Wanted: interesting open-access peer-reviewed literature to read
February 15, 2016 6:50 PM   Subscribe

Are you a researcher, engineer, doctor, or someone else who keeps up with the peer-reviewed literature in one field or another? What are some of the most interesting papers in your field that I, a layperson, can access?

I'd like to get some scholarly journal articles into my reading mix in order to add a measure of intellectual challenge, education, and discovery to my usual blend of leisure reading. I desire to sample as broad a range of topics as possible, so papers from all fields of inquiry are welcome. Unfortunately, I do not have an account with a research library so I am unable to see most closed-access articles. Do you have any recommendations?

Here are a few more loose guidelines to help you know what I am looking for. I would like for the ideas presented to be current, so while the papers need not be on the cutting edge of your field I would prefer if they were at least not obsolete. I am quite familiar with the structure and writing style of journal articles in a general sense, and if my interest in a topic is sufficiently piqued I will be positively eager to do the background research necessary to wrap my head around even quite technical and esoteric concepts.

Thanks in advance for your recommendations; I am very excited to see what you all come up with!
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (20 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
The Copernicus journals are all open-access. They even have open peer review, where in addition to the official anonymous reviewers any Internet Rando™ (you, for instance!) can comment on papers in review. The Copernicus journal I peruse the most (and have published in twice!) is Biogeosciences. I've linked to the "Highlight Articles" page, which has a bunch of selected articles.
posted by dondiego87 at 7:26 PM on February 15, 2016

The LinksToTheDamnPaper tag on Metafilter is full of interesting open access articles and discussion thereof.

The Homo naledi research from earlier this year was published open-access: Homo naledi, a new species of Homo from the Dinaledi Chamber, South Africa and Geological and taphonomic context for the new hominin species Homo naledi from the Dinaledi Chamber, South Africa. Bernard Wood and Eve Boyle just published a giant open-access review of all the known hominin species.
posted by ChuraChura at 7:34 PM on February 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Science Direct has a directory of its open access journals. (Some closed-access journals also have some open access articles.)

One OA journal that I like on SD is Computers in Human Behaviour. Sample articles:
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 7:40 PM on February 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

In some fields, Google Scholar will turn up links to PDFs pretty reliably. For most recent work published by the ACM or IEEE I expect this to be true. The incentives for academics now are so squarely in favor of making your work available to the widest audience possible that putting up a PDF of your work is standard practice. That does't really give you a place to start per se, but if you're seeing references to something recent and you're curious, don't sweat it not being in an officially OA journal.
posted by heresiarch at 9:00 PM on February 15, 2016

Lots of good info about open access journals above; I want to suggest specific freely-available papers. The Hallmarks of Cancer was one of the most influential papers in the field at the time it was published (2000). The authors also updated it in 2011. People love to argue, so maybe some would say that these papers are obsolete, but I think most agree that they represent a very significant contribution to the field, one that is still a good starting place for a layperson.

My mom had cancer at the time the 2000 paper came out, and though she did not have any kind of science background, she really enjoyed it.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 9:44 PM on February 15, 2016

The Journal of Medical Internet Research is a good one.

BioMed Central is great, too - as a bonus, for their core journals (which start with the initialism "BMC") they openly publish not just the articles, but all of their accompanying peer reviews. This is available in a link on the right sidebar for each individual article under a link titled "pre-publication history."
posted by k8lin at 10:49 PM on February 15, 2016

For philosophy, you might take a look at the open access journals Ergo and Philosophers' Imprint. If you have any interest in probability theory or anthropic reasoning, take a look at Halpern's recent entry in Ergo. Or if you have some interest in rationality, take a look at my colleague Jennifer Carr's paper, "Subjective Ought," or if you're interested in individualistic versus group rationality and science, take a look at P.D. Magnus' paper, "Science and Rationality for One and All." Or for some more metaphysics-y pieces, maybe check out Dan Korman's paper, "Debunking Perceptual Beliefs about Ordinary Objects," from Philosophers' Imprint or Marc Johansen's paper, "Causal contribution and causal exclusion."

Or if you just want to keep up on current papers in philosophy of science, there is always The PhilSci archive.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 11:38 PM on February 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Fermat's Library is an annotated collection of papers. There is a new one every week. It's not all Math as the name might suggest.
posted by KMB at 1:32 AM on February 16, 2016

Sorry, I thought it was clear but I guess it wasn't; I am hoping that folks can recommend me specific papers in their fields that are both open access and (in the opinion of the recommender) particularly interesting reads.

For most fields, I don't know enough about the subject to be able to reliably identify papers that I'd be interested in reading recreationally and there are many areas of human knowledge which I'd probably never think to dive into on my own but in which I would nevertheless enjoy reading something that had some really novel or stand-out ideas in it. Does that make sense?

I do appreciate the journal recommendations and will likely give some of them a go, but I was kinda hoping for some specific papers that people thought were especially read-worthy for a layperson.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:34 AM on February 16, 2016

The task you're asking for is actually one of the (few) tasks a good general-interest, paid-access journal can provide. You're asking for editorial choice (across the entirety of science!), and that takes real extra effort on top of producing the papers. This task should be compensated.

One popular resource these days for such editorial content outside of the traditional journal system is science blogging. (here the compensation is fame, or maybe advertising, instead of money).

That having been said, you can read every single paper in my entire field, and many adjacent fields, by looking at arxiv.org. In particular, if you want to read the recent detection paper from LIGO on gravitational waves, it is available here (as well as at the journal (PRL) website).
posted by nat at 5:35 AM on February 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh also, there's a big difference between papers I'd recommend to a general reader, papers I'd recommend to a physicist, papers I'd recommend to another string theorist, and papers I'd recommend to an expert in my particular subfield. The task you're asking here, the "general reader" one, is by far the most challenging.

Honestly I'd say your best bet is to search mefi for references to the journals people above have mentioned- it's quite common in science threads for people to post a link to the paper(s) if available.
posted by nat at 5:37 AM on February 16, 2016

Jeremy Waldron, Homelessness and the Issue of Freedom.
posted by Aravis76 at 7:03 AM on February 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

I work in toxicology and public health, with a heavy focus on regulatory testing. Since 2007, this field has been actively moving away from old fashioned (animal-based) methods toward ones that are more human relevant and high-throughput (e.g. cell based, computational, etc.). With that context:

Toxicology In Vitro is a brand new journal that's been started by some of the leaders in the field.

ALTEX may not be fully open-access, but current issues are.

(The 2007 link above is the NRC report that formally kicked off this transition in the U.S. It's available for a free download and is a foundational, interesting read--it's much, much longer and more in depth than a paper, though.)
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 8:20 AM on February 16, 2016

Essential Readings in Wildlife Management and Conservation ($45 on Amazon or free at your local library) is an excellent curated chronological tour of wildlife management philosophy.

If you're interested in any particular species or issue, let me know and I'll suggest more specific papers.
posted by scrubjay at 9:36 AM on February 16, 2016

"Mental Illness, Mass Shootings, and the Politics of American Firearms" by Jonathan M. Metzl, MD, PhD, and Kenneth T. MacLeish, PhD (2015)

"Consumer Culture, Self-Prescription, and Status: Nineteenth-Century Medicine Chests in the Royal Navy" by Marieke M.A. Hendriksen (2015)
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:32 AM on February 16, 2016

Because my previous examples weren't in my field, just ones I found interesting, here are a couple that are in my field (that are also accessible and interesting):

The Function of Fiction is the Abstraction and Simulation of Social Experience by Raymond A. Mar and Keith Oatley

How Exposure to Literary Genres Relates to Attitudes Toward Gender Roles and Sexual Behavior by Katrina Fong, Justin B. Mullin, and Raymond A. Mar
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:54 AM on February 16, 2016

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