of whether the article is good enough to be published somewhere else, but selective on the basis of publishing papers likely to be of interest to a very wide audience as well, precisely because the PLoS considers this important in terms of developing the journal identity and as a magnet for submissions.
If the point was that adding author charges would be a disincentive to authors to submit to the NEJM, that would be highly unlikely. Professor Brown has looked into author charges quite a bit and has paid plenty of them to a lot of journals that are very selective. It is not at all uncommon for such charges to be more than $2,000 per paper. There is a prototypical archival journal in the life sciences, for example, that does not charge for submissions, but it does charge for color. It is $750 for the first color figure and then $500 for the second. About 20 percent of all the papers that are published in that journal (in the several issues that Professor Brown has seen) had, on average, two color figures. The authors were willing to pay extra money to add color to their articles published in a completely archival journal. In the vast majority of those cases, the colors were primarily to make it look better and not because color was essential for the scientific content. The point is that an author will not balk at paying extra money after putting a great deal of work into a scientific paper for all the world to see.
If we go to a model where the institutions are covering page charges as an essential part of research, it will make it even less of a disincentive to authors. In Professor Brown’s view, the New England Journal of Medicine has nothing to worry about in terms of going to author charges, and such a change would be better for the community it is supposed to be serving.
Bob Simoni, associate editor of the Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC), which is a publication of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, commented that the JBC charges authors page charges. On average, an article in the journal costs about $1,000, which includes both page and graphics charges. This has allowed the journal to keep its subscription price quite low.
The journal also considers itself to be an open-access journal, though it does not comply fully with the current PLoS definition. Two years ago, prompted by all of the discussion that came up with PLoS, the JBC decided to find some way to make all of its articles free online as soon as they are published. The journal started something that is called PIPS, or papers in press. On the day a manuscript is accepted, the paper is published on the Web in PDF. It is free to everyone, and it stays free forever. Anyone with Internet access can read freely every single JBC article that has been published. It has been enormously popular with the journal’s readers and authors. The fact that it is published on the day of acceptance reduces the time to publication by eight weeks on average, which is the time usually taken for copy editing and processing; so it has served everyone well.