Jason Hoyt, Ph.D., is Chief Scientist and VP of R&D at Mendeley, and asks researchers which side they want to be on in the march of history - legacy toll access to results or open access of both science and publication.

Clever researchers will, of course, ask why they need to change anything if this is actually a 'march' and will happen with or without them.   Pioneers are the ones who get arrows in the back, after all, and scientists are progressive politically but conservative when it comes to their careers, so asking today if a scientist wants to be on the side of open access - yet no one will remember it 25 years from now when open access is the default - or they can get published in Science right now ... well, it's a no-brainer.    Prestige means funding and Hoyt references Cameron Neylon, one of the actual Science 2.0 pioneers you never read read about in 'Science 2.0' pieces written by Science 1.0 NYAS staffers, in saying it is prestige, but it is actually more than prestige, it is currently how researchers who love what they do stand the best chance of continuing to do what they love to do.  Hard to fault them for not engaging in a culture war when framed in that light.

He makes one error to support his case for open access in saying the PLoS business model is there so open access already works.   It does, but only sort of.  It sent PLoS fundamentalists into a rage when I noted that PLoS One is the part of PLoS that generates the money and the quality there is inconsistent; not bad, just inconsistent, though to zealots that is a declaration of war and their public relations people insisted all 4,400 articles produced there are exhaustively peer-reviewed while their own people say just the opposite.   PLoS Biology is, of course, as good as anything on the planet but would not be self-sustaining alone.   It isn't a knock, plenty of publishers have stuff that generates money and it allows them to produce less profitable things - publishers have prestige imprints and then mass-market paperbacks too.  Still, it is hard for new publishers to just get $15 million in charity while paying customers ramp up so we can't call that a working template, it is just how PLoS happened to be able to stay afloat while PLoS One got them into the black and now they can hone in on quality.

Still, anyone who succeeds means someone can succeed - once Vasco de Gama sailed around Africa to India people knew it could happen(1) and so PLoS can serve as a model for others even if they can't duplicate that exact process.   In the same sense maybe it's up to Mendeley to do the same for the collaboration aspects of Science 2.0, really the only thing missing in my original vision of collaboration, communication (which we do nicely), participation (currently best done by GalaxyZoo, Foldit, etc., but also all citizen science, including us) and publication (PLoS, BMC, and others) in the future of science.    Of the 'four -ions' of Science 2.0 that inspired the name of the company (ION, duh) in the early 2000s only collaboration has been truly missing and, I confess, it's something I have been unwilling to tackle because it's expensive to do and I am not sure researchers most likely to adapt it want to pay for it.   Building the future can be tricky - and costly.   Mendeley recently raised more money but their employee count (21, if they are all employees, that is) is rather high for a company that doesn't make any money but it's often the case that you generate some buzz and the money will follow - given enough critical mass the people who pay $20 a month will carry the free ones.

Hoyt's overall points are sound - waiting 2 years for results can't be good for anyone.   I have long felt that an arXiv style preprint would be terrific for other sciences because it protects the work of researchers while getting the word out.    Publication is not the bottleneck that way.  

But what is the solution?   He writes "The obvious choice to promote is through search and recommendation engines" but then in the footer note says "Exactly how that is rewarded through our search and recommendation engines has yet to be implemented, as we need to balance relevance as much as reputation" which sounds like someone needs to start falling on the sword - but it is difficult to get prestige researchers to do that.

Obviously Mendeley wants to be that reference authority as they move from being a reference manager into a full-on analytics solution.    Once they show that their system works, the real shift will occur.   Here's hoping that they are de Gama and not some guy who we never heard of because he got stuck in dead waters.


(1)  It was not easy to cross the southern tip of Africa because the currents were against them - history shows us sometimes a counter-intuitive approach, like traveling to Brazil and then around the Cape of Good Hope, made more sense in the long run.   de Gama lost two ships and almost half his men on the journey to India so it also wasn't easy - but they made 6000% on their investment, which would have to make VCs at Mendeley pretty happy.