Paying for pop gen a thing of the past?

By Razib Khan | September 26, 2012 8:40 pm

Via Haldane’s Sieve, Genetics has a new preprint policy:


GENETICS allows authors to deposit manuscripts (currently under review or those for intended submission to GENETICS) in non-commercial, pre-print servers such as ArXiv. Upon final publication in GENETICS, authors should insert a journal reference (including DOI), and link to the published article on the GENETICS website, and include the acknowledgment: “The published article is available at” See for details.

Here’s a more thorough list of preprint guidelines by journal. For all practical purposes this means that population genetics can now percolate more freely among the masses. Many of the differences between “draft” preprints and the final manuscript have to do with formatting, etc., from what I have seen. So the content shall flow!


Why does this matter when so many people have academic access? First, you’d be surprised at the blind-spots that some major universities exhibit in regards to their journal subscriptions (often it is a function of various squabbles and attempts to renegotiate rates). Second, there are people outside of the formal academy who are interested in assorted diverse topics (this is evident in the readership of this weblog). There’s no need to gate this knowledge. These are not the Mithraic mysteries. Third, there are really bright young people who don’t have academic access because they aren’t in college yet. Why discourage them from whetting their appetite with abstracts, but keeping the full product locked up? My personal opinion is that we don’t have enough minds reflecting deeply on many scholarly questions. Access matters on the margin.

More specifically, I think the modest community of population and evolutionary geneticists is blazing a path where you can already see the post-paywall world coalescing before our eyes. I’m talking about < 10 years, with perhaps the process nearing completion by the end of 2013. With the combination of open access journals and preprints we’re seeing the landscape rearranging itself now. There will be some redoubts of the old order for years to come, perhaps AJHG, as well as de facto vanity journals. But it seems that the tide has turned.

I am more skeptical about the rest of biology, though I am hopeful. There are some substantive differences, in particular the relationships that biomedical science has forged with the private sector, complicating any default standard for liberation of knowledge. But much of the reason for my pessimism is due to cultural considerations. Many population & evolutionary geneticists and genomicists are familiar with the norms in physics and mathematics, because they come out of the world of physics and mathematics. These individuals serve as catalysts, promoting values, and bringing experience with a different system of knowledge propagation. Unfortunately these people are not as common in domains such as developmental biology.

Note: As always, if I blog a pay paper I will email it to you if you contact me and request.

MORE ABOUT: Open Access

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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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