Nature (the magazine, not the universe) recently unveiled their new, open, online preprint archive:Nature Precedings
It's intended to be the natural science equivalent to the physics arXiv. But since they've been able to build it from scratch, they've included many great features. Each "article" submission receives votes, tags, and comments added by readers. This is really great to see. The arXiv seems to have built up a lot of institutional inertia, and has been dragging its feet in implementing these features, even though people have been suggesting them for years. If this new Nature site is as successful as it looks like it's going to be, the arXiv will feel a lot more pressure to implement these things. I don't imagine physicists will enjoy being out-nerded by biologists for very long.
For an example of the new site in action, the currently most popular article is this one on Open Notebook Science
. Appropriately enough, it's a power point presentation discussing the advantages of doing science out in the open -- specifically, the advantages of using a wiki as a research notebook. That's no surprise to me
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Although physicists were first to the open access game with arXiv, biologists have recently caught on, as Garrett highlights with Nature Proceedings -- and as well with perhaps an even more exciting experiment called PLoS, short for Public Library of Science, at plos.org
PLoS began approximately 5 years ago with a single open access, peer-reviewed online "journal" known as PLoS Biology; today, there are several PLoS publications, including PLoS Computational Biology. (Computational biologists share a surprising amount of mathematical methodology with cosmologists -- with more surely to come as the field matures.)
After successful rigorous peer review, scientists pay to have their articles instantly published in a PLoS journal (usually paid for with grants), but they retain all copyrights -- as long as they agree the work may be used by PLoS readership in any way possible (reading, downloading, modification (!), etc.). And because PLoS journal articles are accessed as easily and freely as going to the website, their "readership" is, theoretically at least, anyone.
Thus, the mission of PLoS differs somewhat from that of arXiv -- PLoS journals are peer-reviewed -- and from Nature Proceedings -- the Proceeding's parent company, Nature, is for-profit, but PLoS is resolutely non-profit. The PLoS position is that since most biological research is paid for by the taxpayer, taxpayers -- you and me -- should not have to pay to review the fruits of that research. Indeed.
The PLoS model seems to me, though I may be biased
, to be a highly promising hybrid of open access and peer-reviewed science. PLoS-FQXi Cosmology, anyone?
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