Scientific journals can be made freely available to the public and still make money, says Gary Ward, treasurer of the American Society for Cell Biology. For the past six years, the society has made reports published in its monthly research journal, Molecular Biology of the Cell, available online to nonsubscribers two months after publication. The journal has not only remained financially sound but also continues to generate profits while following an open-access business model, the society reports. Those profits help pay for educational, career-development, and public-policy programs, including continued support of efforts to require the results of biomedical research financed with federal money to be made freely accessible no more than six months after they are published.
The push for open access has led many scholarly associations to fear that the free release of research findings would undermine the business models of their journals, which often are key sources of revenue for entire associations. While some societies seem open to the idea of open access, it’s unclear if it can be fashioned into a viable business model. And some publishers, dead-set against open access, have fired back by hiring an aggressive public-relations firm to fight off the movement.