Countering the given reasons

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  • "To promote the Progress of Science" we need a vibrant publishing industry

No, we need an ecology in which ideas and information can be widely accessed and discussed. Forcing it to flow through a paid channel restricts access instead.

Besides, even large university libraries have budgets, and there are always journals the library cannot afford to add to its list of subscriptions. How vibrant can a publishing industry be when access to it is so restricted by cost that a dwindling percentage of students and scientists can examine the material? Restricted access simply means that there are papers that will be read by only a few people, no matter how worthy they are. This does not promote progress, it hinders it.

  • The publishers have added value to the work by editing it

And it is certainly their choice to decide whether to invest in such editing, and whether the value added by this is sufficiently compelling to compete with free access to the original data. It could be argued that by not providing access directly to the original work in full that they are actually decreasing its value, as the original, full context is no longer available. It is in fact more valuable to have the original data in full.

Biomedical journals do not actually "edit" manuscripts; the copy-editing that takes place prior to proof stage is minor and confined to author queries where something is ambiguous or not following some journal standard practice (some journals, for example, do not allow authors to claim primacy, i.e., "this is the first time anyone has shown..."). The real work of improving the quality of the manuscript takes place during the review process, when faculty with expertise in the field are asked by the journal to evaluate the work. They provide comments, pointing out flaws in reasoning or raising new factors to be considered and sometimes provide detailed suggestions for new experiments that must be completed before they will be convinced of the claims being made in the manuscript. All this takes place without any compensation to the reviewers, who spend several hours reviewing the manuscript. Furthermore, in many journals the editors do not even step in to make a decision when there is disagreement among the reviewers. Finally, a paper that doesn't get published in one journal will usually find a suitable home elsewhere. Journal editors can be useful--they are necessary to the process of submitting a paper for review and eventual publication--but to claim that they "add value" to the work is ludicrous: at most they are gatekeepers for their own journal, not even the field at large.

  • Publishing-industry jobs will be lost if the government interferes

Evidence against this argument as assembled by Peter Suber Evidence against as argument through back-of-the-envelope analysis by Heather Piwowar