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[Published in 'Notes & Theories, Dispatches from the Science Desk' a blog fromtheguardianFebruary 12, 2013]
By Mike Taylor - We all know by now that traditional academic publishing is in an appalling mess. Locking publicly funded research behind a paywall is completely unacceptable, and happily our government understands this. The Finch Report has rightly mandated that research must be published as open access. So profiteering publishers, seeing the writing on the wall, are offering authors open-access options.
But corporations addicted to profit margins of 32-42% find it hard to give them up. As a result, while the world's leading open-access journal, PLOS ONE, is able to be financially self-sustaining by charging an article processing fee (APC) of $1,350 (£865) (and offering no-questions-asked waivers to authors without APC funding), the legacy publishers charge significantly more for inferior products. Where PLOS ONE imposes no limits on manuscript length, number of figures, use of colour etc., Elsevier's nearly-open-access articles cost $3,000 despite being limited in all these respects. Likewise, Springer's Open Choice costs $3,000 and Taylor & Francis's Open Select costs $2,950.