I am quite persuaded by Michael Eisen’s recent comments on open access:
...it is simply unacceptable for any scientist who decries Elsevier's actions and believes that the subscription based model is no longer serving science to send a single additional paper to journals that do not provide full OA [open access] to every paper they publish.
But how can I do that if Genetics isn’t fully open? Genetics charges an extra \$1200 to make an article open access. Would it really cost \$1200 per article to make the journal fully open?
Another follow-up to my comments yesterday: I had suggested that copyright law might be changed to make papers coming from federal research grants fully open. I later found an interesting paper in the Journal of Legal Analysis, Should copyright of academic works be abolished? The author concludes:
...if publication fees would be largely defrayed by universities and grantors, as I suggest would be to their advantage, then the elimination of copyright of academic works would likely be socially desirable: it would not compromise academic publication activity and would yield the social benefits of a copyright-free regime.
I haven’t read the whole paper, and there’s a bit of quantitative analysis that I don’t think I’ll like, but it does provide a thorough argument for what I see as the real need: to change copyright law. Still, I’m not sure that monographs should be treated the same as journal articles.
Another interesting point: The Journal of Legal Analysis is open access (articles are published under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial licence), and it seems to be funded in part through the endowment model I’d mentioned:
The journal is underwritten by a generous grant from the Considine Family Foundation, and continues to enjoy the strong support of the Harvard Law School and the John M. Olin Center for Law, Economics, and Business.