The Cost Implications of Open-Access Publishing in the Life Sciences

The Cost Implications of Open-Access Publishing in the Life Sciences
William H. Walters and Esther Isabelle Wilder
BioScience, Vol. 57, No. 7 (Jul. – Aug., 2007), pp. 619-625
Published by: American Institute of Biological Sciences


The Cost Implications of Open-Access Publishing in the Life Sciences
Author(s): William H. Walters and Esther Isabelle Wilder
Source: BioScience, Vol. 57, No. 7 (Jul. – Aug., 2007), pp. 619-625
Published by: American Institute of Biological Sciences
Stable URL:

Open-access journals are growing in number and importance. Because they rely on revenue from publication fees rather than subscriptions, these journals have important economic implications for the institutions that sponsor, produce, and use research in the life sciences. This article shows how the wholesale adoption of open-access pricing would influence institutional journal costs in the field of cell biology. Estimating prices under two open-access models, we find that a switch to open access would result in substantial cost reductions for most institutions. At the same time, the top universities would pay up to 10 times as much as they currently do. Institutions with fewer than 4.29 million library volumes would be likely to save money under either open-access model. The long-term viability of open-access publishing in the biosciences may depend on the establishment of an environment in which the top research institutions are willing and able to pay a greater share of the total systemwide cost.

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