Open access, moving to the fore
© Jeang; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2012
Received: 31 July 2012
Accepted: 3 August 2012
Published: 13 August 2012
Nine years after its founding, Retrovirology has moved to the forefront of virology journals in Impact Factor.
In 2004, during the early days of Open Access, I had the opportunity to start Retrovirology employing the then “new way” of publishing . Retrovirology was not the first journal that I helped found. Ten years earlier, in 1994, I was one of nine editors, led by Dr. Chuan C. Chang, who started the Journal of Biomedical Science. The Journal of Biomedical Science originated as a subscription-based journal; thus, when Retrovirology began I understood the difference between a publishing model based on subscription (readers/subscribing libraries and institutions pay) versus Open Access (authors pay, and all articles are freely accessible by readers).
At the outset, there were two challenges to Retrovirology’s success. The first was whether Open Access would be a sustainable business model. In those days, this was an unknown. Today, the increasing popularity of journals like PLoS ONE Nature’s Scientific Reports (http://www.nature.com/srep/index.html) Cell Reports (http://www.cellreports.cell.com) Cell and Bioscience, Journal of the International AIDS Society (http://www.jiasociety.org/index.php/jias), and the recent migration of journals such as EMBO Molecular Medicine from a subscription to an Open Access format indicate that the latter business model has achieved financial traction, if not overt profitability.
Impact Factor and Immediacy Index are two of several proxies of a journal’s quality, and one should interpret cautiously their meaning . Arguably, a better measure is to ask how a journal’s papers have made a difference in its field. In this respect, a significant example can be drawn from six Retrovirology papers published in December 2010 that were the first to pivotally correct the then held belief that XMRV was an etiological cause of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) [5–10]. In that instance, Retrovirology’s Open Access format was particularly instrumental in permitting interested individuals, who were not career scientists, to freely, rapidly, and fully access those paradigm-changing peer-reviewed publications.
Increasing data support the absence of inherent reasons for qualitative difference between papers published in subscription versus Open Access journals . In my view, whether a journal moves to the fore is dictated by the diligence and dedication of its editorial board. Retrovirology’s strong progress forward is owed to the efforts of its board members (http://www.retrovirology.com/about/edboard).
I thank Andrew Dayton, Mark Wainberg, and John Semmes for critical readings of this editorial. The opinions expressed here are my personal views and do not necessary reflect the views of my employer, the National Institutes of Health, USA. Work in my laboratory is funded in part by intramural support from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIAID.
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