Saturday, June 07, 2008

Open Scholarship and Education

Librarians and other scholars who are interested in the impact of scientific research have been exploring the degree to which scientific papers published in open access journals have an impact on the field.

The OpenCit project tracks and synthesizes this literature. Overall, they report,
"Recent studies have begun to show that open access increases impact. More studies and more substantial investigations are needed to confirm the effect, although a simple example demonstrates the effect."
For more details on this issue see this summary of the ongoing research studies that are exploring the impact of open access scholarship on scientific impact.

Peter Suber has written a thoughtful summary of the state of open access publishing in science concluding:
"While OA [open access] is demonstrably superior for impact, conventional publication is superior for prestige, at least during the current transition period. But there needn’t be a trade-off. We can combine OA and prestige in the same ways in which we combine OA and peer review: a growing number of high-prestige peer-reviewed journals are already OA, and most of the rest already allow their authors to deposit their peer-reviewed manuscript in an OA repository."
Nevertheless, the big challenge in opening science is not just opening the "scientific results" to the larger world, but opening up the laboratories and studies themselves. As I have noted in the ongoing debate about "the effect of vaccines on autism" there are powerful opportunities for scientists to contribute to the discussion, but in order to participate effectively we are going to have to move from an expert mode to a participatory mode.

1 comment:

Dan said...

I agree that we need to "open up the laboratories and studies themselves". I think this will help the general public understand and reach the same conclusions that the scientists have about such issues as autism. I have noticed that people will invoke the "experts say" tactic when they agree with the experts. However, on more controversial issues, the pubic is more skeptical (and, I might add, rightly so; results change from one study to another--how many times has eggs been off and back on the "bad" list?). The public needs to be able to see the process of scientific research so they understand how scientists came to the conclusions they did. I think they will be more likely to accept those conclusions as well. On a side note, I think it is important that studies and laboratories open up in terms of being honest about what we don't know as well as what we do know.