When students embark on research in the field of malaria they receive a pile of published articles from their supervisors to bring them up to speed. Great papers in Nature and Science, and students, for sure, hope that one day their names will appear in the list of authors on an article in one of these journals. Remember that feeling? I sure do. And did. But the world is changing...
What students do not know is that the articles they pick up from their desktops are embedded in an industry of academic publishers that many feel is becoming increasingly ugly. An article in The Guardian of this week leaves little to be imagined. The tone is harsh, but the key message is certainly thought-provoking.
This very morning I reviewed an article for a journal that belongs to one of these giants in the publishing industry. Took me a couple of hours - for which I see absolutely nothing in return. In fact, like many of you, I receive numerous requests from Editors (who often also get paid nothing or very little) each year, and again they take my time for free. Journal upon journal is launched, and believe me, it is not for our sake but in the end always for one thing...profit.
Dr. Tom Olijhoek (Netherlands) has recently started a LinkedIn discussion group where Open Access and publishing issues can be discussed. I may encourage you to join this group here. It is high time that as malaria professionals we free ourselves from the chains of those that have the ultimate outcome of our hard work (the manuscript) in their hands and parasitize chunks from our often limited research budgets in terms of publication or subscription costs. Ask your librarian how much they bleed each year and struggle to pay the bills.
A year ago we started with the MalariaWorld Journal (MWJ) and we're slowly picking up on the number of papers we publish on this platform. Some of them have scored over a 1000 hits already, showing that they are widely read. Remember - you read and publish for free in MWJ, the way it should be.
True, we don't have an impact factor and are not listed on PubMed (yet), but if everyone that matters gets to see your paper this should not be a big deal. And for those of you whose career progression depends on citation indices, impact factors and the h-index, well, it is never too late to have a word with your Department Head. Ask him or her what the link is between effective malaria control/elimination in the real world and impact factors.
MalariaWorld Journal wants to be ahead of the game - we believe in a future where scientific results should be shared openly with anyone in need of these, and use modern tools (e.g. social media) to make sure that the world will get to see your article. No subscriptions, no publication charges.
Dr. Olijhoek, in collaboration with the Dutch Malaria Foundation, intends to develop an 'Access to Scientific Information on Malaria Index'. An idea that was copied from the hugely successful Access to Medicines Index. This latter index has had a profound impact on pharmaceutical companies to improve their access to medicines practices for societies in need.
What can be done for drugs can be done for scientific information. Publishers depend on us - you -, we are their clientele. It is time that we unite and voice our wishes and needs better and concerted.
Only then will we be able to change the industry and gain universal access to scientific information for what it is needed: to combat malaria and ultimately declare our victory over it.