Reading Behavior of Chemists

August 16, 2006

Although the chemical profession is not accustomed to considering its fundamental literature in the same context as that of any marteting operation, it certainly has elements that are similar to those of producers of products to be sold. Up until recently, however, it has not been necessary for the caretakers of this operation to be very concerned, since the literature has in essence operated itself. With the vast and increasing amount of material to be published, the increasing costs of publishing, and the increasing demand on chemists for their time and money, this operation is no longer automatically self-regulating and self-sustaining.

David E. Gushee J. Chem. Doc. 1968, 8, 191-194

If Mr Gushee was right, then why didn't the system collapse under its own weight in the nearly 40 years since he wrote these words? Is it possible that calls for Open Access in scientific publishing are missing something fundamental in the culture of science? Why has the nature of scientific publishing changed so little in almost 300 years of continuous operation? Maybe revolutionary advances in information technology kept the system viable. But if that's true, why couldn't the trend continue?