Brave new world of scientific publication?

My dissertation research was published in 1983 in a two-author paper in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. JBC is the house journal of the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. After your referees and the editor approved, the manuscript was published with the payment of “page charges,” to cover the journal costs since it didn’t take advertising. JBC is a stolid publication; it has a reputation for rigor, if not excitement.

In my 40+ years of science publication, I’ve usually had to pay page charges, and sometimes color plate charges. Fortunately, I’ve had the funding to pay when I needed to. And my most cited publication has been cited over 700 times, so visibility hasn’t been a problem for me as a scientist. But baked in the cake of the scientific publication business model is (1) delays for reviews and revisions (my most cited paper spent 10 months in review), (2) barriers to publication based on ability to pay and (3) barriers to access based on subscriptions. To cut to the chase, public access to publicly funded data was encumbered by the publishing business.

In the past couple of decades, there has been limited progress in the form of open-access journals, but these still levy page charges for authors. And preprint servers like bioRxiv now post pre-publication data on a voluntary basis.

Enter the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, with a policy due next year to (1) refuse to pay publication costs and (2) require posting manuscripts prior to peer review. No longer will the journal brand substitute for critical reading by the scientific community.

Is this the future? Is it even a good idea? Is this the sort of creative destruction that the science community needs, or is this an open door to a QAnon for science?

Gates Foundation announces new open-access publication policy