How open-access journals are changing the field of peer-reviewed science
The Guardian, 18 September 2014
There is an important discussion to be had about the future of scientific publications.
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A publisher cannot simply give papers away for free – they would rapidly go out of business. On the other hand, an author can opt to make their papers available without a pay wall, but the author has to pay for this option. My colleagues and I recently wrote a major ocean heating paper and paid multiple thousands of dollars to make it freely available. This money came from our research budgets – budgets that are already tight.
So into this mix enter open-access publishers. Instead of selling papers, they make the articles freely available to the public. On the one hand, this system dramatically alters who can gain access to articles. The papers can be freely downloaded anywhere in the world (hugely important if you are a researcher in the developing world). In addition, open-access journals typically do not print papers in hard copy form, thus saving money on printing and shipping. But how can these journals survive? They do that by charging the author. Fees range anywhere from $100–$1000 or so.