09 November 2007

"Publishing in the New Millennium" - Welcome and Harold Varmus

Publishing in the New Millennium: A Forum on Scientific Publishing in the Biosciences - Harvard Medical School - Nov. 9, 2007

Currently attending a forum on scientific publishing, organized by a group of curious graduate students here at Harvard Medical School. The purpose of the conference is to critically assess the role of publishing in biological research, and how the publishing landscape is changing to reflect technological advances.

A lot of change is afoot in scholarly publishing, as stated by one of the graduate students in his opening remarks. Publication has a central position in the career of a scientist, as Varmus says, greatly affecting the way scholarship is built. He puts this more succinctly:

"Without publication, science does not exist."

Harold Varmus (CEO of Memorial - Sloan Kettering, Nobel winning scientist, founder of the Public Library of Science (PLOS), former director of the NIH) is keynoting the event, following a warm introduction from Harvard University Provost, Steven Hyman. What follows are my notes / virtual chicken scratch:

Varmus brings a wealth of experience to the table in his views on scholarly publishing, those of a working scientist, as on interested in policy, and as a publisher himself. He touches on each of those experiences to trace the history of publishing from the first scholarly journal in 1665, to for- profit / closed access models to current endeavors more focused on digital information, specifically in PLoS.

Interesting points to note: In speaking about PLoS' funding model and future avenues to pursue, he touches upon the possibility of incorporating a membership model, much like NPR. This model would allow, ideally, foundations, pharmas, vendors and a number of other players have an interest in supporting a platform like PLoS One. This is an intriguing idea to me, personally ... and one I have to chew on a bit more. Thoughts on that to come later.

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