Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


APPENDIX 16

Memorandum from Biological Procedures Online, Canada

  Biological Procedures Online (BPO) is a scholarly journal that publishes methods-focused research in the fields of microbiology, biology, and medical sciences using the open-access paradigm.

  Recently, it came to our attention that The Science and Technology Committee of the United Kingdom Parliament is exploring the matter of access to scholarly journals. BPO's position, that the open access publishing standard should be embraced, will ensure that most of society will benefit. Governments have a role to play in ensuring that society maximizes the benefits afforded by open access publishing.

  Open access benefits the scientific community as information is efficiently disseminated. Academia has heralded open access journals: papers are more highly cited, authors have more avenues to publish, and readers are able to access information without additional cost. Open access exists in reaction to escalating subscription fees and a difficulty of some institutions to afford access.

  But does open access affect a journal's integrity and permanence? Open access journals, like BPO, conduct their publishing efforts like the established society journals. We ensure that the work published in the pages of open access journals can stand the test of academic integrity. In BPO's case, there exists a stringent method of ensuring quality work is published. BPO has an editorial board of 32 members strong from all around the world and their expertise is as wide-ranging. Our peer-review system is automated and online, providing editors and reviewers a simple interface to conduct their duties. Using an online interface, an author submits their paper and provides the names of seven possible reviewers. An initial pre-screen step leads into the review stage. If a paper does not have the necessary elements required to be published in our journal or it appears similar to work already published, we refuse the paper before it is reviewed. Reviewers judge the paper on several criteria and render comments. The peer-review process culminates in an editorial decision. Editors base their decision on the reviews submitted and also use their own judgment to uphold the standards set out by BPO. Editors will reject, accept, or accept conditionally the paper. Our process ensures quality and the reputability, form, and style of a journal are not important if stringent peer-review is in place.

  The permanence of electronic or online journals is ensured through archiving agencies. In Canada, the National Library of Canada (NLC) keeps a permanent record of published work and provides the means for readers to connect to this work. In the United States, PubMed Central (PMC) provides the same service. This organization aggregates papers from several publishers and provides open access and a search engine for these papers. Access is immediate and specific. BPO has arrangements with both of these archiving agencies to store and distribute our contents. In the case of the NLC, the record is permanently held with the government organization.

  Governments should not only support permanent archiving and aggregating of published information, but they should provide grant funding that enables publicly-funded researchers to pay author fees and publish in open-access journals. Making it mandatory that publicly-funded researchers must publish in open-access journals would ensure that the open access medium, which benefits all aspects of academic research, will supplant current standards. Currently, the United States House of Representatives is considering this matter with their "Public Access to Science Act." Governments should ensure society maximizes the economic benefits of research funded by ratepayers.

January 2004



 
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Prepared 20 July 2004