Yale University Libraries Cancel BioMed Central Membership in the Face of Spiraling Costs

Yale University has ended it's financial support of BioMed Central's Open Access Membership program effective July 27, 2007. Under the program, Yale libraries paid an annual fee to cover the costs of submissions by Yale authors to BioMed Central (BMC) open access journals. Yale authors can continue to submit manuscripts to BMC, but must pay for all charges themselves.

According to the August 3, 2007 statement by Yale,

… Starting with 2005, BioMed Central page charges cost the libraries $4,658, comparable to single biomedicine journal subscription. The cost of page charges for 2006 then jumped to $31,625. The page charges have continued to soar in 2007 with the libraries charged $29,635 through June 2007, with $34,965 in potential additional page charges in submission.

As we deal with unprecedented increases in electronic resources, we have had to make hard choices about which resources to keep. At this point we can no longer afford to support the BioMedCentral model.

Apparently, Yale is not alone in its decision. In a refreshing act of openness, BMC lists both current members and former members. A surprisingly large number of universities have canceled their memberships, including over 80 in the United States alone. In effect, these cancellations represent a version of the journal deadpool, but in reverse.

Cost increases pose a real threat to the viability of scientific publication. Journals rely heavily on network effects to attract readers, authors, citations, and ultimately, subscribers. A journal can remain viable for some time in the face of canceled subscriptions. But each cancellation brings a journal that much closer to destroying its network, its only real value.

Open access by itself doesn't solve scientific publishing's most serious problem - it simply changes the paths through which ever-increasing sums of money flow.

Thanks to Wendy Warr for her alert on this story posted to the CHMINF-L mailing list.