Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Cell Press executives talks about OA

“We instituted a modified open access policy”, The Hindu, February 21, 2008.  An interview with Emilie Marcus and Lynne Herndon of Cell Press.  Marcus is the Editor-in-Chief and Herndon is the CEO.  Excerpt:

How does Cell Press view the rise of Open Access journals like the PLoS group?

Herndon: Well, we instituted a modified open access policy ourselves, so that our content becomes free after 12 months.

Open Access seems to be gaining in popularity rather slowly. But I think that the start-up of the PLoS group was indeed the right thing at the right time. They took money, invested it in the right way and created some fairly good journals.

Ultimately, I think open access, if it were to become the major way the people got their literature, would put more pressure on us as publishers to deliver something additional that they cannot get from the versions that are housed with government.

Marcus: From an editorial perspective I am very opposed to an author-pays based model, whether in a newspaper or a scientific journal. If an author pays to be published it undermines the editorial independence of the journal.

But doesn’t the author pay most often through institutional grants, not out of his or her pocket?

Marcus: Well, from the journal’s perspective it doesn’t matter. The money can come from anywhere. In an author-pays model the more you publish, the more the journal makes. There is no incentive really to reject anything.

And I think you can see that pretty clearly now in the events that are happening in PLoS. PLoS Biology started out by having an editorial model based on a subscription-based business model, i.e., they were very selective, and the model was not financially sustainable.

Because if you have a journal with a high rejection rate you cannot sustain a model based on author’s fees. So in order to fund the editorial efforts of PloS Biology, they have had to launch PLoS One which is an online journal of now extremely low quality, minimally peer reviewed, for which authors pay 1,500 or 2,000 dollars to have their articles published.

In three months they have published 1,000 articles! The author is responsible for copy editing, pre-press and all of that.

So you end up with a lot of publications and a lot of revenue, with no real service to the scientific community....


  • It's not true that OA journals charging author-side publication fees give up their editorial independence and no longer have incentives to reject anything.  See my detailed response to this objection in an article from March 2004, updated in October 2006.
  • Cell Press is an imprint of Elsevier, which charges author-side publication fees at its hybrid OA or "sponsored-article" journals.