Open-access publishing: The debate continues

The arguments surrounding open-access publishing are detailed in this week's issue of THE LANCET. Authors of one article claim that in an era of rapid electronic access to information, the four-centuries-old publishing model based on user fees now hinders communication; the author of another paper counters that there are many important questions that must be answered before the existing scientific and medical journal publishing system is thrown out.

Pritpal S Tamber and colleagues argue (p 1575) that all scientific research should be freely and immediately available online. They comment on how much of the cost (up to 30%) of publishers' revenue is used to employ staff and systems to assess current and future subscribers; these costs 'are passed onto the scientific community as part of subscription charges.' They also argue how limited access to the full text of research articles is bad for science: 'Such restrictions make it difficult for researchers to build on the entirety of what has gone before and for readers to check whether they have done soresearchers and clinicians will sometimes make do with the abstract of an article they cannot obtain in full, which in many cases will give them inadequate, if not misleading, information.' A different model is proposed under open-access initiatives whereby authors retain copyright and are charged for publication-BioMed Central (who provide biomedical research online free) currently charge authors US$500 per published article. The newly formed Public Library of Science Biology (PloS Biology) will charge authors US$1500 per article in order to cover costs and publish with unrestricted (open) access.

Pritpal S Tamber comments: "Scientific research should be freely accessible to all. Free access is a public good-much research is publicly funded and involves members of the public as participants. Authors and peer reviewers provide their work free of charge. The cost of peer review and dissemination can, and sh

Contact: Joe Santangelo

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