Historically we would publish our papers in scientific journals. We would donate our work for free and sometimes even pay a page charge to do this.
We would assign copyright to the publishers. They may give you 50-100 reprints for free to give away.
Librabries would take a subscription to the journals and academics could get access to the journals via their library.
The Internet occurred and people have instant access and they don't go to libraries anymore.
However, the People who have the ears of Government and the Research Councils said that work paid for by the Public should be accessible to the Public so they generated the concept of "open access"
The journals laughed not only could they get you to pay publication fees, get libraries to pay for subscriptions but now they could also charge and open access fee. This can be $1,500-$5,000 per article to get this "Gold open access" so they become accessible right away.
This cost is often only a fraction of the actual cost to do the work
The research councils (NIH equivalent) would pay the open access fee, but now the research councils give a set amount to the universities to pay for this. They give less than the actual cost, so universities loose money or they stop funding this and make you do "Green Open access" where the article is embargoed for some time before a copy of the accepted paper (not the published type set version) is available.
Charities said yes do this but won't pay the fees.
Journals had another laugh, because what they did was set up new open access journals.
They are common in cases of high impact journals where people send their best work to. The top journal turns the paper down but says that you can submit to their open access journal for quick reviewing and then pay the open access fee "ker ching".
Importantly it allowed for a load of chancers to set up loads of rubbish open-access journals. You submit a paper to them and then pay for the pleasure of publishing. Ten papers could be $20,000 and all you have to do is house the pdf document on a server as there is no printed version and the work can be typeset in the middle or far East using computer software to increase your profit margin.
Ker-ching, Ker-ching. They don't even pay to put the work on "Pubmed" so no one is aware of paper.
They invite you submit (we get loads of these each day) and them charge you. Like mugs some people do this. They are desperate to fill their pages and publish any old c**p.
They also think of loads of titles to make new journal sound like existing good ones so the "Journal of Immunology" could become a new Immunology Journal or International Journal of Immunology.
Today, I got a request to submit to the "Annals of multiple sclerosis and related disorder".
Wonder what the editors of "Anals of Neurology" and "Multiple Sclerosis and related Disorders think about i?
What next "Multiple Sclerosis and related Disorders journal"
Is this a waste of money?