"Open access" journal publishing was founded on the principle that corporations should not hold a copyright on research that was becoming increasingly taxpayer-funded. Instead of subscribers paying to read an article, taxpayers incur an additional fee and essentially buy access for everyone in the public.

Today, it is a booming industry, generating tens of millions of dollars for companies and with thousands and thousands of publications. There are also lesser-known flavors of open access. Traditional open access is reusable while some lesser forms simply allow a researcher to provide a download of a PDF of a paper on their own site.

The Biodiversity Data Journal has proposed an "Advanced Open Access" to describe an integrated, narrative (text) and data publishing model where the main goal is to make content "re-usable" and "interoperable" for both humans ... and computers. 

Instead of just PDF or HTML files available online, the authors argue for a reuse-friendly license and technologies that allow machine-readable content and data to be harvested and collated into a big data pool.

Collaboration and Publication were always two cornerstones of the original Science 2.0 concept, but it's unknown whether this idea of shortening the distance between "narrative" (text) and "data" publishing will be embraced. The idea that data types, such as species occurrences, checklists, measurements and others, can be converted into text from spreadsheets for better readability by humans, and that text from an article can be downloaded as structured data or harvested by computers for further analysis, is certainly intriguing.

The Advanced Open Access means:

  • Free to read
  • Free to re-use, revise, remix, redistribute
  • Easy to discover and harvest
  • Content automatically summarized by aggregators 
  • Data and narrative integrated to the widest extent possible
  • Human- and computer-readable formats
  • Community-based, pre- and post-publication peer-review
  • Community ownership of data
  • Free to publish or at low cost affordable by all

Free-to-publish is, of course, one of the hallmarks of Science 2.0 as well. While Open Access is an important waypoint from subscription journals, there is no reason taxpayers have to fund research and then spend more money that goes to any corporation in order to read the work. Most open access journals are 'peer review lite' or 'editorial review', some companies are publishing hundreds of articles per day at a fee of $1,000 or more each. We have long championed an Open Publication model, where publishing has no cost (it could be advertiser-supported, making it fair for researchers in developing nations) and peer review could be done after the fact. PubMed has recently embraced that idea, with PubMed Commons allowing commentary on anything indezed by PubMed (so, all NIH-funded research).

"Open access is definitely one of the greatest steps in scientific communication comparable to the invention of the printing technology or the peer-review system. Great but not sufficient!" said Prof. Lyubomir Penev, founder of Pensoft Publishers, the publisher behind the open-access journal ZooKeys. "We need to switch the focus already from making content 'available for free download' to being discoverable and extractable. Such re-usability multiplies society's investment in science".

Citation: Smith V, Georgiev T, Stoev P, Biserkov J, Miller J, Livermore L, Baker E, Mietchen D, Couvreur T, Mueller G, Dikow T, Helgen K, Frank J, Agosti D, Roberts D, Penev L (2013) Beyond dead trees: integrating the scientific process in the Biodiversity Data Journal. Biodiversity Data Journal 1: e995. DOI: 10.3897/BDJ.1.e995