm sure BMC has had a similar experience). Recently, the
NCBI has begun linking their sequence, structure, taxonomy and other
databases to the full-text articles in PMC, thereby increasing their utility
and their impact. As people start to use these tools, the attractiveness of
journals in PMC - especially those that make their content available
immediately - will grow.

The benefits of inclusion in PMC - and in other services that will begin
taking advantage of the content published by BMC, PLoS and others open
access publishers or made truly open access through other means - are denied
to articles that are self-archived in a way that precludes their reuse and

While it is may be theoretically possible to do some of these things by
crawling self-archived content, it is a practical reality that relying
solely on such methods will diminish the attractiveness of open access, and
is a major reason why I believe that the things that Stevan dismisses as
"frills" or as organic food for the starving - things like conversion to XML
and the right to make articles available in different forms at different
places - are practical prerequisites for the success of open access.
Received on Sun Jan 04 2004 - 02:57:13 GMT

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