Monday, October 18, 2010

Ocean of benefits from open-access publishing

Aquanautix is reveling in happiness from a series of marine protected area designations. New MPAs were established last month in the North Atlantic, at Sala y Gomez Island in Chile, and on Saba Bank in the Netherlands Antilles.

Aquanautix has been working for Saba Bank's protection since 2006 under a partnership led by Department of Environment and Nature of the Netherlands Antilles (MINA) and Conservation International to assess marine biodiversity relative to anchor damage from foreign oil tankers. The project culminated in an online collection of open-access scientific articles at PLoS One called Biodiversity of Saba Bank.

One question raised in the mutually congratulatory conversations about Saba Bank's new MPA status was "how important was the publication of the Biodiversity of Saba Bank collection at PLoS One to the declaration of Saba Bank as a marine protected area?"

Saba Bank researchers saw the benefits of PLoS One from the start. The journal is open-access, so anyone can read results for themselves. Readers have access to all the maps and figures online. Everything is freely downloadable at high resolution. The review process is relatively speedy, so timely publications can result, and novel results are not prerequisite to publication.

What we were curious about was the importance of the Collection to the success of the marine protected area effort. So, we put the question to project leader Paul Hoetjes from MINA. His response confirmed the positive:
"The PLoS One collection certainly helped the process along... without it chances are that we might not have been able to get the decree passed in time for the constitutional changes in the Netherlands Antilles, which could have set back the process with a year or more ... so, I think you can say that the collection has been instrumental in getting the decree passed."

There you have it, the PloS One Collection was "instrumental" in the passage of new legislation. Open-access publishing helped save Saba Bank!

Let me add, "where else will you find 200 full-color Caribbean fish pictures freely available online for your downloading pleasure?"

Here's a few images by Jeff Williams at Smithsonian NMNH from the article Biodiversity Assessment of the fishes of Saba Bank Atoll, Netherlands Antilles. The article is a gold mine of fish pictures! I love this part, especially:
"... based on results presented herein, the number of species known on Saba Bank is increased from 42 previously known species to 270 species."


  1. Dude, this just reeks, absolutely reeks of OMGAwesomesauce with a side w00t!

    Great work Peter! And thanks for writing this post and telling us how Open Access mattered in a real life policy situation.

  2. Thanks, Kev. You're the best. First comment!

  3. Nice Pete! the new Science! Who needs dusty old books these days anyways