What is holding back the transition to open access if it does not cost more?

By Jan Velterop

open_accessIt is crystal clear that there is enough money in the scientific publishing system to make the transition from subscriptions (closed access) to Article Processing Charge (APC) supported open access. A recent post on this blog1 makes the point specifically, while commenting on the Max Planck Society’s recent study2.

So why is it not happening?

It isn’t because the financial burden would shift dramatically, even if the total costs were to remain the same. Worse, even if the total were to be materially less. This is due to the fact that an institution’s journal acquisition needs are rarely the same as its journal publishing needs. Two examples to illustrate that, one which will have to pay more, and one which sees its cost decrease:

  • Paying more in an open access world supported by APCs: An institution with many researche\rs, but focussed on a small number of (sub)disciplines (think of CERN, for example, in Geneva). The number of journals they would have to have is relatively small, and so is their subscriptions bill. The number of scientists who publish, however, is large, and so the bill for APCs – supposing they would all be published in APC-funded open access journals – relatively large. The APC bill may easily be larger than the subscriptions bill, even if the APCs were modest, so the institution in question may, at least financially, be worse off if they choose an open access policy.
  • Paying less in an open access world supported by APCs: An institution with a strong educational (student) focus as opposed to a research one. If all or most of the journal literature is open access, their library bill will dwindle, since there are no subscriptions that have to be paid for any longer.

These two examples are at opposite ends of the spectrum, but it is quite clear that for most institutions the idea of a straight swap from paying for subscriptions to paying for APCs is far from a budget-neutral exercise, and therefore in practice an insurmountable hurdle for many.

Transitions often cost extra money during the period of transition, but the problem with the scientific publishing system is that such a transition – and the extra costs – may take rather a long time. Is there then nothing to be done about it? Perhaps there is. Individual institutions may not be able to make the straight swap, because of differences between them in terms of their journal access needs and journal publishing needs. These difference, however, are much less, and may not even be significant at all if one looks at the scale of an entire country (or region, or state, in large countries). At that level, the likelihood is that the journal access needs and the journal publishing needs balance one another out.

My plea is to explore the potential of large-scale open access deals. The Max Planck Society approach2 is one, and also the Dutch universities’, unified in the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU)3, are moving in interesting directions in that regard, strongly supported by the Dutch government. I reckon their chances for success are high. It is definitely worth following their progress.

Notes

1. COP, N.Can monies spent globally on journal subscriptions be completely transitioned to an OA business model to free the journals?. SciELO in Perspective. [viewed10 September 2015]. Available from: http://blog.scielo.org/en/2015/05/26/can-monies-spent-globally-on-journal-subscriptions-be-completely-transitioned-to-an-oa-business-model-to-free-the-journals/

2. SCHIMMER, R., GESCHUHN, K.K., and VOGLER, A. Disrupting the subscription journals’ business model for the necessary large-scale transformation to open access. MPG. PuRe. 2015. DOI: 10.17617/1.3.

3. JUMP, P. Elsevier journal editors ‘may be asked to resign’ in open access row. The Word University Rankings, July 3,2015. Available from: https://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/elsevier-journal-editors-%E2%80%98may-be-asked-resign%E2%80%99-open-access-row

Reference

COP, N. Can monies spent globally on journal subscriptions be completely transitioned to an OA business model to free the journals?. SciELO in Perspective. [viewed 10 September 2015]. Available from: http://blog.scielo.org/en/2015/05/26/can-monies-spent-globally-on-journal-subscriptions-be-completely-transitioned-to-an-oa-business-model-to-free-the-journals/

External links

Max Planck Society: http://www.mpg.de/en

Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU): http://www.vsnu.nl/en_GB

About Jan Velterop

Jan Velterop (1949), marine geophysicist who became a science publisher in the mid-1970s. He started his publishing career at Elsevier in Amsterdam. in 1990 he became director of a Dutch newspaper, but returned to international science publishing in 1993 at Academic Press in London, where he developed the first country-wide deal that gave electronic access to all AP journals to all institutes of higher education in the United Kingdom (later known as the BigDeal). He next joined Nature as director, but moved quickly on to help get BioMed Central off the ground. He participated in the Budapest Open Access Initiative. In 2005 he joined Springer, based in the UK as Director of Open Access. In 2008 he left to help further develop semantic approaches to accelerate scientific discovery. He is an active advocate of BOAI-compliant open access and of the use of microattribution, the hallmark of so-called “nanopublications”. He published several articles on both topics.

 

Como citar este post [ISO 690/2010]:

VELTEROP, J. What is holding back the transition to open access if it does not cost more? [online]. SciELO in Perspective, 2015 [viewed ]. Available from: https://blog.scielo.org/en/2015/09/10/what-is-holding-back-the-transition-to-open-access-if-it-does-not-cost-more/

 

2 Thoughts on “What is holding back the transition to open access if it does not cost more?

  1. Pingback: Twitter Open Access Report – 24 September 2015 |

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