Who pays for Open Access?


Library Journal includes a brief article about the Article Processing Charge model of open access publishing. This is by no means the only business model for open access publications, but it does account for approximately half of open access articles.

The article indicates that grant funding is increasingly being made available to pay these charges:

Claus Roll, Publishing Editor at EDP Sciences, also believes that available funding for Open Access is increasing, albeit slowly. This is a reflection of changing public policy. “Public and private funders like the NIH or the Wellcome Trust have a say in how their money is used,” he said. “They make Open Access publishing a requirement because they want to give the public insight into their funded research that may have a societal impact.”

Roll noted that while the OA model places a cost requirement on the author and his or her employer (typically absorbed by STEM grant providers), it also provides a tangible financial benefit. Researchers building on the work of others—a fact of life in the scientific community—are less encumbered by costs when accessing others’ OA articles. The “pay it forward” notion is particularly attractive.


Combating the double-dip

The Scholarly Kitchen blog has an interesting post today about the new “total cost of access” deals that some universities/libraries are striking with publishers. The post takes issue with the lack of transparency and a perceived  me-first attitude, but the deals do begin to chip away at what has been, up to now, a practice that benefited only the publishers’ bottom lines.

These deals may represent a shift from global offsetting to local offsetting. Avoiding “double dipping” has been a requirement for publishers with the rise of OA. When an author pays for an article to be made OA, subscription prices are expected to be reduced a proportionate amount, as subscribers should not be made to pay for free content. The added revenue from the author is “offset” by globally reducing the revenue a small amount from all subscribers. But local offsetting deals seek to keep the savings at the institution paying the OA fee. Institutions argue that their total cost should remain flat, so the added APC revenue from the author’s institution should be offset by a reduction in that institution’s subscription price. Offsetting is thus “local”, rather than spreading the savings around to all subscribers.

Megajournals and Open Access

An article in yesterday’s Chronicle of Higher Education provides some analysis of the megajournal PLOS ONE, and along the way discusses the gathering momentum of the OA movement and such related issues as impact factors and predatory publishers.

As an Open-Access Megajournal Cedes Some Ground, a Movement Gathers Steam

In short, PLOS ONE — now consistently publishing around 30,000 articles a year — has attracted much more company in its mission to build huge stocks of freely available scientific research. “Since PLOS ONE’s tremendous success, everyone and their grandmother has created a megajournal,” said David J. Solomon, an emeritus professor of medicine at Michigan State University who studies open-access economics.

After years of traditional journals battling the open-access movement, said another analyst, Jevin D. West, an assistant professor of information studies at the University of Washington, “look at all the major publishers — they’re all playing now.”

Heidelberg Historic Literature – Digitized

heidelberg-2The Heidelberg University Library has an excellent digitization program. Some of the material that it has digitized include sources of the history of Heidelberg University; charters relating to Palatine history; anatomical literature and drawings; books on ancient Egyptian medicine; works on the theory and history of art; rare works from the library’s valuable collection on South Asia (for example the 18th century Hicky’s Bengal Gazette, or The Original Calcutta General Advertiser and the 20th century Himalayan Times); historic maps; and much more. Particularly interesting are the numerous titles from Heidelberg’s extensive collection of incunabula that have been digitized. For more information about Heidelberg’s digitization program see Heidelberg historic literature – digitized.


BC Libraries support Open Library of the Humanities

OLH-WebsiteLogo-PNGThe Open Library of Humanities is an academic-led, gold open-access publisher with no author publishing charges. With funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the platform covers its costs by payments from an international library consortium, rather than any kind of author fee.

Dr. Martin Paul Eve, a founder and academic project director of the OLH, welcomed Boston College: “I am delighted that Boston College has joined the OLH LPS membership model. The humanities benefit from open access but we often struggle to think how to implement this. With our unique model and with the help of institutions like Boston College we will help to move towards a transition to OA in the humanities”.

Elliot Brandow, Senior Digital Scholarship Librarian/Bibliographer for History, said “Boston College Libraries are thrilled to contribute to this exciting new platform for open access scholarship in the humanities. Library support for open access comes in many forms – from building open digitized collections, to financing article processing fees, to advocating with our faculty and students, to exploring new publishing models like this one. We’re especially pleased by how much scholars and the public will be able to benefit relative to such a minimal institutional investment, and we hope other institutions will join us and many others in supporting the Open Library of the Humanities.”

Protest against Elsevier by Lingua

 November 2, 2015
Scott Jaschik
All six editors and all 31 editorial board members of Lingua, one of the top journals in linguistics, last week resigned to protest Elsevier’s policies on pricing and its refusal to convert the journal to an open-access publication that would be free online. As soon as January, when the departing editors’ noncompete contracts expire, they plan to start a new open-access journal to be called Glossa.


Copyright Fail: ‘Pirating’ Academic Papers Not Only Commonplace, But Now Seen As Mainstream

Techdirt has been writing about open access for many years. The idea and practice are certainly spreading, but they’re spreading more slowly than many in the academic world had hoped. That’s particularly frustrating when you’re a researcher who can’t find a particular academic paper freely available as open access, and you really need it now. So it’s no surprise that people resort to other methods, like asking around if anyone has a copy they could send. The Internet being the Internet, it’s also no surprise that this ad-hoc practice has evolved into a formalized system, using Twitter and the hashtag #icanhazpdf to ask other researchers if they have a copy of the article in question. But what is surprising is that recently there have been two articles on mainstream sites that treat the approach as if it’s really quite a reasonable thing to do.


It’s a further sign of copyright’s dwindling relevance in a world whose central technology — the Internet — is built on sharing and openness.

OA Agreement Between Springer and Jisc

A new open access agreement between Springer and the UK’s Jisc (Joint Information Systems Committee) came into effect today. It is a pilot project (running until December 2018) that will make it easier for UK scholars to publish their articles as open access while keeping in compliance with the OA policies of major funders. The project will also result in universities and other educational institutions saving on their OA publishing costs.

From the 22 October, 2015 press release:

Starting today, researchers in the UK will be able to publish their articles open access in over 1,600 Springer hybrid journals without cost barriers or administrative barriers. The Springer Compact agreement is a pilot that combines open access publishing and subscription access in one annual fee and will run from October 2015 until December 2018.

The transformative agreement between Springer and Jisc, a charity which provides digital solutions for UK education and research, will make it easier for UK researchers to publish open access and ensure that that all articles published comply with HEFCE’s Research Excellence Framework, RCUK’s open access policy and other major funders such as the Charity Open Access Fund. At the same time, for institutions, the total cost and administrative burden of open access publishing and continuing access to the 2,000 Springer subscription journals are significantly reduced.

Open Access a Top Priority for the EU

EU Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation Carlos Moedas and Sander Dekker, the Dutch Secretary of State for Education, Culture and Science, have called on scientific publishers to adapt their business models to new realities. They specifically urged publishers to get serious about open access, a priority of both the European Commission as well as of Dutch universities.

Carlos Moedas:

Europe generates more scientific output than any other region in the world. In parallel, there is a revolution happening in the way science works. Every part of the scientific method is nowadays becoming an open, collaborative and participative process. Can publishers afford to stay out of that trend? I believe that much effort needs to be done by the main publishers to adjust their business models to the realities of the 21st century.

Sander Dekker:

I support the initiative of the League of European Research Universities (LERU) to join forces towards Open Access in research. Dutch universities already show the importance of organising themselves in the negotiations with publishers. That way they can successfully stand their ground towards publishers. In addition, Dutch universities are even prepared to not sign new contracts, if needed. The fact that all LERU members now let go of the old subscription-based models with big deals and clearly choose for models based on Open Access, perfectly fits with the Dutch Open Science policy. In this policy, results of publicly funded research must be available free of charge for everyone. This will be a priority during the Dutch Presidency of the EU in the first semester of 2016.

The full joint statement of 12 October, 2015.

APS: Open Access Could Mean Authors Pay to Publish

Michael Lubell and Mark Elsesser, both employees of the American Physical Society (APS), recently published a provocative article in APS News, “Open Access Could Mean Authors Pay to Publish”. Declaring that APS has long been a supporter of OA, as evidenced by a number of important initiatives undertaken by the Society, they also point out that OA is not free. There is a real monetary cost to peer review, composition, archiving and other essential publishing activities. They go on to assert that as mandates proliferate the “time to free access” will inevitably shrink both domestically and internationally and that APS, as well as other scientific publishers, will be obliged to consider other strategies to pay for its OA initiatives. One of these strategies will very likely be the “author pays” model, a model that the authors point out is associated with a number of serious challenges. They argue cogently:

Unless they have access to other sources of revenue, authors will have to use their research grant money, institutional funds or cash from their own pockets to cover the cost of publication (which may be in excess of two thousand dollars per article). Moreover, a change to an author-pays model would especially harm researchers with small grants or no grants at all. And if federal science budgets remain fixed, the amount of money available for conducting research would decline.

Nevertheless, Lubell and Elsesser  acknowledge that the APS might be forced to adopt “author-pays.” They quote APS CEO Kate Kirby: “As an international publisher, in the short term APS will have to provide mechanisms that satisfy the patchwork of open access mandates across the globe. As a membership organization that advocates for physics and physicists, in the long term APS will have to remain attentive to the impact of ‘author pays’ on scientific research budgets.”