Scientific publishers have traditionally covered their costs — and made their profits — by charging users for reading articles. By contrast, the open-access model championed by the Public Library of Science (PLoS) and others lets readers access content for free, but makes authors pay to publish their research.
In this article, Science editor-in-chief Donald Kennedy gives his take on the pros and cons of both approaches. He argues that it is a good thing that we now have both models in play — but that neither model can lay special claim to the moral high ground.
PLoS has made an impressive start, he says, but there are questions about its long-term sustainability. As open-access journals gain popularity, they will receive more submissions and will have to reject more papers — an expensive process. But Science equally faces problems, not least the difficulties in selling print copies of the journal in an increasingly Internet-led publishing market.