Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Open access: other ways


John Ewing, in Correspondence, argues that open-access journals are not open to everyone because not all authors can pay or find a sponsor to pay their processing fees (Nature 425, 559; 200310.1038/425559a). Although publishers of open-access journals such as the Public Library of Science (PloS) say that authors who can't pay won't have to, Ewing feels they have underestimated the numbers who will not be able to pay.

As a long-time advocate of open access to science, I can list several points to suggest that this concern is overstated.

Declan Butler notes in his News Feature “Scientific publishing: who will pay for open access?” (Nature 425, 554–555; 2003) that many funding organizations are willing to pay these fees for their grant recipients. Although this solution will not work in disciplines that are less well-funded than medicine (in Ewing's field of mathematics, for example, or mine, philosophy), that is no objection to applying it to fields where it can work. It is highly likely, and desirable, that different fields will develop different open-access models. Some peer-reviewed open-access journals in the humanities charge no processing fees at all.

Ewing notes that many universities may not be able to afford these fees, in cases when funding bodies cannot pay them. But if open access spreads, every university will make large savings from the conversion, cancellation or demise of expensive subscription-based journals. This money can be used to support the open-access model of archiving and publication.

If some future open-access publishers have no policy to waive fees, and authors find themselves excluded on financial grounds alone, there are other ways to bring about open access to peer-reviewed literature (such as e-print archiving) that do not depend on open-access journals, research grants, affluent employers or windfall savings in the library budget.

Author information



Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Suber, P. Open access: other ways. Nature 426, 15 (2003).

Download citation


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing