So recently the Wellcome Trust launched the new eLife journal as an Open access outlet to compete with the likes of Elsevier they argue that as publicly funded institutes it is their duty to make the results of their research available to all. Many scientist also oppose the crippling licence fees charged by publishers, a particularly contentious issue when looking at the terms of licencing when in a financially restrictive climate.
The large publishing houses know that a University often has students across a wide, but not exhaustive area of topics so, they often sell all-inclusive licences whereby the universities are often paying for subscriptions that they may not even need or want. The Publishers previously had a more defensible position however with E-Publishing being THE primary access route this has become harder, Yes they do arrange and sponsor conferences however within the realm of research they out-source the Editorial workload on academics paying a relative pittance. Whilst they charge so much for so little work it can be seen that they have frustrated academics and with he growth of cloud sourced initiatives and the improved communications I think we have reached a stage where eLife and other Free to access journals may have some Impact.
Speaking as an early researcher however I find it hard to convince even myself. Though some very high profile scientists have come to the rallying aid of open Access journals and their start-up, until they become serious competitors, scientists will have to choose commercial publications. This all boils down to the “Impact Factor” argument a figure which is relatively new and aims to reduce a scientist down to a single number to see how “Good they are” it is calculated using the average number of citations an article gets in a particular journal. The best journals such as Nature have impact factors around 30 and if you secure a publication here its generally a good thing.
As a early career researcher alot of pressure is placed on one to get publications especially with higher Impact factors as this brings prestige and potentially funding to your lab. It also improves application chances for PostDoc positions. So whilst i think the movement towards Open access is admirable I feel that Early career PhD students should not be expected to fight the front-line and jeopardize their career prospects until at least they, or the new journals are established competitors