In November 2020, the major academic publisher Springer Nature announced a long-awaited program that will allow authors to publish their research findings in the Nature family of journals with full open access. Beginning in 2021, this program provides authors with an alternative to the subscription-only model of publishing currently followed by these journals.
Publishers of major journals like Nature and Science that are made available to readers through subscriptions have faced the challenge of adapting to the call from scientists for increased open access, and have been considering various methods of providing open access since the announcement of Plan S. However, given the large readerships enjoyed by these journals, they must also overcome the difficult challenge of preserving revenue while providing access at no cost to readers.
Although the issue of maintaining the profitability of individual journals is understandable, many researchers who were eagerly awaiting Springer Nature’s new program were disappointed by the high cost of the open access option. At launch, this program will charge authors 9500 Euros to make their article accessible to readers for free immediately upon publication. Unsurprisingly, this fee has been criticized as a potential barrier to publication for authors from less wealthy nations.
The success of Springer Nature’s new program will depend on whether it successfully increases free access to content. It remains to be seen whether the announced open access fee will result in authors submitting to other publishers, but the announced fee could change in response to public pressure or once the continued profitability of the journals has been ensured even with open access content.
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