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Academic publishing: Some pushing for open access

Scientific publishing may be countering troubling trends through openness.

The academic publishing field, home to important research in every vertical, is in a state of constant evolution. Researchers in the science, technology and medical (STM) fields are subjected to new requirements and pressures at all times - scientific reporting has changed a great deal in recent years, and is hardly finished.

"Materials have never been easier to publish or read from a technical perspective."

Paralleling this movement, another set of factors is brewing: The technology that brings academic papers from authors to readers is advancing at an accelerated rate, and as stringent requirements take hold in academic institutions across the country, researchers and publishers alike can take comfort in the fact that their materials have never been easier to publish or read from a technical perspective.

New publishing ideals
A few recent stories in the academic publishing field have captured the feeling of a market in transition. According to a statement by Open Science Executive Director Brian Nosek and Cardiff University professor Chris Chambers, published by The Guardian, Open Science's new set of proposed standards could point the way to an era of radical transparency in the sciences. The authors explained that they hope to affect the entire research publishing field, to the point that future generations think of "open science" as "science." Restricting access to results, they argued, is often carelessly done in the name of "novelty and impact."

Chambers and Nosek criticized the way the current scientific publishing industry rewards its scholars, arguing that when the focus is on making a splash, there is less support for those who are being "transparent and careful," unlocking findings that are better for science as a whole. The writers stated that the new guidelines, now out for review by leading journals, are important because they provide steps toward more open practices. If researchers feel freer to share information and make real breakthroughs that have been viewed by others and can be reproduced, the whole field of academia may benefit.

The worrying trends seen by Chambers and Nosek were echoed in a New York Times piece on scientific publishing. The source explained that there has been a focus lately on creating research that plays well in mainstream news sources. This can go as far as journals urging their published academics to rephrase their conclusions into forms that will reach broad audiences. Too much focus on this could lead the STM journal field into trouble, as the Times pointed out that the studies picked up for mainstream consumption do not always include good, sound science.

"New publishing tools can make STM journals more conducive to openness."

Tech solutions emerging
Fortunately for academic publishers, there are new publishing tools rising that can make their products more conducive to openness, sharing and peer review. Interactive STM journals with built-in features enhancing commenting and granting scientists the ability to work with peers' data and draw their own conclusions may be great additions to an era of greater communication. One great way to counter bad or incorrect research emerging from STM publishers is to give the academic community the tools it needs to review and cross-reference work. Sharing and collaboration are in the spirit of scientific research, and the latest generation of technology is ready to provide support.

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