Open access journals have clearly a lot going for them. One advantage over traditional journals is their accessibility. No login, pay-per-view or university-IP needed to view the articles. Just Google-it! This also means more readers. And with such large audiences, open access journals are naturally tempted to build social exchange platforms to promote and bring additional value to their collection of published articles.
Several open access publishers have come to offer very similar features than dedicated social networking sites. Two examples:
- Frontiers. They offer a personalized profile, networking functions, job and events sections, internal messaging, and the possibility to start your own science blog.
- PLoS allows to comment on the articles and shows valuable metrics such as how many time the article was viewed and tracks any record of the paper on social networks (twitter/Facebook).
Social networking sites have a complementary approach. They focus on developing the social platforms while gathering as many references and papers as possible from external sources. So may the Elsevier and Springers rest assured; scientific articles are still the centerpiece of research. And with the exceptions of a few initiatives, the communication format remains what is was 50 years ago. However, the new online services offer alternative models in the way the papers are written, published, exchanged and discussed.
With Open access publisher introducing more social and social networks strengthening their publication database and accessibility, I would bet on a great merger of services in the next few years. Open access publishing, reference management, articles sharing, networking and discussion boards could be gathered within unique tools. This could also be achieved through better interoperability between existing services.