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Defending Open Access

Opiniomics' Mick Watson takes umbrage — great umbrage — at a recent article in The Atlantic arguing against open access. 

The Atlantic piece, penned by Rose Eveleth, cites a number of reasons that open access is a bad idea, including the time, effort, and money it costs to make a journal open, as well as an unfairness to the open access model. According to Melissa Bates, a physiology researcher at the University of Iowa, graduate students and early career scientists would bear the brunt of the responsibility, Eveleth writes. 

"There’s this idea that open access is this ethical and moral thing, that it’s a morally and ethically grounded movement, and I can appreciate in a sense that it is," Bates says in The Atlantic article. "But there’s also a business model to how science is done."

Watson, however, takes aim at the article in its entirety, saying "It's genuinely not often that I read an article and disagree with every single point, but The Atlantic managed it with their terrible piece … The article staggers from one blunder to the next."

The argument that making something open takes work, time, and money, Watson says, "is nonsensical," as any journal, whether it's open or closed, is a major endeavor.

He also questions the objectiveness of Alan Leshner, executive publisher of the closed journal Science, who is quoted in The Atlantic as saying, "The problem is it costs $50 million a year to publish Science. Somebody has to foot that bill."

Watson refutes Leshner,  saying that no one needs to foot the bill and, in fact, "We don't need Science. Nothing bad would happen if Science doesn't exit. Life, and research, would go on."

Watson further argues that open access is the future of scientific publishing and those who ignore this risk irrelevancy. "I liken this to high street stores in the 90s, looking at the internet and saying, 'Meh, that will never catch on.' [Ten] years later, they were dead, crushed by Amazon and eBay. Adapt or die, that's where publishing is right now," Watson says.