Open Access at a Price

Open AccessI was recently offered the ability to publish one of my journal papers in a reputable journal but ‘Open Access’. The facility for me to do this was at the bargain price of $3250. I also considered using PLoS ONE via the public library of science, but at approximately $1000 per article again the price seemed to preclude publication.

I understand the rational of open publication but it seems to me at these prices the ‘open’ aspects are not really being transferred to the author, only the reader, and therefore the suggestion of increased citation. If this is the case – are Open Access journals affording scientists, who can pay, increased citations?

At $3000 a paper, and only $30 to view a single paper in most conventional digital libraries I can gain access to around 300 – 100 (oh my terrible maths – amended 14 Feb 2011) papers for the price of publishing one, how can this be right? When I publish – I first submit a draft, once accepted I copy edit, make corrections, place the paper in a ‘camera ready format’ and send it on it’s way – when published it looks very similar to my final ‘camera ready copy’. How does placing this on a server cost between $1000 and $3000?

It seems to me Open Access journals were founded on fairness and free access, but this should not be at the expense of the author. I understand monies need to come from somewhere but penalising the author will just force them to publish in conventional journals or circumvent the publishers systems. As far as I’m aware the public library doesn’t charge an extortionate amount for publishers to place books with them – I suggest then – than neither should PLoS or similar.

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9 thoughts on “Open Access at a Price

  1. If authors want their articles to be published in a peer-reviewed journal with a desired reputation, they will have to find the money to pay the price for that, or accept a paywall for access to their papers. Alternatively, they could opt to have their articles openly endorsed by credible peers, and then publish them on one of the many platforms available on the Internet for free.

    In any case, peer reviewers or peer endorsers are likely to point out that “At $3000 a paper, and only $30 to view a single paper in most conventional digital libraries I can gain access to around 300 papers for the price of publishing one” is not quite a correct calculation.

    • All three suggestions seem right Jan, although I do not accept you supposition that peer-reviewed journals with a good reputation will always cost – especially when most of the work as actually done by volunteer academics. Even if we are paying for the publishers infrastructure $3000 per paper is way too much. Seems to me that authors will do as they do now and circumvent the standard commercial publishers copyright by making pre-publication drafts (or Technical Reports) available free on their sites, thereby removing the need to pay and the need for the public to pay.

      Thanks for correcting my Maths; I’m also aware that this is an understatement as the price of full access to all ACM papers ever published is only $99 for a year with the full IEEE Explore subscription only slightly more than that.

      • My pleasure, Simon, to correct your maths :-).

        As for the need to pay to be published in good journals, that’s obviously there, since whatever model you apply, money will be needed to sustain the system. And if the author (his/her backers) do not pay with money, then copyright transfer is the ‘currency’ with which they ‘pay’.

        I do wish, though, that the ‘endorsement’ model were taken up by researchers (and perhaps publishers, who could provide a structure – read: journals – for that model). The cost of that model is likely to be massively lower than that of the current models.

  2. The reason that PLoS one costs so much is because, despite being an innovative idea, they have used an old fashioned publication process — they still page layout articles, even though a web browser can do the same job for free.

    So, your question about the costs is very valid, although it’s a question equally laid all forms of scientific publishing not open access. It’s just someone else is paying. My question is this: why does the second largest STM publisher cost 1000 million per annum, while the largest cost 10 million. These are Elsevier and Wikipedia respectively.

    This is why I started http://ontogenesis.knowledgeblog.org.

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