Covid-19 Shows Scientific Journals Like Elsevier Need to Open Up – Bloomberg

“One big change brought on by Covid-19 is that virtually all the scientific research being produced about it is free to read. Anyone can access the many preliminary findings that scholars are posting on “preprint servers.” Data are shared openly via a multitude of different channels. Scientific journals that normally keep their articles behind formidable paywalls have been making an exception for new research about the virus, as well as much (if not all) older work relevant to it.

This response to a global pandemic is heartening and may well speed that pandemic to its end. But after that, what happens with scientific communication? Will everything go back behind the journal paywalls?



Well, no. Open-access advocates in academia have been pushing for decades to make more of their work publicly available and paywall-free, and in recent years they’ve been joined by the government agencies and large foundations that fund much scientific research. Covid-19 has accelerated this shift. I’m pretty sure there’s no going back. …”

The costly prestige ranking of scholarly journals | Ravnetrykk

Abstract:  The prestige ranking of scholarly journals is costly to science and to society. Researchers’ payoff in terms of career progress is determined largely from where they publish their findings, and less from the content of their scholarly work. This fact creates perverted incentives for the researchers. Valuable research time is spent in trying to satisfy reviewers and editors, rather than spending their time in the most productive direction. This in turn leads to unnecessary long time from research findings are made until they become public. This costly system is upheld by the scholarly community itself. Scholars supply the journals with time, serving as reviewers and editors without any paycheck asked, even though the bulk of scientific journals are published by big commercial enterprises enjoying super profit margins. The super profit results from expensive licensing deals with the scholarly institutions. The free labour offered, on top of the payment for the licensing deals, should be viewed as part of the payment to these publishers – a payment in kind. Why not use this as a negotiating chip towards the publishers? If a publisher asks more than acceptable for a licensing deal, rather than walk away with no deal, the scholarly institutions could pull out all the free labour offered by reviewers and editors.


John Wiley & Sons: It’s Time To Pound The Table – John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (NYSE:JW.A) | Seeking Alpha

How Wiley and Sons is Positioned Against Open Access

John Wiley & Sons is a mainly digital business. According to their 2019 annual report (Pages 25-27) the plurality of their earnings come from their research division where online academic journal subscriptions are their bread and butter. In fact, their reliance on online journal subscriptions is shown by the observation that it contributes more than half of their profits for their research segment. This sector also has continuously seen a decrease over the past 2 years. This decline is likely related to the growth of the open access publishing movement going on in academia. John Wiley and Sons understands this movement as well and has taken steps to accommodate. Between 2018 and 2019, they’ve increased their open access journal revenue by 30%. Where does this money come from though? It just so happens that authors have to pay a fee to publish their papers in Wiley and Sons online journals. These fees range anywhere between $500-$2000 fee per publication. Another avenue of revenue from their open access journals is that they contain advertisements.

Regarding Open Access, Wiley currently offers two models of Open Access that is at the author’s choice. A fully open access journal or a subscription journal offering called OnlineOpen is called Gold. The other option, Green, is free to the author, but allows for a 12 to 24-month embargo period. Wiley cites in its 2019 10-K that the hybrid open access is only available to authors that are publishing in the majority of the company’s academic journals are able to make their articles available through Wiley’s OnlineOpen. This is a network effect in play, if you want to publish in a particularly respected journal, you must access it via the Wiley tollroad. Not only that, the as stated below by Wiley and Sons, the open access journals cover a wide array of disciplines as per their 2019 10-K ….”

Academic Publishing and the Future of Open Access : Optometry and Vision Science

“Unfortunately, sanity, clarity, and insight about the future of academic publishing are hard to come by—the future is highly uncertain. If I had to say which way the momentum is shifting, it is toward open access and a more binary division between very large and small publishers, with fewer midsize publishers. That probably means there will be some additional industry consolidation and possible acquisitions. Journals affiliated with academic societies will be pressured to find sufficient subscription or other revenue to support their journals. Alternatively, author charges or some viable mix of subscription and page charge revenues will sustain them. Publishers will be increasingly pressured to serve the interests of authors as well as the interests of their funding agencies. The prospect of 38% annual profits is likely gone, and publishers will be pushed to further innovate in how they produce, distribute, and market scientific knowledge to maintain their relevance and market share. It would be interesting if scientific articles were treated like digital music. If a unifying force were capable of bringing the biggest publishing houses to the table to negotiate reasonable fees for libraries, authors, and the broader public, this could truly transform the world’s access to scientific knowledge….”

How the academic publishing oligopoly skews debates on the cost of publishing | Samuel Moore


Financial matters have always been an area of dispute within OA debates, particularly over how much publishing should cost and how much profit should be returned to shareholders. Some people advocate for a more efficient publishing process (whereby an individual article is cheaper to produce) or a transparent market to inform purchasing decisions, while others argue for an entirely non-profit space or a restriction on the profiteering of large commercial publishers. Both of these are ideological arguments that either reflect faith in market outcomes to produce efficient results or distrust in markets and the need for interventions to generate healthier publishing cultures. (of course, this is not a simple binary for many people but a broad generalisation.)

Yet what gets lost in the debates about the cost of publishing is the nuance around what publishing actually is and who publishers actually are. Publishing isn’t a specific practice by a certain kind of organisation, but instead reflects a multitude of practices, business models, formats, political modes, and so on. But this diversity is obscured by the fact that publishing is also a highly concentrated industry. The skewed debate exists not just because publishing means a range of different things, but also because 5-6 publishers have a market share of roughly half of the entire academic publishing industry. This means that the way in which many researchers interact with publishers is largely influenced by the oligopoly, even though publishing represents a plurality of practices.


Hiltzik: Coronavirus shows the value of open access to scientific research – Los Angeles Times

“Of all the ways the current coronavirus crisis has upended commonplace routines — such as disrupting global supply chains and forcing workers to stay at home — one of the most positive is how it demonstrates the value of open access to scientific research….

According to the Journal of the American Medical Assn., “The data surrounding the biology, epidemiology and clinical characteristics of the SARS-CoV-2 virus [the virus causing the current outbreak] have been growing daily, with more than 400 articles listed in PubMed.” That’s a free database of research papers maintained by the National Institutes of Health.

Among the major violators of the principle that a crisis demands more information, not less, is the U.S. government….

As Politico first reported, the agency also quietly removed data on its website about the number of people tested for the virus in the United States, possibly out of embarrassment about technical glitches that prevented thousands more tests to be administered.

That’s a crucial information gap, because knowing how many people have been tested would help determine how far and how quickly the virus has been spreading in the U.S., as well as the effectiveness of the government’s management of the crisis….

The current crisis has demonstrated the value of open access to research, as well as the drawbacks of secrecy….”

Business as Usual with Article Processing Charges in the Transition towards OA Publishing: A Case Study Based on Elsevier

Abstract: This paper addresses the topic of the article processing charges (APCs) that are paid when publishing articles using the open access (OA) option. Building on the Elsevier OA price list, company balance sheet figures, and ScienceDirect data, tentative answers to three questions are outlined using a Monte Carlo approach to deal with the uncertainty inherent in the inputs. The first question refers to the level of APCs from the market perspective, under the hypothesis that all the articles published in Elsevier journals exploit the OA model so that the subscription to ScienceDirect becomes worthless. The second question is how much Elsevier should charge for publishing all the articles under the OA model, assuming the profit margin reduces and adheres to the market benchmark. The third issue is how many articles would have to be accepted, in an OA-only publishing landscape, so that the publisher benefits from the same revenue and profit margin as in the recent past. The results point to high APCs, nearly twice the current level, being required to preserve the publisher’s profit margin. Otherwise, by relaxing that constraint, a downward shift of APCs can be expected so they would tend to get close to current values. Accordingly, the article acceptance rate could be likely to grow from 26–27% to about 35–55%.

Mutinous librarians help drive change at Elsevier | Financial Times

“The company is facing a profound shift in the way it does business, as customers reject traditional charging structures. Open access publishing — the move to break down paywalls and make scientific research free to read — is upending the funding model for journals, at the behest of regulators and some big research funders, while online tools and the illicit Russian pirate-site Sci-Hub are taking readers. Even Donald Trump’s administration in December began consulting on an executive order to “liberate” publicly funded research, according to people briefed on the process….

But its willingness to experiment has increased markedly since Kumsal Bayazit, an Istanbul-born former management consultant, took over as chief executive last year. Admitting Elsevier’s transition to open access was too “slow”, she is now stepping up one of the big evolutions of the company’s history….”

Kumsal Bayazit, Elsevier CEO, shares her vision for building a better future in research

“You [librarians] are helping researchers and institutional leaders preserve and showcase their intellectual outputs. For example, you are establishing and populating Institutional Repositories to capture data-sets, theses, dissertations, conference presentations [note, doesn’t mention articles]. I learned that across more than 500 Digital Commons repositories, we estimate that 94% of the content and 91% of the downloads are for materials other than previously published, peer-reviewed journal articles that libraries have collected and shared openly to deliver on their institution’s mission….

You are promoting and enabling open access in its many forms, including by funding repositories and Article Publication Charges; and by creating your own journals and university presses….

First and foremost, I want to be very clear: Elsevier fully supports open access….

No one can dispute the beauty of the vision of freely-accessible, immediately-available research content, whether peer-reviewed published articles or other scholarly work. I am a UC Berkeley alumna, so these kinds of values were installed in me as a fresh new undergraduate. As Elsevier’s CEO, I am committed to working with you and the rest of the global research community towards a more fully open access future.

In fact, my professional background is in applying technology to content to help professionals make better decisions. For example, working in the part of RELX that serves legal professionals, I’ve seen the powerful benefits of analytical services that are built on top of freely available content, such as case law. This is why I’m excited by the potential to create value for researchers by applying text-mining and artificial intelligence technologies to the entire corpus of peer-reviewed content. I understand and appreciate the role that open access can play in delivering that vision.


The question is not whether open access is desirable or beneficial — the question is how we get there….

I am a pragmatist, and I commit to working pragmatically with libraries and other stakeholders to achieve shared open access goals. Part of this means acknowledging obstacles where they exist and discussing them openly and objectively so that we can find solutions to overcome them….”

The NIH public access policy did not harm biomedical journals

Abstract:  The United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) imposed a public access policy on all publications for which the research was supported by their grants; the policy was drafted in 2004 and took effect in 2008. The policy is now 11 years old, yet no analysis has been presented to assess whether in fact this largest-scale US-based public access policy affected the vitality of the scholarly publishing enterprise, as manifested in changed mortality or natality rates of biomedical journals. We show here that implementation of the NIH policy was associated with slightly elevated mortality rates and mildly depressed natality rates of biomedical journals, but that birth rates so exceeded death rates that numbers of biomedical journals continued to rise, even in the face of the implementation of such a sweeping public access policy.