Advances in the biomedical sciences are highly dependent upon researchers having a clear understanding of the current state of knowledge. This information is primarily acquired by having access to the scientific literature via professional journals and, less commonly, books.
Unfortunately, this body of literature has not only expanded greatly over the past few decades, most of it has become increasingly unaffordable to scientists. I’ve written about this problem in several previous articles, and the responses I’ve received reflect widespread frustration among scientists and librarians with the current system. Excessive pay-per-view article charges combined with exorbitant journal costs have forced scientists at many of our nation’s biotechnology and medical device companies to either do without, download articles at nearby medical libraries, request PDF reprints of current articles from the authors, or illegally “borrow” access to university collections. These high costs have effectively limited access to the scientific literature for thousands of scientists at startup or even medium size biotech companies that lack deep pockets.
Not being able to readily access new or even legacy information retards the pace of scientific advancement and is detrimental to society. According to Margaret Mead “We are continually faced with great opportunities which are brilliantly disguised as unsolvable problems.” I’d like to put forth a radical proposal for solving the problem of a lack of journal access and affordability: the creation of a new publishing model, iPubSci, which is based on a concept similar to Apple’s iTunes. iPubSci would meld two already well-designed types of programs in search (PubMed) and the sale of individual pieces of content (iTunes). This concept arose out of numerous brainstorming sessions with Seattle biotech librarian Molly Bernard.
How would an iPubSci application function? Finding articles could be done using a search tool virtually identical to the one now employed by PubMed. The search results would be provided in a manner that would blend the best features of PubMed and iTunes. Search results would list articles according to the appropriate relevancy; pointing a cursor over any particular record would bring up a floating window showing the abstract of the article. This is directly analogous to hearing a snippet of music by clicking on a song in iTunes. Next to each article would be the download price of the PDF file. Paying for articles could be done, as in iTunes, via password protected credit card numbers or pre-paid accounts.
You could look for scientific papers based on keywords, subject, authors’ names, article titles, academic institutions, etc. and get a list of articles matching the search criteria. If you were still interested in acquiring the article after reading the abstract, you could purchase and instantly download the PDF file to your computer or mobile device. I’ll even suggest a pricing structure: articles published in open access journals (or residing in PubMed Central) would be free. In the case of for-profit journals, articles more than two years old: $0.29; less than two years old: $0.49; articles less than six months old would be $1.29. Make it easy, affordable, and legal for users to get the articles, and scientists and other interested individuals will jump on board.
For those of you who have looked into downloading single research articles, you know that the going rate at many journals is in the $30-$35 range. How could the price drop as low as indicated above? Keep in mind that, unlike the music business model, none of the money obtained by article sales will actually be going to the “artists,” who in this case are the authors. It will all go … Next Page »
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