In the course of searching chemical topics I keep running into the on-line publication Molecules, A Journal of Synthetic Organic Chemistry and Natural Product Chemistry.  This journal is part of MDPI, Molecular Diversity Preservation International, with an office in Basel, Switzerland.  MDPI is also dedicated to the “deposit and exchange of molecular and biomolecular samples”.

The idea behind this journal is to provide open access. The journal asserts that, with this approach, articles get substantially higher citation numbers. Open access is an alternative to paid subscriptions. In this model, the author pays the publication fee up front for peer reviewed editorial oversight and rapid publication.

This was covered by C&EN in the July 3 of 06 issue. It was stated in the article that Elsevier was planning to offer the same service for authors who wanted free access for a cool US$6,000 per article.  The Public Library of Science has a similar program, but with a more reasonable price structure.

What I find especially exciting about this publication mode is the MolBank service. Have you ever ended up with new compounds or data that was perhaps deserving of disclosure but not part of a body of work that would develop into paper?  Here is a blurb from the website-

Molbank (ISSN 1422-8599, CODEN: MOLBAI) publishes one-compound-per-paper short notes and communications on synthetic compounds and natural products. Solicited timely review articles will also be published. Molbank was published during 1997-2001 as MolBank section of Molecules (ISSN 1420-3049, CODEN: MOLEFW). Since 2002 it is published as a separate and independent journal. Molbank is a free online Open Access Journal. To be added to the subscriber’s mailing list, write your e-mail address into the “Publication Alert” box on the right side, and press the “Subscribe” button. Molbank is indexed and abstracted very rapidly by Chemical Abstracts.

Interestingly, this could be a possible venue for defensive disclosures in intellectual property. Hmmm … 

The question is, will paying-to-publish be cheaper than paying-to-subscribe? And, how will library administration have to change to accommodate this? 

But perhaps the bigger issue may be related to a certain snobismus that exists in regard to publishing. At some point, the rock stars of research (Whitesides, Trost, etc.) need to wave their hands over this mode of publishing and utter something like “verily, it is good” so the rest of the herd will thunder in that direction.

The writer of this blog has vented on this issue several times.  Putting public financed research results into free public access is the fair thing to do and should contribute to innovation and get new technologies into use at lower cost.  Turning over copyright of research papers to private third party groups only adds to the expense and complication to the use of this national treasure.

No doubt this will be vigorously opposed by the publishing establishment. The US$6000 fee charged by Elsevier is absurd and in reality is the beginning of the end of their publically financed milking of the R&D cash cow.