The Struggle Between Prestige and Better Science: Open vs. Closed Access

As a scientist, finding the right journals for publication is essential for a successful career. As such, there are a select few journals that have become synonymous with prestige in which many researchers strive for publication. These sorts of journals typically have quite high impact factors which is important for future citations (and, of course, bragging rights). However, most of these journals, such as Cell, Nature, and Science Magazine, are often closed access which means that only people that have paid for particular licenses have the ability to read the publications.

The thought of closed access scientific journals has always astounded me because it seems counterproductive to scientific progress. I always thought that most scientists wanted to share their findings with as many people as possible, especially their most groundbreaking or exciting results. Instead, in their fight for prestige (coupled with the pressure to publish and publish well for some) many scientists opt for these closed access journals. There seems to be a very clear prejudice against open access journals in the scientific community. Unfortunately, there is no real basis for such prejudice. In fact, there are many open access journals with high impact factors and even more opportunity for future citations.

This is not to say that I think closed access journals are to be avoided at all costs. Instead, I simply believe that open access journals should be given the same sort of attention and perceived prestige as closed access journals. After all, open access journals allow other scientists and researchers from less affluent institutions the opportunity to read and cite important and groundbreaking findings instead of only sharing knowledge with other wealthy institutions.

What do you think of closed access journals? Do you think they stifle the dissemination of knowledge or are there other important purposes of closed access journals that I’m missing? Tell me what you think in the comments!


Math Pun:  An opinion without 3.14159 is just an onion.
(Today’s math pun brought to you by the number Pi π)