Open access for chemistry
22 August 2006
The team that developed BioMed Central, an open access publishing website, has launched a chemistry version called Chemistry Central.
The site will host BioMed Central's (BMC's) two chemistry journals: Geochemical Transactions, the online journal of the American Chemical Society's division of geochemistry, and the Beilstein Journal of Organic Chemistry. Chemistry-related content from BMC's other more biological journals will also be highlighted on the site. Next year, the open access Chemistry Central Journal will also be launched and hosted by the website.
'Chemists have really been lacking a home for open access,' said Bryan Vickery, BMC's deputy publisher and previously managing director of ChemWeb.com, an online chemistry portal formerly owned by Elsevier and subsequently taken over by ChemIndustry.com, based in Southern California, US.
'Open access as a business model is relevant to all STM [science, technology and medicine] publishing,' Vickery said.
But the Royal Society of Chemistry's director of publishing, Peter Gregory, disagrees. 'We have absolutely no interest shown from our editorial board members, or our authors, for open access publishing,' he said.
Gregory believes that the open access author-pays model is 'ethically flawed', because it raises the risk that substandard science could be widely circulated without being subjected to more rigorous peer review. This could be particularly problematic in chemistry, where rapid, open access publication could be used to establish priority ahead of more time-consuming patent applications from rival groups, he added.
Open access publishing remains 'financially unproven', Gregory said: if the business model turns out to be unsustainable, parts of the scientific record may be lost when publishing platforms fold, he argues.
The open access chemistry journals still have a long way to go before they can attract the volume of papers seen in more traditional publishing models. Since the Beilstein Journal of Organic Chemistry launched in August 2005, 32 papers have been published, compared to 509 primary research articles published by the RSC's Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry in the same time. Geochemical Transactions was previously published by the RSC, and during its time at BMC, it has published roughly two articles per month.
The bottom line is that BMC is a commercial publisher, and Vickery predicts that open access will become widely adopted as a successful business model. 'Enthusiasm is growing amongst funders and policy makers, and in the younger generation of researchers,' he said. 'As this all comes together and combines, the results of scientific research could soon be open access as the norm.'
A leading geochemical journal has moved to an open access publisher in an attempt to maintain its impact.
Peer-reviewed open access research in chemistry