A brief look at the range of costs of downloading a scientific article.

I never really take that much notice of per-article fees. It’s not as if I ever pay them.

As a diversion from writing, I did a very lax survey of sorts of a small number of biological science journals. (I’m a biologist, so I’m sticking to what I know.)

What tipped me off was that while writing an earlier article I noticed that the cost to ’rent’ one of the papers was $US0.99. (This diverts to the DeepDyve website, which enables you to read the paper for up to 24 hours. One subscription option gives 25 articles for $US19.99. The first three rentals are free.)

By contrast the cost of purchasing the articles in my earlier blog article directly were:

The Carbohydrate Research article is only 3 pages long, which would work out at $US 10.5o per page.

On top of these fees would be credit card fees and current exchange costs for those outside the USA.

Looking at more biological science journals – leaving aside open access journals, which cost nothing to read – the wide range in costs of access to articles continued. I’ve picked these from randomly selected articles in the latest editions (sorted by cheapest option):

Clearly you couldn’t buy articles one-by-one on a regular basis unless you are rather well off!


Most journals now have some articles free. Variations on this are noted below for the journals looked at.

* Many of the commentary articles are also free.

** This is the formal, aka ’correct’, abbreviation. It’s usually known by the acronym PNAS (most people prefer to say this letter by letter, rather than as a word for fairly obvious reasons).

*** All research articles are free but review and commentary articles are by subscription or payment. These are the estimate costs the service offers. A 30-day free trial is available.

Other articles in Code for life:

What famous writer do you write like?

Temperature-induced hearing loss

Royal Society publishing free to read, 1665 – today

Oliver Sacks on Hallucinations

What is your relationship with your research notebook?