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April 14, 2006



I also attended that talk by Varmus at Emory, and agree that he was vague about the concerns of scholarly societies. Having heard the talk on two more occasions in New York, I can say that he is still vague on this crucial point (even though I like his presentation over all.) Varmus is an advocate in his PLoS role, which makes it easy to overlook tough questions. By the way, John Willinsky has considered the fate of scholarly societies more carefully than Varmus: http://jodi.ecs.soton.ac.uk/Articles/v04/i02/Willinsky/

There is no doubt that Martin Frank wants to do what is best for science, and that he is asking the right questions. But one does not have to be an open access zealot to recognize a serious weakness in his argument.

He always posits a "zero-sum game" between publication costs and research funding. If NIH spends a relatively small sum to bolster PubMed Central, Frank fears that these exact funds could have been used to find a cure for diabetes. If only PMC did not exist, the scientific enterprise would be crucially advanced--That seems to be the argument.

Yes, there is never enough money to go around. Hard choices must be made, and publishing of all varieties costs money. Even so, Frank should not create a false separation between the research process and publishing the results. They are different steps in the same process, not two entirely different projects.

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