If you've been anywhere near any kind of research publication in the past couple of years, you've no doubt run across at least one open access (OA) journal. Biomicrofluidics is an open access journal; at least I think it is. The confusion lies in the definition. From Wikipedia:
Open access is free, immediate, permanent, full-text, online access, for any user, web-wide, to digital scientific and scholarly material, primarily research articles published in peer-reviewed journals. OA means that any individual user, anywhere, who has access to the Internet, may link, read, download, store, print-off, use, and data-mine the digital content of that article. An OA article usually has limited copyright and licensing restrictions.
My concerns lie with the usage of the terms "permanent" and "limited copyright and licensing restrictions." It's tough for a publisher to look at this definition and see the potential for profit. Luckily, Biomicrofluidics is published by a not-for-profitthe American Institute of Physics. But it still takes time and money to put the journal together, and I'm not sure how a journal can get published if no one is "paying the bills," so to speak. Plus, physicists get antsy when you say something is "permanent," what with the imminent heat death of the universe and all. And while it may make good business sense to give away your product, it's harder to make the case that it's good business sense to give away your copyright and licensing of that product. Questions abound. Time and experimentation are needed to sort things out. As technology lurches forward, so should publishers.
Keeping all of this in mind, BMF is dropping author charges. The articles will still be freely available, and so AIP is busily exploring other paths for financing the journal. We can move forward with this experiment because, like the Public Library of Science, we've got little to lose and a lot to gain if we strike upon a successful model.
It's apparent to me that BMF provides needed and interesting research to a growing and interested community. (It may be appropriate here to again mention that the journal is hosting its first conferenceAdvances in Microfluidics & Nanofluidicsin Hong Kong, January 5-7, 2009, and the journal will be publishing invited reviews and papers from that meeting.)
Essentially, the journal is looking for a proper way to adapt to a changing economy. Do we give away everything? How can we increase the positive image of AIP in the scientific community? Does it work best as a so-called sharing economy? The best strategy may be to just stay agile and open to new ideas... all the while keeping our common sense intact.