Author fee spikes at PLoS

Open access publisher increases publication charge by up to $1,000

Jun 19, 2006
David Secko
Open access publisher Public Library of Science (PLoS) is raising its publication fee for the first time since its inception in 2003, hiking rates by up to two-thirds the original cost. Advocates of the open access model say the increase reflects how much it costs to publish an article, and does not suggest that the publisher or the model are failing.Starting July 1, the fees, which are paid by authors to offset production costs, will increase from $1,500 for PLoS's flagship journals (PLoS Biology and PLoS Medicine) to $2,500, and to $2,000 for its other journals."The reason were increasing the fees is so that they more closely reflect the cost of running the journals," said Mark Patterson, director of publishing at PLoS. "We have to move slowly but surely towards a financially sustainable organization and this is part of putting us on that path," Patterson told The Scientist. He said the journal wasn't in financial trouble, and instead had grown to a point that it thought the scientific community was ready to absorb more costs.Peter Suber, Director of the Open Access Project at Public Knowledge, said he believes the increase in PLoS's publication charge is not a sign that the publisher is in trouble, but simply represents a maturation of the open access business model. "We are beginning to get a sense that [$2,500 per article] is roughly what it costs to deliver high quality peer-reviewed content at an open access journal like PLoS Biology," said Suber.Indeed, when PLoS began in 2003, it warned that it would adjust its publication fees as it learned more about the cost of running an open access journal, said Patterson. And since 2003, the enthusiasm for open access has grown, noted Patterson -- Wellcome Trust now pays open access costs for its scientists, and the US senate recently introduced a bill that would necessitate putting federally funded research freely on the Internet. "With all the movement, it seemed like a reasonable to time to make a change," said Patterson.Matthew Cockerill, publisher at BioMedCentral, another open access publisher and sister company to The Scientist, said article publication charges are converging to approximately $2000-3000 USD for open access journals. BMC currently charges between $605 and $1750 per article, and has been "transitioning to this fee," he told The Scientist, "which we feel is a good representation of our costs." "It takes time for any system to find its equilibrium," said Cockerill, "so things like PLoS and BMC adjusting its publication charges is all part of the settling down process." He added that bigger commercial publications such as Springer charge $3000, "but if they do find that some publishers can break even charging $1,500 or $2,000, they will find it difficult to charge what they do." In addition, Patterson admitted that the increased fees at PLoS may be a barrier to some authors. "Some scientists will not have access to the funds needed to pay the new publications fees," said Patterson, "and we don't want this to block someone with a great piece of work." PLoS is therefore still retaining its fee waiver policy, he said, where authors can request not to pay the publication charge.And, at least in the biomedical sciences, some funders are beginning to supply scientists with research funds for specifically publishing in open access journals. "PLoS and BMC are evolving with the scientific community and its funders," said Cockerill, "and the economics is starting to work itself out."David Secko dsecko@the-scientist.comLinks within this articlePublic Library of Science (PLoS), Publishing Model Pincock, "UK committee backs open access," The Scientist, July 20, 2004. Patterson Suber"Wellcome Trust position statement in support of open and unrestricted access to published research," February 9, 2006 Agres, "Publishers, societies oppose 'public access' bill," The Scientist, May 11, 2006. Cockerill, A comparison of open access publication charges fees Blackman, "BioMedCentral faces angry editors," The Scientist, May 1, 2006.