Ben Goldacre on science journalists

“I suspect newspapers like to fantasise that they are mediators between specialist tricky knowledge and the wider public, but I wouldn’t be so flattering. In fact, if you have access to the original journals, you can see just how rubbish things can get.”

- Ben Goldacre, writing in The Guardian

This week in his Bad Science column, Britain's favorite pseudoscience gadfly wades into the open-access debate. In an aside to the main point, Goldacre makes the provocative claim that science writers don’t like to cite the open-access (gratis to view) scientific research articles they report on, lest the general public be given the means to work out that the writers aren’t translating faithfully. In contrast, when they write about research in traditional journals, from which the majority of stories issue, they are safe in the knowledge that your average Joe wouldn’t be willing to fork over cash to check the sources. It’s an interesting idea, and one worth keeping in mind.

The rest of the column and the comments that follow are also worth a read, although some common Elsevier-encouraged myths about open access are duly trotted out, such as that open-access journals are less rigorous because the author is paying, that nobody should have to pay for formal publication – and its implicit corollary, that formal publication lends no added value to the work.