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Open and Shut

Politics, religion, and open-access publishing — three topics a well mannered conversationalist would never broach in polite company.

Last week, though, British researcher Mike Taylor threw decorum to the wind with an editorial in The Guardian that in its first sentence asserted: "Publishing science behind paywalls is immoral."

"If you are a scientist, your job is to bring new knowledge into the world. And if you bring new knowledge into the world, it's immoral to hide it," Taylor wrote.

Not surprisingly, there were dissenters, among them cognitive neuroscientist Chris Chambers, who responds this week in The Guardian with a rebuttal, suggesting that, while a commitment to OA may be all well and good for established researchers, younger scientists still trying to establish their reputations need the career bump that comes from publishing in prestigious journals, most of which aren't open access.

Also, predictably enough, Twitter had something to say about it all, with University of California, Berkeley, biologist, PLOS co-founder, and OA proponent Michael Eisen taking a number of commenters to task for insufficient commitment to the OA cause.

For instance, to his Berkeley colleague Ian Holmes, he tweets: "Do what you want, but I'd love to see a non-selfish justification for your publishing in non-OA journals."

Asked by his interlocutors when he started publishing OA, Eisen replies that he'd done so exclusively since he began as a researcher, which prompted the Gene Expression blog's Razib Khan to comment that he had heard from a PI of Eisen's OA-only record, but that, as that PI had put it, "[Eisen's] got mad skillz; he don't need [Nature]."

"So people's excuse for publishing in [Nature] is they're not very good?" Eisen replies.

A response that, we have to say, kind of wins the thread.