Reader Comments

Post a new comment on this article

Open Access and the Skewness of Science: It Can't Be Cream All the Way Down

Posted by plosmedicine on 31 Mar 2009 at 00:31 GMT

Author: Stevan Harnad
Position: Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Sciences
Institution: Université du Québec à Montréal & University of Southampton
Submitted Date: October 10, 2008
Published Date: October 15, 2008
This comment was originally posted as a “Reader Response” on the publication date indicated above. All Reader Responses are now available as comments.

There are reasons to be skeptical about the conclusions of this PLoS Medicine article. It says that science is compromised by insufficient "high impact" journals to publish in. The truth is that just about everything gets published somewhere among the planet's 25,000 peer reviewed journals, just not all in the top journals, which are, by definition, reserved for the top articles -- and not all articles can be top articles. The triage (peer review) is not perfect, so sometimes an article will appear lower (or higher) in the journal quality hierarchy than it ought to. But now that funders and universities are mandating Open Access, all research, top, middle and low will be accessible to everyone. This will correct any access inequities and it will also help remedy quality misassignment (inasmuch as lower quality journals may have fewer subscribers, and users may be less likely to consult lower quality journals). But it will not change the fact that 80% of citations (and presumably usage) goes to the top 20% of articles, though it may flatten this "skewness of science" (Seglen 1992) somewhat.

Seglen PO (1992) The skewness of science. Journal of the American Society for Information Science 43:628-38

No competing interests declared.