The detection of falsification and plagiarism is another job of the scientific journals. This is a real problem. Believe it or not, it happens a lot. It takes a concerted effort, costing time and money, to perform the necessary sorts of policing activity, and it cannot be done in a lackadaisical fashion.
Dual use refers to situations where a given scientific finding can be used for good—the purpose of its publication—or it can be used for evil, say, to make some bioweapon. No one has mentioned such dual use regarding the microbial commons and open access, mainly because it has not been on people’s radar screens recently, but if there is another anthrax incident or something similar, it will quickly get attention. As soon as you were to start releasing all of this information free without any oversight—which, by the way, is what I believe should be done—then the issue of the “bad guys”, whoever they are, using that information for evil purposes becomes a concern. Thus dual use poses a real threat to open access.
From my perspective, one of the most important issues is journals’ income and the role of professional societies in promoting science. Professional societies do many things beyond publishing journals and holding meetings. There is a collective membership, for example. The ASM has about 40,000 members, but in a sense that membership extends out to all the people who publish in ASM journals or attend ASM meetings, which by the way, are both populated by a minor fraction of members of the ASM.
The ASM has educational programs that range from kindergarten to high school, and we spend a lot of money on those programs. We serve on government panels, for example. When the government asks someone from the ASM or its leadership to serve on a panel or committee, or to represent the government overseas on some issue, the government does not pay for it. The travel expenses come out of ASM money. This is part of what we do to promote the field of microbiology.
We interact and cooperate with other societies, as well. We hold joint meetings and have joint publications with other professional societies. We develop standards for quality control. We lobby the government on behalf of microbiology and of biology in general. We spend considerable sums to enhance the profession in terms of CMEs (educational credits required to enhance the professionalism of scientists and technicians) and other things. We provide scientific information to the public in many forms, such as the Microbe Minute on National Public Radio. The Wash Your Hands Program, which began 8 or 10 years ago, was an ASM-sponsored program.
The journal of tomorrow, as I see it, will be one that is fully digital and that is interactive at all levels with the community at large.
When considering the establishment of a microbial commons, there are a number of questions we should be asking: Who contributes to this commons, and how do they contribute? What will the content be? Will recognition be attributed, and by whom, from whom, and to whom? Who will pay for the cost of the commons? Who will provide the upkeep? Who will validate, vet, verify, and provide access to the commons? Who will maintain the commons over time and so much more, as described above?