One of the most prestigious scientific publishers is launching a new journal that will be open for everyone to read. Titled Science Advances, it will be the first open-access journal from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the nonprofit publisher behind Science — a journal generally considered to be among the very best in its field. The new publication will debut early next year and cover a broad scope of disciplines, and AAAS plans to broaden Science's scope as well to allow both journals to serve an increasingly broad audience.

Where the two journals will differ distinctly is their publication process. While both journals will make use of peer review and employ editors, Science will continue to publish accepted work largely for free, while Science Advances will charge researchers who wish to have their work published. That's a result of the new journal's business model: while Science requires a subscription to read its articles, Science Advances will be funded by these publication fees.

Open-access publishing has become increasingly popular

There's been much contention over the merits of the subscription and open-access models. While subscription journals are often more selective and rigorous in their review process, they also lock important research behind a paywall, even though that research has often benefitted from public funding. So far, however, open-access journals have been far less appealing to researchers — even to those who might sing their praises — simply because few are accompanied by the type of esteem and creditability given to those published in well-known subscription journals.

AAAS seems to be hoping that Science Advances can change that. In part, that's because the new journal still carries the Science name. It also intends to only publish high-quality research — and in fact, papers reviewed favorably at Science itself and are cut due to printing limitations will be automatically considered for publication in Science Advances.

Even so, this is unlikely to be the tipping point for open-access research. For one, Science's biggest competitor, Nature, launched an open-access spinoff several years ago under the name Scientific Reports. And publication fees come with their own problems too, such as excluding researchers from poorer areas. These journals have to fund their editorial processes somehow, but charging cash-strapped researchers isn't ideal no matter where they put the paywall.