In response to Aileen Fyfe’s comments, there is an example of a scientific journal successfully forgoing large profits (“Publish and be poor: journals shouldn’t just be about money”, Opinion, 9 April).
For a few years, the International Society for Computational Biology had only one official journal: Plos Computational Biology. This journal has always been fully open access. The society has since reaffiliated itself with a “hybrid” journal (Bioinformatics), while maintaining the affiliation with Plos Computational Biology.
However, those few years for which Plos Computational Biology was the society’s only official journal demonstrate that a large learned society can function with just an open access journal. (The publisher, Plos, has always been open to requests for publication-charge waivers for those authors who cannot afford the cost – this is also very important.) Money was presumably made through membership fees and conference attendance fees, for example.
Since it appears feasible for a learned society to run without charging for its journal, it would be good to see larger numbers of societies experimenting with the approach.