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Few would gainsay Walport and Kiley's1 optimistic forecast regarding academic publishing, given the Wellcome Trust's move to require its sponsored research be made freely accessible via PubMed Central or its equivalent within six months of publication. With the issue of ‘who will pay’ thus having been largely addressed, the question of ‘how much is owed’ should be explored next.
For many years, established publishing houses have observed diminished costs per unit in response to greater production volume. But electronic publishing charges at present levels may be seen as excessive, unless special factors can be put forth to justify why US$3000 is required to publish a scholarly manuscript on the internet.1
That the value of open access is recognized by charitable foundations is to be commended. But whether a philanthropic entity pays is not the issue. Steep surcharges in web-based publishing serve to drive away submissions from independent researchers who are not funded, not wealthy, or just not lucky enough to get a discretionary waiver. We agree that publication costs are legitimate research costs, but how high will such fees need to rise before the internet publishing community is asked for a receipt? To preserve the public trust, it may be time to audit the toll booth on the information highway.
Competing interests Dr Sills is Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Experimental & Clinical Assisted Reproduction (JECAR), published by BioMed Central.