Each time I post, I typically link to a scientific article that discusses the results of some research on evolution. Usually these articles come from one of the widely-read scientific journals like Science or Nature. But unless you belong to a university or library, you probably don’t have access to these big journals–much less the thousand of more obscure ones we also read.
Fortunately, in scientific publishing there is a new trend towards open access journals. These journals publish scientific research just like any other, but are free to anyone interested–no subscription required. From now on I’ll try to link only to work that is published in these types of journals. To introduce you to them, I’ll briefly list three main publishing groups that publish open access scientific research.
 BioMed Central (BMC). BMC publishes over 200 different journals reporting research on everything from Alzheimer’s and Evolutionary Biology, to Tobacco-Induced Disease and Surgical Oncology. Most of the journals published by BMC are entirely open access, though a few require a subscription to access select content. I recently submitted one chapter of my dissertation to BMC Evolutionary Biology, which will be published soon. Once the paper is printed, I’ll write a short summary of it here. BMC also publishes a blog where you can find easy-to-read reviews of some of the research they have published.
 Public Library of Science (PLoS). PLoS publishes 7 different journals that cover general research in the areas of Biology, Medicine, Computational Biology, Genetics, Pathogens, Tropical Diseases, as well as the more general journal PLoS ONE. The goal of PLoS is to provide easy access to scientific research for everyone, as well as providing new avenue for authors and readers to interact. You can comment and discuss on articles as they are posted, and the authors are free to respond. You can even rate journals. Like BMC, PLoS also publishes a series of blogs, as well as short synopses of specific articles that are written for a general audience. My first paper was published in PLoS Biology in 2009.
 PubMed Central. PubMed is not a publisher but rather an archive where research from many different journals may be accessed for free. Any research that is supported by a federal grant from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) must be archived in PubMed for easy access by the public — after all, they are the result of your tax dollars at work. PubMed is not as flashy as BMC or PLoS, but it does cover a wide breadth of research from all corners of the scientific publishing world. Typing “evolutionary biology” into the PubMed search engine pulled out over 51,000 articles from hundreds of journals. Most are related to medicine–so PubMed may not be useful to find research on more general areas of biology–but it’s still a great place to start.
Personally, I think open access publishing is a great idea and should be the new standard in scientific research. It provides the public, as well as small universities here and in other countries, access to the results of quality research without the cost. And although basic (non-commercial) research can be very expensive to do, the results belong to all of us. Our collective understanding of biology cannot grow unless each of us can access that knowledge. Besides, open access publishing is also very fast, allowing scientists to write-up their results and have them published in a fraction of the time of traditional journals.
To be sure, there are some disadvantages and criticisms to open access publishing. For one, it can be very expensive. We generally pay upwards of $1,500 to have our articles published open access once they pass peer-review. And some have argued that these journals sacrifice quality in the name of profit. For example, PLoS ONE published nearly 7,000 articles last year — an utterly staggering amount. At $1,000 a pop, that’s potentially a huge profit. But PLoS also publishes more selective journals, like PLoS Biology, that have an output similar to that of more traditional journals.
Either way, open access publishing is a new way to find and read the results of scientific research. Plus, the blogs and synopses they provide are a truly innovative way to make this work understandable to anyone — no diploma required. It iss work we can all learn from. Enjoy!