Research Article: Who Pays for Open Access?

Date Published: April 13, 2004

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Helen Doyle, Andy Gass, Rebecca Kennison

Abstract: Publication fees are not borne purely by authors, but are shared by the many organizations whose missions depend on the broadest possible dissemination and communication of scientific discoveries.

Partial Text: In the wake of declarations supporting open access to research literature from international bodies including the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations’ World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), advocates and critics of the movement appear to have agreed that the issue warrants a robust, ongoing dialogue—a development undoubtedly in the interest of the scientific community, regardless of its ultimate outcome.

By charging authors a fee to have their work published in lieu of charging readers to access articles, open-access publishers such as the Public Library of Science (PLoS) and BioMed Central (BMC) have transformed the traditional publishing system. This reliance on a seemingly untested revenue stream has generated skepticism that authors will be both willing and able to pay publication charges.

Even with the steady increase in sources to pay publication fees, detractors claim that open-access publishing may lead to a situation in which some authors are simply unable to publish their work due to lack of funds. The response to this concern is that the ability of authors to pay publication charges must never be a consideration in the decision to publish their papers. To ensure that this happens, PLoS has a firewall in place such that neither the editors nor the reviewers know which authors have indicated whether or not they can pay. Because all work judged worthy of publication by peer review should be published, any open-access business model should be designed to account for fee waivers, just as publishers have always absorbed some authors’ inability to pay page and color charges. PLoS grants full or partial publication-charge waivers to any author who requests them, no questions asked.



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