Soc Neurosci Abst online (27 Aug 2004)
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34th Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting 2004 Abstract and Lay language article#:
Open Access, a breakthrough for science that every neuroscientist should know about

Alexei R. Koudinov1 and Peter Suber2

1Neurobiol Lipids, Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, Moscow, Russian Federation , 2Public Knowledge, Washington DC, Earlham College, Richmond, IN, USA
email: alexeikoudinov@neurobiologyoflipids.org , peter.suber@earlham.edu

Published online: 1 September 2004
Copyright © 2004 abstract by A Koudinov and P Suber, lay article by A Koudinov, Licensee Neurobiology of Lipids

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Please note: original SFN abstract is available at the Society for Neuroscience abstracts online

Open Access is the online access to scientific journal literature, free of charge and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. Open Access was named one of the top science news stories of 2003 by Nature, Science, The Scientist, and The Wall Street Journal. Open Access is supported by major science funding bodies, such as Howard Hughes Medical Institute (USA), the Wellcome trust (UK), the Max Planck Society, the DFG (Germany), the CNRS and INSERM (France). Rapidly rising conventional journal prices have been denounced by leading research universities (Harvard, Stanford, Cornell, Duke, more), found dysfunctional/unsustainable by independent financial analysts (PNB Paribas, Citigroup, Credit Suisse), and are now under investigation by Science and Technology Committee of the United Kingdom House of Commons. The advantages of an Open Access journal are compelling: articles are accessible to everyone with an internet connection; authors reach larger audiences and have greater impact; no permission is needed for copying, printing, distributing, storing or other educational uses; copyright remains with authors. Open Access does not violate copyright, but uses the consent of the copyright holder. Open Access journals are peer-reviewed and use the same high standards (ex. WAME) as conventional journals. Open Access journals are indexed in major databases (ex. National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine PubMed; ISI Science Citation Index) and major search engines (Google, Yahoo). Open Access journals may deposit copies of their articles in central archives (ex. PubMed Central), enhancing their preservation/availability. There are different funding models for Open Access journals in different circumstances; their costs are usually paid by the same sources that fund research. Of a thousand Open Access Journals listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) many have no publication charge. Some journalss are entirely Open Access (ex. PLoS Biology), and some conventional journals are experimenting with Open Access (ex. PNAS). Scientists who publish in conventional journals can provide Open Access to the same articles by depositing them in Open Access archives. Open Access accelerates research, shares knowledge, improves the usefulness of science journals articles. Wider adoption of Open Access depends on educating the scientific community about its benefits.


"Free access to taxpayer funded research
globally may soon be within grasp, and
make possible the freer flow of medical
knowledge that strengthens our capacity
to find cures and to improve lives
(An Open Letter to the U.S. Congress
Signed by 25 Nobel Prize Winners,
26 August 2004)

Please note: The original SFN abstract, which was one of about 600 chosen from a pool of over 16,000 Annual meeting submissions, was requested by the Society for Neuroscience Public Information Committee for inclusion in the Annual Meeting Press Book as a lay-language summary. Hundreds of members of the national and international media receive the Press Book before attending the annual meeting. They use the lay-language summaries contained in the book to formulate story ideas. Below is the submitted to the Society original lay article prepared by Alexei Koudinov.

In a recent Financial Times article Arie Jongejan, CEO, Sci & Tech, Elsevier (May 26, 2004, p.16) stated that "the scientific community has achieved a stable, scale-able and affordable system of [Scientific, Technical & Medical (STM)] publishing that adapts and invests in its information needs".

Apparently, the article by Reed Elsevier top official in a leading UK financial newspaper targeted investors and legislators, and aimed to preserve the centuries-long conventional STM publishing business where Elsevier presently is a biggest player.

What Elsevier S&T CEO calls "a stable ... and affordable system of [STM] publishing" put University Senates across US in great distress, resulted in a wave of cancellations of many subscription-access journals by leading Universities (Harvard, Stanford, Cornell, Duke, more), found dysfunctional and unsustainable by independent financial analysts (PNB Paribas, Citigroup, Credit Suisse), and is now under investigation by The appropriations committee of the US House of Representatives, and Science and Technology Committee of the United Kingdom (UK) House of Commons.

An unaffordable pricing and subscription bundling of Elseviers' Cell Press journals (including the major neuroscience title Neuron, and the most expensive Brain Research) with other Elsevier journals are the reasons for leading scientists' call to boycott these serials by all those who actually make a scientific publication a prestigious journal, i.e contributors, peer reviewers, and editorial board members. The latter fact made evident the academic world unity in opposing the spiraling cost of subscription based journals and giving away the ownership in the scientific publication(a scientists' ultimate output) in a form of a copyright transfer to a publisher.

I agree with Daniel Greenstein (Associate Vice Provost, Scholarly Info, Univ of California; Univ Librarian, Systemwide Library Planning & California Digital Library) that "the business model of commercial publishing, which once served the academy's information needs, now threatens fundamentally to undermine and pervert the course of research and teaching... If business as usual continues, it will deny scholars both access to the information they need and the ability to distribute their work to the worldwide audience it deserves."

"The formula works, so don't tinker with it" argues FT article headline. Sadly, there is a discrepancy between Elsevier S&T CEO quote of "the stability of an efficient market" and his publishing house recent statement. Thus, just several months ago, on Dec. 3, 2003, Elsevier Today announced that "the existing S&T portals, BioMedNet, ChemWeb, ElsevierEngineering.com will be withdrawn... [and that] this difficult decision has been made in the context of an extremely challenging budget brought about by the continued tough market conditions."

The business will apparently never continue as usual for subscription-based STM publishers. This is because the Internet Age raised Open Access (OA), that is (not to be misled by Elsevier and others defining it as "author-pay" model) the online access to scientific scholar journal literature, free of charge and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.

An OA journal advantages are obvious. Copyright usually remains with authors, so OA publisher does not violate copyright law, but uses the consent of the copyright holder, allowing articles' unlimited usage for both scientific research and educational purpose. OA journal quality is warranted by the conformity in fulfilling high standard policies (ex. World Association of Medical Editors, WAME) and the peer review. OA journal indexing in major databases (ex. NIH PubMed, ISI Science Citation Index) is subjected to rigorous selection process equal for all journals. To enhance the sustainability, OA journals can deposit articles in central archives and depository libraries (ex. PubMed Central by the NIH).

Open Access critique is based on the publication fee by some OA publishers "such as BioMedCentral (BMC) in the UK and Public Library of Science (PLoS) in the US" as exampled in the FT article. It is more accurate, however, to identify OA as funded by sources other then subscription revenues. Only a portion of OA journals has a publication fee, representing an 'authors-pay' business model of OA publishing. However, of a thousand OA journals listed in the Directory of OA Journals (DOAJ) many have no publication charge.

While Open Access movement became powerful, subscription based journals are engaging in experimentation with OA, with the recent most illustrative example by The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (PNAS), the flagship journal of the National Academy of Sciences. "The benefits to science of unfettered access to the literature are obvious and unassailable," says PNAS Editor-in-Chief Nicolas Cozarelli, in the editorial announcing "[authors-pay] OA option for PNAS contributors (June 8, 2004 p. 8509), whereby authors may pay a surcharge of $1,000 to make their article freely available online upon publication… Although I have no doubt that open access will be made to work for much of the scientific literature, I am not sure how," adds Professor Cozarelli.

In the most recent editorial (Aug 16, 2004) PNAS Editor further announced "liberalization of PNAS copyright policy: noncommercial use [of publications is now] freely allowed".

Ironically, one way of OA, a deposition of articles in Open Access archives, was recently accepted by Elsevier, according to the letter by Karen Hunter (Elsevier Senior Vice President, Strategy) cross posted at several OA discussion boards (May 23, 2004). According to this announcement "an author [of "published articles, whether published electronically or in print"] may post his or her version of the final paper on personal web site and on the institution's web site (including its institutional respository)..."

Such a mechanism of Open Access whereby authors (in addition to publication in peer-reviewed journals) deposit their articles in OA institutional repositories, was one of 82 recommendations and specific conlcusions of the UK House of Commons Sci Tech Committee report "Scientific Publications: Free for All?" (July 20, 2004). The committee held a thorough inquiry for half a year, conducted four sessions of oral testimony, hearing from 23 witnesses, and received 143 written submissions. It heard from leaders in research, libraries, universities and publishing (including those from the US) who put forward their arguments for and against OA.

At the same time, on July 14, the US House Appropriations Committee adopted a set of recommendations for next year's federal budget. One key recommendation would have the National Institutes of Health (NIH) put a condition on its research grants so that articles based on NIH-funded research would be deposited in PubMed Central, the NIH's OA digital library.

Of major importance is the "strong support for the House Appropriations Committee’s direction to NIH to develop an open, taxpayer access policy" by a panel of twenty five Nobel prize winners. Quoting Nobel Laureates Open Letter to the U.S. Congress (Aug 26, 2004): "The trend towards open access is gaining momentum. Japan, France and the United Kingdom are beginning to establish their own digital repositories for sharing content with NIH's PubMed Central. Free access to taxpayer funded research globally may soon be within grasp, and make possible the freer flow of medical knowledge that strengthens our capacity to find cures and to improve lives… We specifically ask you to support the House Appropriations Committee language as well as NIH leadership in adopting this long overdue reform."

In addition to OA archives and OA journals by big publishing houses (such as non-profit PLoS and for-profit BMC) there is a different Open Access experience. It is provided by the Neurobiology of Lipids (NoL), a non-profit independent scholar serial that I organized, publish and lead as managing editor with no help of a commercial publisher or any online journal publishing provider (ex. Highwire Press, ScholarOne).

Neurobiol Lipids concept is that OA can benefit the Society as a non-profit model for cost-effective independent scholar journals with no publication charge. NoL takes the advantage of an irreversible Internet and desktop publishing technology development and their end user availability at almost no cost.

Similarly to other OA journals, NoL serves all its' content free of charge immediately upon publication. NoL, however, welcomes free voluntary registration by readers in order to build the community of scholars working on or interested in the subject of the journal scope. NoL mission is "to provide worldwide leadership in advancing the knowledge of the neurobiology of lipids and its application to health care." Fats and cholesterol neurobiology are causative to Alzheimer's disease and several other brain pathologies, as my group pioneering research (summarized in another 34th SFN Annual Meeting 2004 teaching session by Koudinova et al.) and studies by others showed several years ago. NoL has no analogs among other neuroscience or lipid reserch publications. Perhaps, this is in part a reason an online readership of NoL is comparable with the readership of the worlds' major Journal of Lipid Research (JLR) published since 1959 (four-months average of 52.716 hits per month for NoL vs. 140.000 hits per month for JLR).

Lately, Neurobiology of Lipids publishing experience was translated into the launch of the Doping Journal , another independent OA scholar journal, debuted during the Athens Olympic games 2004. Both journals are running at an annual cost below a publication fee of one article at BMC (500$).

While wider adoption of Open Access depends on educating the scientific community about its benefits, the wider dissemination of independent publishing in the Neurobiology of Lipids way depends on still missing academic education about the technology and its' end-user friendly capabilities. The commercial publishers (both traditional and Open Access) are not interested in educating the academic world about the ease of the modern electronic publishing, a critical issue to safeguard the commercial publishing cabal.

Therefore, educational courses on independent publishing technology should be developed and included in higher education curriculum. Furthermore, grant funds, faculty opportunities and academic education for independent publishing should be a priority for governments, charitable institutions, libraries, and academic institutions.

To facilitate the deveopment of new independent Open Access scholar publications Neurobiology of Lipids will provide necessary advisory for quality editorial groups willing to establish and independently run OA non-profit scientific journals.

The complete version of this lay article will be shortly available as Neurobiology of Lipids publication.


Open Access Overview by Peter Suber is an excellent "introduction to open access (OA) for those who are new to the concept... It's short enough to read, long enough to be useful, and organized to let you skip around and dive into detail only where you want detail. It doesn't cover every nuance or answer every objection; that would require much more space. But for those who read it, it should cover enough territory to prevent the misunderstandings that delayed progress in our early days...

Once you're acquainted with the general idea of OA, follow new developments through Peter Suber OA News Blog and newsletter, and see what you can do to help the cause.


Alexei Koudinov is MD, PhD, neuroscientist, biochemist and editor. For over a decade he has been involved in Alzheimer’s research and the basic science on the role of fats in brain function, memory, and brain disorders. He has published more then one hundred refereed articles, scientific correspondence items, and meeting abstracts, and leads independent OA peer-reviewed scholar publications, Neurobiology of Lipids and Doping Journal. His personal written evidence for the UK inquiry on Scientific Publication is on the subject of the 'Editorial and Publisher Corruption by major STM journals (also available as Open letter to President G W Bush).

Peter Suber is the Open Access Project Director at Public Knowledge, Research Professor of Philosophy at Earlham College, and Senior Researcher at SPARC.  He has a Ph.D. in philosophy and a J.D. from Northwestern University.  He is the author of the SPARC Open Access Newsletter and editor of the Open Access News weblog.  He was the principal drafter of the Budapest Open Access Initiative, and sits on the Steering Committee of the Scientific Information Working Group of the U.N. World Summit on the Information Society, the Advisory Board of A.L.A. Information Commons, and the Board of Governors of the International Consortium for the Advancement of Academic Publishing.
This article should be cited in the following way:

Koudinov AR, Suber P. Open Access, a breakthrough for science that every neuroscientist should know about. Abstract Viewer/Itinerary Planner. Washington, DC: Society for Neuroscience Abstracts online. Program No.30.6 (2004). Available at: http://neurobiologyoflipids.org/content/3/5/neurolipids092004-01.html#30.6 .

#Footnote: This additional content page is provided by the Neurobiology of Lipids in order to extend the visibility and public awareness of the only teaching session on Open Access to be presented at the 34th Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting, San Diego Convention Center (23-27 October 2004) [ Annual Meeting Program ].

Copyright © 2004 by the Neurobiology of Lipids, ISSN 1683-5506