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Making scientific research freely available on the Internet could cut publishing costs by as much as 30 per cent without lowering publication standards, according to a new report by the Wellcome Trust, the United Kingdom's leading biomedical research charity.

The report says that the open-access model of scientific publishing — in which authors pay for their research to be made freely available on the Web — is both economically viable and capable of guaranteeing high-quality research.

A payment of US$1,950 per research paper published would be sufficient to support a high quality and sustainable publishing model, it says. This, it adds, compares to an average of US$2,660 to publish a paper under the traditional system, in which readers pay for accessing research through their subscriptions to scientific journals.

The report's conclusions contrast sharply with statements made last month by some commercial publishers that author fees of up to US$53,000 per paper would need to be charged under an open-access model to sustain top scientific journals (see UK science publishers give open-access warning)

"The evidence presented [in the report] appears to contradict a lot of the figures quoted by commercial publishers and leaves me asking the question – how much profit should be made in publishing scientific research, which holds a potential benefit to us all, and which was funded by the public purse," says Mark Walport, director of the Wellcome Trust.

He adds that open-access publishing is "a win-win situation", which makes "high-quality peer reviewed research available to everyone free of charge within a sustainable online market — plus savings of a much as 30 per cent."

Link to full report Costs and Business Models in Scientific Research Publishing