21 June 2016

Evolution 2016, Day 4

Yes, I saw some cool science, yesterday, including some cool and contradictory results on how predators shape brain evolution (big brains are favoured in high predator environments in guppies but not killifish?) and jump right to the big news.

The Society for the Study of Evolution's flagship journal, Evolution, will be moving to an online only journal, with all papers becoming open access two years after publication. Decades of papers, including many classics, will be free to read in early 2017.

The Society is also launching a new online, open access, "high impact" journal in early 2017, Evolution Letters.

Let me be among the first to congratulate the Society for the Study of Evolution for moving their publications toward a superior and more modern way of scientific communication.

And I think I am among the first to pat the Society on the back, because, judging from the reaction in my Twitter feed, these announcements are widely regarded as bad moves. 

People are mad that Evolution won't be immediate open access, that the two year embargo is too long for NIH funded researchers, and that the journal is still being published by Wiley, one of the biggest for profit publishers.

People (including, it must be said, myself) worry that Evolution Letters might as well be titled Evolution Rejects. The perception is that the journal will be a dumping ground for those papers that are not considered novel enough for the flagship journal.

I've been critical before about the creation of new journal that serve no editorial purpose. I worry  Evolution Letters will be one of those. It's not being created to define an emerging field of research, but as part of a business plan. But I have no doubt that it will have an audience. Scientific manuscripts expand to fill the available journals.

I worry that the "54 40 or fight" attitude to open access might be a little counterproductive. While It's   important shift that Overton window, it might be that criticizing good but imperfect progress might discourage people from trying to make any progress at all.

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