To: The Editors of The Journal of Cell Biology:
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) recently announced a policy on Public Access to Publications for its investigators and Janelia Farm Research Campus scientists (http://www.hhmi.org/about/research/policies.html#papp). This policy requires our scientists to publish in only those journals that make original research articles and supplemental materials freely accessible through a public database within six months of publication.
The policy seeks to balance the goal of public access and the equally important value of scholarly freedom—the goal of our scientists to allow their graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to publish their work in the journal of their choice. To bring more journals into compliance with our policy, we have concluded agreements with Elsevier and Cell Press, as well as other publishers, including the American Society of Hematology. Such conversations will continue with both for-profit and non-profit publishers.
Rossner and Mellman (1) have criticized HHMI for not using its influence to coerce Elsevier into making their content public after a short delay without compensation. It should be noted that the $1,000 we are paying for each Cell Press article and $1,500 for other Elsevier publications is not profit to the publisher, but a reimbursement for their lost revenue in providing accelerated free access and their time and effort in uploading HHMI manuscripts to PubMed Central. Furthermore, HHMI already makes payments at a similar level to a wide array of non-profit and for-profit publishers for immediate or accelerated access to publications, as does the Wellcome Trust.
Scholarly publishing is in flux, not simply in the biological sciences. Virtually all publishers, ranging from scientific societies and non-profit organizations to major corporate entities, are reconsidering their policies and business models. Now that the lid to the open- access publication box has been opened, there's no closing it again. We applaud The Rockefeller University Press and other non-profit publishers for taking an early lead in providing rapid free access to the scientific literature.