It seems clear from the HHMI response that they missed the point of our Editorial. They note that they are providing public access to HHMI-funded research with their outlay of cash to publishers (both commercial and non-commercial). This fact was not in dispute.
They do not, however, address the effect of their actions on the public access movement—that is, the effort to get publishers (especially commercial publishers, who have refused to release the bulk of their content to the public) to provide public access to their holdings after a short delay. If the Rockefeller University Press does not need reimbursement to provide free access after 6 months, neither should other publishers. Elsevier already makes vast sums of money publishing publicly funded research, and they should feel an obligation to give something back to the public. Paying publishers to provide spotty access to just a few of the papers they publish (e.g., those authored by HHMI investigators) does not address the issue of public access to all of the scientific literature. HHMI had an opportunity to exert some pressure on publishers to achieve that goal, and they chose not to do so. Although they claim they were trying to find a balance between public access and “scholarly freedom,” they did not succeed. Instead, the public access movement has suffered because HHMI gave in to the selfish desire of some of their investigators to continue publishing in Cell. This serves neither the public, nor science.