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The Problem with Publishing

At The Scientist, University of Bristol researcher Michael Taylor says the academic publishing system is "broken." Publishers have expressed their displeasure with the proposed Federal Research Public Access Act, a bill that would make publicly funded research available to the public. But why are they so adamantly against it, Taylor asks. The government uses tax revenue to fund university research groups, the researchers do the work and write the papers, unpaid peer reviewers volunteer to make sure the papers are well-written, and then the finished product is given to journals to publish. "The author signs away copyright. The publisher then formats the manuscript and places the result behind a paywall. Then it sells subscriptions back to the universities where the work originated," Taylor says. "And the taxpayers who funded all this? They get nothing at all. No access to the paper. It's pretty outrageous."

However, he adds, that is starting to change. Open-access journal options are becoming "more common and more attractive," he says, and the increasing costs of traditional publishing are pushing more researchers in the open-access direction. "We are heading for a moment when all paths lead uphill to a more attractive publishing paradigm," Taylor says. "In the long run, then, it might even be that the more exploitative subscriptions become, the better off the scientific community will be."

The Scan

Pig Organ Transplants Considered

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration may soon allow clinical trials that involve transplanting pig organs into humans.

'Poo-Bank' Proposal

Harvard Medical School researchers suggest people should bank stool samples when they are young to transplant when they later develop age-related diseases.

Spurred to Develop Again

New Scientist reports that researchers may have uncovered why about 60 percent of in vitro fertilization embryos stop developing.

Science Papers Examine Breast Milk Cell Populations, Cerebral Cortex Cellular Diversity, Micronesia Population History

In Science this week: unique cell populations found within breast milk, 100 transcriptionally distinct cell populations uncovered in the cerebral cortex, and more.