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Styles of science


Open access publishing
Avrion Mitchison Scientist
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At first sight, open access publishing is very attractive and the money paid out by Reed Elsevier to its shareholders is very unattractive, that's a given. But I am prepared to believe, I am ready to believe that publishers do a lot more than earn money for their shareholders. I don't question that they do it- whatever they do they do it with shareholders' interests somehow at heart, but they have to find clever and honest editors with the special, the admirable character- characteristics which a good editor has in the ability to see something which is really worthwhile, even when referees are doubtful- there's a lot to being a good- good editor and I've seen- I know enough about editing journals I think now, to know that those individuals- their talents should be respected. Now, it seems to me that a good editor is needed every bit as much in public, in public open access journalism as it is in capitalist journalism and that paying editors is- doesn't come cheap, money is needed for that, and so public access will have to demand high fees and if- if somehow or other through the magic of capitalism those fees are paid by shareholders rather than by us as scientists, so much the better. So I'm a bit muddled about the whole thing, I'm not a convert to it, to open access, because I think the job has to be done and has to be paid for, and how it is paid for, I'm less certain.
But the principle that primary research should be freely available to everybody as an advantage to science, to scientists, to the funders of science. If you started from that, would you agree with- that that's a goal worthy of trying to get to and trying to figure out how to get there.
That's a goal, yes, certainly, certainly. But, to be honest- I think that that's an important principle- I would rate it less important than having competent editing. I think that's the most important thing because I think for all that one might think about the importance of referees, what the editor does is crucially important in evaluating science and that's if there's any danger of that being imperilled by open access publishing, then I would go for good editing.

Avrion Mitchison, the British zoologist, is currently Professor Emeritus at University College London and is best known for his work demonstrating the role of lymphocytes in tumour rejection and for the separate and cooperative roles of T- and B-lymphocytes in this and other processes.

Listeners: Martin Raff

Martin Raff is a Canadian-born neurologist and research biologist who has made important contributions to immunology and cell development. He has a special interest in apoptosis, the phenomenon of cell death.



Listen to Martin Raff at Web of Stories



Duration: 3 minutes, 7 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2004

Date story went live: 29 September 2010