The academic publishing world, and specifically the scientific, technological and medical fields, are currently undergoing a dramatic change. An increasing number of scientists are eschewing the traditional models of publication in favor of those with open access.
This new approach allows anyone to read cutting-edge research online for free, upending the traditions of academic publishing. In the past, people who wanted access to a publication had to pay subscription fees, usually thousands of dollars, to the publishers of these journals.
The steep entry fees are rarely paid for by individuals, but rather covered by universities and libraries that want to have access to these publications for the academics and students associated with them. However, this has meant that much of the research produced by American researchers has not been available to the general public, according to The Atlantic.
Open access to information seems to be the wave of the future, and many powerful academics are lining up behind a push to make it the dominant way of publishing scientific research.
"Free and immediate access to journal articles in the digital age is crucial for scientific progress," Martin Stratmann, the President of the Max Planck Society said according to ChemEurope. "It is therefore time to make open access the standard model of publishing. To achieve this, we also want to convince the publishers of the merits of doing so."
How to pay for it
Under the open access model, the fees that cover the costs of publication are generally paid for by the researcher publishing the work. This cost is called an article processing charge, or APC. The average APC is just over $2,300, according to FigShare, so they are not exactly cheap. But most researchers are able to cover the cost with the help of their research grants.
Scientific work published under open access models can also be funded through advertising, but only in limited cases. Major journals with large followings and strong interest in the subject matter can sometimes make a profit selling advertisements online.
According to Nature, scientific publishers currently make about $5,000 per article they publish. While this may result in rising APCs in the future if more scientists insist on open access publishing, changing the model for STM publication is worth the cost to many in the field.
Greater freedom of information
The benefits of open access publishing are readily apparent to both scientists and members of the general public. Researchers publish their work in order to inform the world of what they have found, and to possibly inspire others to delve deeper into the subject. Sharing the final product as widely as possible is the goal of every scientist, and open access publishing is the best way to make this happen.
Open access publishing is especially helpful to scientists working in underdeveloped countries in Africa, South America and Asia, where the financial infrastructure to pay for subscriptions is not as readily available. Scientists in these countries are better served being able to use American and European research, the kind typically hidden behind high subscription barriers.