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Week of April 29, 2013

U-M collaborates on open access scientific journal

A new online journal born of a multi-institutional effort, which includes U-M, is set to tackle issues of sustainability on two fronts.

Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene will publish timely, scientifically sound, peer-reviewed articles, all free and open to the public, that address interactions between human and natural systems, with the aim of fostering sustainable solutions to the challenges presented by our current era.

This era — dubbed the Anthropocene — is marked by human domination of Earth’s physical, chemical and biological processes.

The journal’s second bid for sustainability lies in its open access collaborative publishing model. Elementa is a partnership among the not-for-profit publishing collaborative BioOne and five universities: U-M, Dartmouth, the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Colorado Boulder, and the University of Washington.

Paul N. Courant, university librarian and dean of libraries at U-M, was an early and enthusiastic supporter of the effort.

“Public access for the public good is critical to our mission,” Courant says. “And Elementa presents a sustainable model for the distribution of scholarship, which is sorely needed at a time when libraries are straining to ensure access to vital resources in the face of exorbitant and increasing journal subscription costs.”

Two of Elementa’s six knowledge domains are led by U-M faculty members:

• Joel D. Blum, John D. MacArthur Professor of Geological Science, and professor of earth and environmental sciences, and ecology and evolutionary biology, will edit the Earth and Environmental Science domain.

• Donald R. Zak, the Burton V. Barnes Collegiate Professor of Ecology in the School of Natural Resource and Environment, and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, will edit the Ecology domain.

The remaining four knowledge domains are Atmospheric Science, led by Detlev Helmig of the University of Colorado Boulder; Sustainable Engineering, led by Michael E. Chang of the Georgia Institute of Technology; Ocean Science, led by Jody W. Deming of the University of Washington; and Sustainability Transitions, led by Anne Kapuscinski and David R. Peart, both of Dartmouth.

Blum and Zak each credit their commitment to Elementa to a growing awareness that the traditional scholarly publishing system is not providing a free flow of knowledge to the entire scientific community. Both cite frequent contact from scientists unable to access their published work because their home institutions cannot afford to subscribe to the journals that published it.

Elementa represents a fundamental change in publishing — an alternative, financially stable system that returns control of the fruits of research to the institutions where it is carried out.

And, like the successful open access journal PLOS One, which focuses on medical and related fields, it features rigorous peer review and an editorial process that evaluates submissions by the soundness of their science, rather than suppositions about their impact.

Elementa will begin accepting submissions for most knowledge domains this spring, and plans to publish the first articles in September. The Elementa website offers resources for authors, including the option to sign up for news and updates.

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