Is “Google Science” about to transform the publication of scientific papers



Someone has disseminated what purports to be a portion of a presentation on Google’s progress in developing “Google Science,” an open-source platform for the publication of scientific papers that might radically transform not just the way in which the results of scientific research are disseminated but also the ways in which scientific research is conducted.

No one has confirmed the development of such a platform or identified the source of the e-mail.

In the British edition of Wired, Liat Clark provides a detailed analysis of whether the e-mail is more likely a hoax or a premature disclosure, but she is even more interested in gauging the actual potential that a platform such as Google Science might have:

“Whether the email received was the doing of an open-access proponent, a Google employee attempting to stir trouble, an academic who was genuinely presented with the article at a meeting, or a rebel without a cause–it does raise an interesting debate that has been brewing for many years now.”

Clark includes this quotation from the “presentation”:

“’The great anecdote of the printing press is that it immediately led to pornographic novels but it took over a hundred years to get to scientific journals. Imagine where science would be today if it were not for this delay! , , , and are we today repeating a mistake when it comes to the internet?’”

Then Clark provides these insightful observations:

“The dramatics are well-founded. Scientific publishing has been ripe for disruption since it was first put behind a pay-wall–that’s a lot of tradition to break. Startups in this space are already working to undo the domination of the paid journal mode, with Figshare most recently launching in the UK to open up the sector. Digital Science, part of Macmillan Publishers, has its own technology hub where it helps startups, including Figshare, develop software and apps for the scientific community. Some of the biggest players in this space include the journal PLOS, which has published close to 90,000 peer-reviewed open access papers.

“On top of this, the highly prestigious Nature Publishing Group says that 38 percent of the research articles it publishes are now open access. But while more and more governments are making open access mandatory for publicly funded research — Research Council UK launched a new funding procedure this year to help academics fulfil the UK’s open access policy–Elsevier, one of the biggest academic publishers in the world, made $3.2 billion in 2012 from its more than 2,000 journals. As the alleged Google presentation points out, in spite of this ‘99.9 percent of the work is done by scientists.’

“This is why Google, one individual wants us to believe, is best placed to step into the breach to ‘tap into the possibilities of the internet and unleash the power of collective action on science,’ basically by adapting its own tools and the things it’s learned along the way.”