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June 23, 2006

OA Business Model a Challenge for Public Library of Science

In an eye-opening analysis in the June 22, 2006 issue of the journal Nature, the Public Library of Science (PLoS), which launched its first open access journals in 2003, is said to be facing a "looming financial crisis." According to Nature, which analyzed the non-profit PLoS's publicly available records on file with the Internal Revenue Service, PLoS ran a deficit of almost $1 million last year, and its total income from fees and advertising currently covers just 35 percent of its costs. While revenue is increasing slightly, spending is increasing at a greater clip, up to $5.5 million from $1.5 million for the past three years combined. In response, with its grant funds being steadily depleted, PLoS has announced that it will raise author fees, effective July 1, for its open access journals from $1500 to $2500 for flagship journals PLoS Biology and PLoS Medicine; and to $2000 for its community journals PLoS Computational Biology, PLoS Genetics, and PLoS Pathogens.

In a release, officials from the non-profit PLoS said that, with three years of operational experience to draw on, it was "time to adjust this model so that our publication fees reflect more closely the costs of publication." Still, even with the increased fees, Nature reports that PLoS will have to rely on "philanthropy" to survive for the foreseeable future, including its funding from the Sandler and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundations. PLoS director of publishing Mark Patterson downplayed the financial situation, noting that the fledgling publisher is only in its fourth year. Still, more than a few commercial publishers may be saying "I told you so." In the early days of open access publishing, commercial publishers repeatedly suggested that author fees for PLoS, at $1500, and for-profit open access publisher BioMed Central, then $500, were unsustainably low. Last year, BioMed Central increased its author fees, from $525 to as much as $1700. Commercial competitors, meanwhile, including Springer, Blackwell, and most recently Elsevier, have begun offering open-access-like publishing options, for fees closer to $3000.

Library Journal 6/23/06
Read the Nature news item.

Posted by P. Kaufman at June 23, 2006 1:18 PM