So far it hasn’t been a quiet summer…
One would expect the summer months to be reasonably quiet. With many already enjoying their breaks or counting the days to some well deserved time away from the office or the lab, I wasn’t expecting to have much to report during July and August. However, July has proven me wrong.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few weeks you will have heard the news of the decade: we’ve got a new particle. Known as the God particle – or, to give it its proper name, the Higgs boson – it has been described as ‘the final piece of the standard model of particle physics’. We are all very happy about it, many quite don’t know why yet, but there is more than one reason why this discovery should be celebrated. Besides the scientific achievement we should also celebrate the success by Cern at promoting this discovery and the events leading up to it, not only to the world media and the broader scientific community, who both really embraced this project and helped create the hype, but to the wider public, capturing the imagination of millions of people around the globe. What this will do for physics education in the long term is difficult to quantify but a lot of good will come out of it. Meanwhile, chemists can only look and wonder: When will we get our break? So July was a big month for the world of physics.
July was also quite significant for pharma – and GSK in particular. First came the news that the company had pleaded guilty to charges of unlawful promotion of antidepressant drugs and for failing to report safety data about its diabetes drug Avandia (see p16). This was closely followed only a few days later by the news that GSK had finally acquired Human Genome Sciences. Total expenditure: $6 billion. Result: a very expensive month for GSK.
And then the whole open access (OA) issue really took off and so July also became a turbulent month for the world of academia as well. It all started with the UK research councils’ announcement that by 2014 science papers must be made free to access within six months of publication if they come from work paid for by the research councils. Then the European commission joined the UK’s bid by announcing its intention to also make all research findings funded by Horizon 2020 OA by 2016 (see p7). It’s great news for the scientific community here that the UK is taking a leading role in international debates involving the future of academic research and publishing. However, there is still the issue of the UK having to pay to access papers from other parts of the world and of the lack of additional funding to support the transition period. In this regard, the RSC is taking steps to help institutes cope with the added costs of funding OA and thus it has launched an innovative initiative called ‘Gold for gold’. Under this programme UK institutions signed up to the RSC Gold subscription package will receive credit to cover OA publication in RSC journals, equal to the subscription they paid. In this way, the RSC expects to provide over £1 million worth of OA article processing fees for its journals before the end of the year.
And so that is how the summer turned into the not-so-quiet period that I had forecast…