As we enter 2015, it’s a good time to reflect on the state of paleontology and the state of open access. Because I’m a dinosaur paleontologist (my apologies to the other 99% of life that ever lived), this post will of course address that clade in particular!
Thirty-eight new genera or species of dinosaur were announced in 2014 (according to my count based on a list at Wikipedia and the Dinosaur Genera List), spanning everything from sauropods to tyrannosaurs to horned dinosaurs. Seventeen of these were published in open access or free-to-read journals. This works out to around 45%.
PLOS ONE continues to dominate the world of open access dinosaur species–9/17 were published here. I will be very interested to see if this trend continues into future years, particularly as more open access journals enter publication. Seven other journals hosted open access or free-to-read papers on new taxa. These included publications hosted by professional societies, “big publishers,” museums, and the like.
You’ve probably noted by now that I’ve been parsing a difference between “open access” and “free to read.” The former category includes those that are fully BOIA-compliant; usually this means publication under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license. This freely allows redistribution, repurposing, translation, and other uses, as long as the author is credited (interestingly, I note that many critics of CC-BY conveniently forget that authors must always be attributed). 11 out of 17 species were published under a CC-BY license. The remainder were under a variety of licenses (e.g., CC-BY-NC-SA). I will confess a certain amusement at the “NC” (non-commercial) clause, particularly when used by very much for-profit and very much commercial publishers (to their credit, a strict CC-BY license is now the default offering for NPG’s Scientific Reports).
Overall, 2014 (17/36 new taxa are free-to-read) doesn’t reflect a big change from 2013 (16/38 free to read). I would be interested to see what percentage of the overall paleontology literature (not just alpha taxonomy) is freely available–anyone up to collating this?
Full disclosure: I was an author on one of the papers naming a new dinosaur this year, and was handling editor for some of the other papers naming new dinosaurs.
Appendix: The Data
|Allosaurus lucasi||Yes||No||Volumina Jurassica|
|Datanglong||Yes||No||Acta Geological Sinica|
|Rukwatitan||Yes||No||Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology|
|Tachiraptor||Yes||Yes||Royal Society Open Access|
|Torvosaurus gurneyi||Yes||Yes||PLOS ONE|
Note: The taxa Camarillasaurus and Oohkotokia were published “officially” in 2014, but made their initial (pre-print) appearance in past years, so I don’t include these open access dinosaurs on the list.