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Free Journals Grow Amid Ongoing Debate

Science  20 Aug 2010:
Vol. 329, Issue 5994, pp. 896-898
DOI: 10.1126/science.329.5994.896

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Summary

Publishers big and small are producing hundreds of free-to-read, peer-reviewed online journals that charge authors fees ranging from about $500 to $3000 per paper. The most prominent publisher, the nonprofit organization Public Library of Science (PLoS), launched its first journal in 2003. This year, PLoS is on track to make a small profit. The broader open-access campaign remains rife with controversy, however. Debates rage about whether open access is speeding scientific progress. Some argue that academic researchers already have good access to the articles they need. Critics suggest that the open-access publishing model encourages mediocre work, noting that PLoS, for example, has succeeded financially only because one of its journals collects fees on thousands of lightly reviewed papers a year. Some traditional publishers—including many scientific societies—fear that at some tipping point in the future, libraries will drop subscriptions and put journals out of business. But so far, the journals haven't shown that public-access mandates have done them harm.

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