You may recall that a while ago I said I would only review for open access journals. Whenever I get asked to review for a journal now, I send back a polite reply saying telling them this, as I figure if they hear it enough it may encourage them to take an open access approach. After sending one such response to an editor, they forwarded it to the commercial publisher, to try and raise their awareness. The reply from the publisher set out a number of things they try to do, but this one caught my eye:
"Sponsored articles: Over 350 [publisher's name] journals offer authors the option to pay a $3,000 contribution fee to sponsor unlimited online access at publication to their respective articles via ScienceDirect."
I had to re-read this several times. So, not only do we provide the content, editing, and reviewing services for free, they now want us (or 'offer' us) to pay for open publication. And that's your open access model – the authors pay for it? I suppose one consolation is that it is surely not sustainable – when free alternatives exist the market will move towards them. It persists for historic reasons currently. Can you imagine taking this to a venture capitalist as a business model now?
I've used it before but Itzhak Stern's line in Schindler's list comes to mind: 'Let me understand. They put up all the money. I do all the work. What, if you don't mind my asking, would you do?'