01/22/2013 03:10 pm ET Updated Mar 24, 2013

Academic Publisher Unveils New Journal Which Prevents All Access to Its Content

AMSTERDAM -- Academic publishers are currently under attack by scientists, governments and the general public for hiding the majority of published research articles behind paywalls. Readers have to pay either a one-time access fee of up to $50 to read one article or obtain an annual subscription to the journal in order to access the research findings. The access fees for research articles generate multi-billion dollar profits for academic publishers, but this lucrative industry is having a hard time justifying the fees. Since the bulk of research is funded through government grants, most people feel that the research articles which summarize and document the public-funded research should be freely available to the public. Some academic publishers are gradually giving in to these demands and are now offering "open access" publishing. In this model, researchers pay a fee to cover the publication costs, but the publications are then available without any fees to all readers.

Not all academic publishers agree with this approach. Else Beer, the CEO of the prominent academic publisher Elsebeer, has condemned the open access approach and is instead betting on a new line of closed-access journals. Beer unveiled the new closed-access journal "Facts of Life" at a press conference.

We realize that there is a big push towards open access publishing in science, but few people think about the problems that come with open access. If everyone is able to access a scientific paper, it is far more likely that they will read the paper and perhaps even try to replicate the results. This is a huge problem for scientists who routinely publish irreproducible results, as well as for scientists who want to keep their tools and scientific methods secret.

Unlike previous closed access journals in which articles are hidden behind a paywall and can be accessed after paying a fee, "Facts of Life" guarantees that nobody other than the author can access the published article. This allows scientists to include the article as a published paper on their CV and cite their work, without ever having to worry that someone else might read the article. Beer expects that this new concept will be embraced by many researchers.

The physician-scientist and poet Yuri Zhivago is among the first researchers to submit manuscripts to the new journal. "It is a blessing to have this journal", Zhivago commented, "I have at least three manuscripts that contain experiments that cannot be replicated. Now I can publish them without having to worry about my tenure committee criticizing me for having too few publications. If I published them in an open access journal, I would eventually have to retract the papers and this would could damage my reputation as a researcher. By publishing in "Facts of Life", I can be sure that nobody will ever be able to accuse me of publishing fraudulent data."

Beer is confident that there are many other Zhivagos out there who need a completely closed-access journal. "We are taking closed access publishing to a new level and we think that we provide a much-needed forum for all the researchers want to publish but have no sound data." She is convinced that other publishers will follow suit when they see the success of the "completely closed access" model.

An earlier version of this article first appeared on the Fragments of Truth Blog.