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The Open Access Dinosaurs of 2015

The use of open access publishing in dinosaur paleontology has seen great growth over the past few years, particularly for newly named critters. As is apparently my custom, I’ve put together a list of the dinosaurs named in 2015, with an eye towards their publication venues.

This list includes all new taxa (a few forms with controversial–i.e., minimally peer-reviewed–publication venues have been omitted), along with some licensing data. Birds are excluded. So, what are the big trends?

Taxon Freely readable? CC-BY? Journal
Boreonykus No
Chilesaurus No
Crichtonpelta No
Eucnemesaurus entaxonis No
Horshamosaurus No
Iguanodon galvensis No
Koshisaurus No
Lepidocheirosaurus No
Morrosaurus No
Padillasaurus No
Qijianglong No
Regaliceratops No
Saurornitholestes sullivani No
Sefapanosaurus No
Tototlmimus No
Yi No
Zuoyunlong No
Dakotaraptor Yes No Paleontological Contributions
Datonglong Yes No Vertebrata PalAsiatica
Lepidus Yes Yes Acta Palaeontologica Polonica
Nebulasaurus Yes Yes Acta Palaeontologica Polonica
Ugrunaaluk Yes Yes Acta Palaeontologica Polonica
Galeamopus Yes Yes PeerJ
Kunbarrasaurus Yes Yes PeerJ
Haestasaurus  Yes Yes PLOS ONE
Hualianceratops  Yes Yes PLOS ONE
Ischioceratops Yes Yes PLOS ONE
Morelladon Yes Yes PLOS ONE
Probrachylophosaurus Yes Yes PLOS ONE
Sirindhorna Yes Yes PLOS ONE
Wendiceratops  Yes Yes PLOS ONE
Huanansaurus Yes Yes Scientific Reports
Mosaiceratops Yes Yes Scientific Reports
Pulanesaura Yes Yes Scientific Reports
Zhenyuanlong Yes Yes Scientific Reports

Head of Sirndhorna
Sirndhorna, a new plant-eating dinosaur for 2015. Image by Yoko Ohnish, from Shibata et al., 2015. CC-BY.

Out of 35 new taxa, 18 are named in open access or free-to-read journals–2015 is the first year that the majority of new dinosaur taxa (51 percent) are freely readable. CC-BY licenses are also on the rise, constituting 89 percent of all free-to-read taxa (versus 65 percent during 2014). This is due in large part to Scientific Reports going fully CC-BY. (if you want more on the distinction between CC-BY and “free-to-read”, check out my post from last year)

Why does this matter? Or does it? This topic has of course been covered in a number of other venues, so I’ll be brief. I’ll also preface this by saying that I have my own (pro-OA) biases on the topic, so take what I say with the appropriate grain of salt.

First off, open access makes work easily accessible to the entire paleontological community. Paleontology is a strongly international and geographically diverse discipline, with important research conducted at a variety of institutions and by a variety of individuals. Not all of these places have robust journal subscription menus, and so OA papers ensure that work gets to the entire community rapidly (and legally). Thanks to PDFs and such, people can generally get the stuff they need for their research (eventually), but OA lowers the barriers and increases the speed of communication, leveling the ability to access across the research community.

Secondly, many of these discoveries are big media events, and thousands of members of the public often (intentionally or otherwise) seek out the paper. (Parenthetically, I do not buy the argument of some that access to the primary literature is wasted on the general public–as someone who got a start as a member of the non-scientific general public, I would have immensely benefited from open access as a young paleontology enthusiast, and based on my own interactions with the public I think we scientists often underestimate the capability that other members of the public have for engaging with the literature). Full open access allows easy (and legal) reuse of imagery and information. It isn’t a coincidence that the Wikipedia pages for dinosaur taxa published in open access journals are sometimes much more fleshed-out than their closed access compatriots. When I have been contacted by the press to comment on recent discoveries, it is often much easier to make a quick assessment of the significance of a discovery if I have fast access to the original paper, too.

For a variety of reasons (not all of them invalid–I recognize that a variety of pressures for some researchers may necessitate publishing in certain non-OA journals), I expect we’ll still see a mix of closed and open access dinosaur articles in the coming years. Even so, it is remarkable to see the pace at which the dinosaur literature is becoming more and more open. Here’s to more great things in 2016!

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