Major Research Sponsor Pushes for Open Source Publication

There has been increasing tension between the philosophy of making research results freely available to encourage further investigation, and the philosophy that subscription journals, especially those with established credentials, provide an indication of the quality of those results, the cost of which is offset by fees that also limit access to the material.

A significant source of research funding has made its position known, with action along two fronts.  Wellcome Trust, the second largest non-governmental sponsor of research in the world, last week updated its announcement of an open source journal to be released this year in coordination with Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Max Planck Society.  That followed by the announcement that the trust is further considering withdrawal of financial support from researchers that do not make their results freely available.

It is too early to tell how the quality of both open access and subscription publications will be affected, and the answer will, of course, depend on which is able to sustain satisfactory review practices.  Open source journals do not currently have the established participation or funding of their subscription counterparts, however subscription journals are rapidly losing both participation and generation of fees to open source.

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