Nature Dabbles in Open Access: A Double Edged Sword?

Nature Publications Group, in a Press release announced the launch of a new, open access journal called Scientific Reports. However, it wasn’t long ago that the same people had launched a vicious vilification of the open access model, especially that of PloS ONE, (1) saying:

Public Library of Science (PLoS), the poster child of the open-access publishing movement, is following an haute couture model of science publishing — relying on bulk, cheap publishing of lower quality papers to subsidize its handful of high-quality flagship journals.

Martin Fenner, on his PLoS Blog, did not miss out on a fine opportunity to take a bit of a dig at the launch of this journal. Now whether this journal has been launched to infuse fresh inflow of cash by publication of “dirty, gutter, bulk publication of lower quality papers”, as suggested by Drug Monkey here, or whether this is a genuine effort on behalf of the NPG to get more research into the Open Access domain is still a matter of conjecture.

Whilst the entry of the Nature group of journals into the OA field definitely speaks volumes about the fact that the business model that was destined to have met with failure is not, in fact, such a destructive model. However, the submission fees is pretty the same as for PLoS One. $1350. This is destined to go up to $1700 (if I am not mistaken) in 2012.

Now, with that kind of submission fees, unless there is a policy of waiver in place, there is little chance that any research from the developing world will be submitted for consideration. While BioMed Central, the other major player in the OA field, with the pay-to-publish model in place has managed to make a neat profit on its returns, it remains to be seen whether PLoS can also make that kind of money.

Though I am not exactly aware of the financial state of PLoS or NPG at this moment, it cannot be too stable given the fact that the global economy is still convalescing from the disastrous meltdown. In this framework of figures, it just makes more sense to the skeptical minded when the theory that Nature One is being launched to fill the NPG coffers.

However, what has irked me, like Drug Monkey is the slight element of hypocrisy noted in the way NPG has gone about conducting its business. Although there is little one can hold against them for being a for-profit corporate giant.

I have firm faith in the open access system and believe that if necessary, bail outs to help them tide through the bad financial times is also necessary. It is just wring to put a price tag on knowledge!

That said, one must remember that the NPG managed to irk the scientific community in general by proposing a 400% hike in subscription prices at the University of California. Although it remains a for-profit organization, and more research in the open access domain is always welcome, the bottomline is, that the discerning academia seems to be a little suspicious of the motives of the NPG in launching this new product.

I, however, am happy that more research is coming to the OA-zone!

More Links:

1. Drug Monkey: Nature now to rely on “bulk, cheap publishing of lower quality papers to subsidize its handful of high-quality flagship journals”?

2. Blue Lab Coats: I fell off my horse…say what?? “Nature One”??

3. Bjorn Brembs: Nature Staying Afloat With Bulk Publishing?

4. Martin Fenner: PLos Blogs: New journal “Nature ONE” launched today


1. Butler, D. (2008) PLoS stays afloat with bulk publishing. Nature, 454(7200), 11-11. DOI: 10.1038/454011a   

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