The scholarly open access model of scientific publishing received a boost this week when Macmillan Science and Education, “one of the leading publishing and technology companies in the world,” announced a new content-sharing and free access initiative for top journal Nature and other publications offered over the Nature.com platform. According to the Macmillan release, “subscribers to 49 journals on nature.com can now legitimately and conveniently share the full-text of articles of interest with colleagues who do not have a subscription via a shareable web link on nature.com. In addition, Macmillan Science and Education will take a lead on opening up public engagement with scientific knowledge to society at large by giving access to the same content to readers of 100 global media outlets and blogs.”
The Nature and other journal articles will be made available on a ReadCube-based platform, “free to read in a proprietary screen-view format that can be annotated but not copied, printed or downloaded.” These versions will also be linkable for the invited media outlets and blogs. Steven Inchcoombe, CEO of Nature Publishing Group, said in the Macmillan release: “Scientists have always shared their work, it is essential to advancing progress. Nature was established in 1869 to help scientists share, and to bring science to the public. In today’s global, internet-enabled world, we think we can meet the needs of science and society better. We know researchers are already sharing content, but not always optimally. We’re committed to adapting to meet the needs of the community, and to basing our decisions on an evidence-based approach.”
Not everyone appears convinced by the move. Nature‘s own article on the development quotes John Wilbanks, senior fellow at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, Missouri, as saying: “This smacks of public relations, not open access. With access mandates on the march around the world, this appears to be more about getting ahead of the coming reality in scientific publishing. Now that the funders call the tune and the funders want the articles on the web at no charge, these articles are going to be open anyway.”That said, this move should make it harder for holdouts in the scientific publishing community like Elsevier to continue to maintain that their business model cannot support open access. Nature has the kind of prestige that is likely to sway the entire scientific establishment in its favor.