Nature Opens A Peephole Into Its Archives

Yesterday the publisher of Nature announced that it would make copies of that journal (and others) available to read for free.

Take a moment to let that sink in.  Nearly 150 years of a premiere science journal, plus the complete runs of a few dozen other journals in the Nature Publishing Group, available to read at no cost to the reader.

Some might – reasonably – be skeptical.  They might think, certainly there’s a catch to this.  Your mileage may vary on whether this qualifies as a catch, but this free access will be read only, and will require receiving a link from another party.  This could be one of the subscribers of any of the applicable journals, or it might be a media outlet designated by Nature that reports on journal findings.

The read-only PDFs will be presented through ReadCube, a product that has a significant investment from MacMillan, the parent company of the Nature Publishing Group.  While the PDFs cannot be printed, they can be saved to a desktop version of ReadCube.

While this doesn’t make Nature an open access journal, it certainly accepts some of the existing sharing of Nature articles, and attempts to minimize the possibility of other parties making profit off of the work of Nature.  (Yes, you can question exactly how much value Nature should get from its efforts, but I think that’s a different discussion.)

I think this could be a meaningful development, but it won’t be clear for a while whether the policy will affect the so-called ‘dark sharing’ of Nature Publishing Group articles that the company is worried about.  One person has opined that the policy could undercut the self-archiving of papers – a trend that Nature has encouraged.

This will be a development worth watching, both in terms of how it is implemented and in what it prompts other publishers to do.  Perhaps the incoming CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science will consider matching the Nature initiative?


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