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A Scientist and the Web


Can an #openaccess advocate publish subscription-only content?

I am an active advocate for #openaccess and #opendata. I was recently asked on Twitter “how many closed access publications have you authored?” and I replied “none in the last five years.” I was then challenged about one recent paper on which I am an author and which is Closed:

Chemical Name to Structure: OPSIN, an Open Source Solution, Daniel M. Lowe , Peter T. Corbett , Peter Murray-Rust *, and Robert C. Glen,

J. Chem. Inf. Model., 2011, 51 (3), pp 739–753 DOI: 10.1021/ci100384d


This is a legitimate challenge, and I’ll explain my philosophy. (Twitter is a poor mechanism for detailed discourse).


First, all papers in the last 5 years which I am sole author of are Open. (The only exception is an invited one in an Elsevier journal where I was promised Green Open Access but it has now been closed by the publisher). In most cases I have paid an APC.


In my own group, (now formally wound down – I have no direct students or research fellows now though I have several collaborators), we had the tradition that it was the choice of the person who did most of the work. I have always said that it is hard enough being a junior researcher without the additional constraint of a senior person’s prejudices. If a junior researcher feels that they must publish in a closed manner, I don’t think it’s right to force them to do otherwise. In particular there are some subdisciplines (e.g. polymer chemistry) where there is no clear #openaccess outlet. In practice we had a very strong Open culture and almost all papers were published APC-paid OA.


When publishing with other groups, and where there is no funder mandate, it depends on who controls the process. #openaccess is messy and multi-author papers are particularly messy (I have been on one with 95 authors). In the case above the other authors wished to published in ACS, and Daniel – who did most of the work and is first author – was not formally in my group. (I suspect the asterisk is because students can’t be corresponding authors or simply an error).


Where funders mandate #openaccess then there should be no problem. The researchers know the rules before they start the research – if they don’t want to publish #openaccess they don’t have to take the grant. It’s more difficult where one minor author has personal funding (e.g. a fellowship or sited in a funded laboratory).

I’d be interested what other #openaccess advocates do when the choice involved other authors.

[Note that all the material in Daniel's paper is Openly available – his thesis in Cambridge DSpace contains far more detail and is more valuable than the article ; the software is all available at and there is a running service at . ]



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