Open-Science Roller Coaster Accelerates

Biophysicist and open-science fan Stephen Curry, in The inexorable rise of open access scientific publishing, at The Guardian, notes that the move to open science is speeding up a wee faster than many people expected or even realize:

Read all about it: academic publishing is changing faster than anyone has realised, according to a new study reported today in BMC Medicine.

Before 2000 the vast majority of research papers were published in journals that could only be read by academics if they — or their university libraries — paid a subscription. But since the turn of the millennium, the growth of the world wide web has been accompanied by the emergence of open access publishing, by which research papers are made freely available online. According to results published today by Laasko and Björk, over half* of all research papers may now be available through open access.

The academic publishing game has changed irrevocably.

The move to open access publishing, the most visible part of this, shows starkly in the graph accompanying the story:

Graph showing the rapid rise in online open access journals
The rapid rise in open access. The graph (from Laasko and Bjork’s paper – BMC Medicine 2012, 10:124) shows the numbers of papers published in three different types of online open access journals from 2000 to 2011. Courtesy The Guardian


I’m not among those surprised, and I doubt Curry is, either. Early last year, writing about the move to open science, I noted that, for those paying attention, there was good reason to expect the disruption to academic publishing to accelerate:

As I’ve covered this, I’ve often thought of happened to the music industry a decade ago and is happening to the consumer newspaper, magazine, and book industries now. In every case, change arrived in a way that brings to mind a roller coaster ride as it approaches and then descends that first wild drop: The change came slowly at first, sped almost imperceptibly for a bit — and then accelerated wildly in a long drop that would forever transform the ride. Even among the industry insiders who saw change coming, most badly underestimated the steepness of the drop they were approaching. Once the drop started in earnest, the only ones having fun were those who saw the big drop and, whooping, leaned into it.

Some, like Curry, are enjoying the ride. Others, not so much.

Photo by Upsilon Andromedae.  Some rights reserved.