Science follows Nature and starts a second-tier open access journal

AAAS, publisher of the renowned journal Science, has followed the example of Nature Publishing Group and launched an open access journal for manuscripts that have been rejected from their flagship journal. The new OA journal is to be named Science Advances, and will have a publishing fee within the range of what other open-access journals charge, typically about $1200 to $5000. Read more about it here:

This action raises some afterthoughts:

The good thing is that sound research can be published open access, even if the results don’t fit into the narrow ‘selling’ choice of the editors at the journal Science. Exactly like in PLoS ONE, PeerJ, Nature’s Scientific Reports and other OA mega-journals, you may publish good research if it passes the review, even if it has yielded non-selling or negative results.

The bad thing is that these kind of second pay-to-publish choices will inevitably look as a sort of second-class publications and conserve the prejudice that open access publishing is of poorer quality than subscription-based publishing. A pay-to-publish second choice title will continue to look less impressive in a CV publication list than the first-choice flagship subscription title.

The ugly thing is the economics that seems to be driving this development of second-tier OA journals. When a manuscript is rejected from the subscription-based journal, there is still money on the table to be collected in the emerging open access system, and now publishers are running to collect this new stream of revenue, while still clinging on to the old subscription system.

The aftermath and my conclusion is that we now start to see the scholarly publishing system divide into two different services; one traditional subscription service selecting readable and sensational research findings for the reader, and a new service focusing solely on peer review for the publishing researchers. This development may not be a bad thing as such, but I think we should be aware of what is happening and keep an eye on the publishers, so we don’t keep on paying twice for the same services.

Following this trend further, I believe that all scholarly publications should be published open access and free to read, but there is still a place for an editorial service to the reader, selecting the most interesting and ground-breaking research. But this subscription-based service to the readers should be based on knowledgeable selection and editorial content as a service, rather than trying to lock publications in to make them to products for selling.

// Ulf Kronman

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