BioMed Central’s comments in response to the US Office of Science and Technology Policy request for contributions to its Policy Forum on Public Access to Federally Funded Research

BioMed Central has today submitted the following contribution to the US Office of Science and Technology Policy’s  Policy Forum on Public Access to Federally Funded Research:
(see also OASPA’s contribution, also submitted today)

BioMed Central
operates a commercially viable business as an open access publisher. Under our
publishing model, the costs associated with research publication are covered by
open access publication fees rather than by subscription revenue. We now
publish over 200 online journals operating on this model. These journals go
from strength to strength, and are highly ranked by journal citation metrics
such as Impact Factor. Open access journals such as Genome Biology, Malaria
and BMC Systems Biology, to
name just a few, are among the most highly-ranked journals in their respective

The success of BioMed
Central’s open access journals provides important evidence that immediate open
access to the official and authoritative version of published research results
is not only desirable but is also achievable and sustainable.

The success of the
open access model is especially notable given that, until recently, in contrast
to the substantial library budgets devoted to subscriptions to serials, there
has been little funding explicitly allocated by academic institutions to cover open
access publication fees. Authors have therefore had to make direct use of their
research grant funding in order to publish in open access journals. The Compact
for Open Access Publishing Equity is an important recent initiative, involving
Harvard and other leading research universities, which seeks to address this
disparity by providing central institutional funding support for open access
journals. This can be expected to add to the already considerable momentum
driving the growth of the open access publishing model.

BioMed Central
supports both the goal of open access and the goal of ensuring that the value
added by publishers is properly recompensed. In contrast to some of the
contributors, we do not feel there is a need to ‘balance’ these two goals as we
do not feel that they are in opposition.

As noted by other
participants in this debate, the benefits resulting to the scientific community
from open access to research are substantial. What may be less obvious is that
open access need not threaten the role of STM publishers. The open access
publishing model, in which publishers are paid directly for the service of
publication, is proving in practice to be just as viable a business model than as
the traditional model whereby publishers recover the costs associated with
publication by taking exclusive rights and then selling access via

Given that there is a
viable business model for publishing scholarly research that does not depend on
restricting access, we do not feel that the US government needs to arbitrarily limit
the extent and reach of its open access deposit requirements attached to its research
funding. We therefore recommend that the mandatory Public Access Policy which
has operated successfully with respect to National Institutes of Health funding
since 2008, be extended to cover all federally funded research. We also
recommend that consideration is given, over time, to reducing or eliminating
the 12 month embargo period, because this embargo period covers the very period
during which the results of research are most timely and valuable. Gradual
reduction of the embargo period would provide a natural mechanism to encourage
publishers to adopt business models compatible with open access, while avoiding
disruptive upheaval.

About BioMed

BioMed Central ( is the world’s
largest open access scientific, technical, and medical (STM) publisher. All research
articles published by BioMed Central are peer reviewed and are made freely and
permanently accessible online upon acceptance. In 2009, biomedical scientists
from across the globe submitted over 29,000 research papers to BioMed Central’s
205 journals, a 30% increase over 2008.

Research articles
published in BioMed Central’s journals are universally and freely accessible
via the Internet without charge or any other barrier to access; articles are
immediately deposited and permanently archived in multiple international
archives (including PubMed Central) and authors retain copyright of their
article, which can be freely distributed and reused under a Creative Commons as
long as correct attribution is given.

Like many other open
access publishers, BioMed Central’s business model is based on charging for the
service that we provide. An article processing charge, levied at publication,
covers the cost of publishing the article, including providing editorial tools,
administering the peer review process, preparing the article for publication
and developing and maintaining the journal website. As can be seen from the
increase of submissions to open access journals year on year, a growing number
of researchers are taking advantage of the funds available from funding bodies
and institutions which are set aside to pay article processing charges. BioMed
Central also operates a waiver policy to ensure that article processing charges
are not an obstacle to publication for authors without sufficient funding. BioMed
Central is a founding member of OASPA, the Open Access Scholarly Publishers
Association, which seeks to represent the growing number of open access
publishers, and to encourage best practices amongst open access publishers.

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