Friday, January 13, 2012

Open Access

The journal Medical Physics is one of the leading publications in the field of physics applied to medicine. Recently, many articles in Medical Physics have become free to everyone (open access) (see the editorial here). This is great news to those readers of the 4th edition of Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology who do not have a personal or institutional subscription to Medical Physics. Some of the articles that can now be downloaded for free are the ever-popular point/counterpoint debates, review papers, award papers, and something called the “editor’s picks.” Also available free are the special 50th anniversary articles published as part of the celebration of half a century of contributions by the American Association of Physicists in Medicine in 2008. Several of these were cited by Russ Hobbie and me in our American Journal of PhysicsResource Letter MP-2: Medical Physics” (Volume 77, Pages 967–978, 2009). To access this wealth of free material, just go to the home page of the Medical Physics website and click on the Open Access Tab.

Open Access publishing is becoming more common, and has been championed by many leading scientists, such as former NIH director and Nobel laureate Harold Varmus (listen to Varmus talk about open access here). Nevertheless, the topic is hotly debated. For instance, see the point/counterpoint discussion in the November 2005 issue of Medical Physics, titled “Results of Publicly Funded Scientific Research Should Be Immediately Available Without Cost to the Public.” Additional debate can be found in the journal Nature and at

 Harold Varmus discussing open access publishing.

Open Access to journal articles should benefit readers of Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology, because it will allow those readers immediate access to cutting-edge papers that otherwise would require a journal subscription. Another source of open access papers is BioMed Central:
BioMed Central is an independent publishing house committed to providing immediate open access to peer-reviewed biomedical research. All original research articles published by BioMed Central are made freely and permanently accessible online immediately upon publication. BioMed Central views open access to research as essential in order to ensure the rapid and efficient communication of research findings.
BioMed Central journals that will be of interest to readers of Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology are BMC Medical Physics, Biomedical Engineering Online, and Radiation Oncology.

A third source of papers is the Public Library of Science. Specific journals are PLoS One (the flagship journal, covering all areas of science), PLoS Medicine, PLoS Biology, and especially PLoS Computational Biology. Also of interest is PLoS Blogs.

The Open Access movement continues, slowly but steadily, to remake scientific publication. There are now hundreds of Open Access journals. Even some of the most prestigious leading publishers are getting into the act: the American Physical Society recently initiated the open access, all on-line journal Physical Review X to go along with its other Physical Review journals.

In the spirit of Open Access, I’m pleased to announce that the 4th edition of Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology will now be given away, free of cha... just kidding. Maybe someday the Open Access movement will reach to textbooks, but not yet. At least this blog is free. ;)

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