Open Access And The Looming Crisis In Science

Björn Brembs | The Conversation | July 8, 2013

Foundation essay: This article on the open access and science by Björn Brembs is part of a series marking the launch of The Conversation in the UK. Our foundation essays are longer than our usual comment and analysis articles and take a wider look at key issues affecting society.

There is a looming crisis in science, and we must act now to prevent it.

Currently, the number of scientific papers retracted from a large database of thousands of biomedical journals is a mere 0.05%, a low rate. But recently this rate has been rising. That rise is so quick that, if the trend were to continue, as many scientific publications will have to be retracted as are being published by about 2045.

Usually, any problem at this scale will have a number of underlying causes. Science, like any enterprise, is a complex affair. In this special case, however, a large part of these causes can be traced to the reward structure that scientists have built around them to make this enterprise work. They are related to how scientists choose to publish their results and how fellow scientists reward this publishing behaviour.