Controversy

Contentious issue of scientific publishing up for discussion at Boyle Summer School

Robert Boyle

Robert Boyle, the great Waterford scientist, who helped bring science into the modern age of experimentation and publication (Source: Wikipedia)

The past, present, and most importantly, the future of scientific publishing will be up for discussion at 2015 Robert Boyle Summer School in Lismore, which runs from 25th to the 28th June.

Is it right that the publishers of leading scientific journals should charge people to read about research from around the world, including Ireland, that has often been funded by taxpayers?

It’s an ethical question, as well as a scientific, and a business one, which has been brewing up for a number of years. Yet it’s not the only issue surrounding the vigorous debate which has been going on about how research should be disseminated.

The Saturday afternoon session at this year’s Boyle School will feature a panel discussion on scientific publishing and publications which I will be chairing, and I’m looking forward to that very much.

The organisers chose scientific publishing as the theme this year to mark 350 years of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.

Robert Boyle was a prolific contributor to the ‘Phil Trans’ as it is known. It is still published by the Royal Society and is the oldest scientific journal in the world.

Since Boyle’s day scientific journals have evolved into ‘peer reviewed’ journals, where the quality of research and whether it deserves publication is judged by a scientist’s peers.

The evolution of such journals has helped drive modern science forward, but there has been growing concern in recent years about how research is published, and who benefits.

There is no doubt that even the most reputable scientific journals in the world are run as commercial entities. Up until the age of the Internet, the fact that they were businesses, with awesome power, was rarely questioned.

Now, publicly funded scientists and funding bodies based on taxpayers input are asking whether it is right that the fruits of research should be controlled, judged and exploited by commercial publishers. It’s a legitimate question to pose.

The School will have a number of high quality speakers attending this year including Aileen Fyfe, a historian at St Andrews University; Dorothy Bishop, Oxford University, a neuroscientist and science publishing commentator; and John Pethica a leading physicist at Trinity College Dublin and the Royal Society.

Michel Hunter, the author and world-leading expert on the work of Robert Boyle will also be in attendance.

For more details click HERE

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