Guest Post: From Supermarkets to Marketplaces – The Evolution of the Open Access Ecosystem – The Scholarly Kitchen

“Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Sven Fund. Sven is the Managing Director of Knowledge Unlatched and founder of fullstopp, a digital consulting agency serving publishers, libraries, and intermediaries. From 2008 to 2015, Sven was the CEO of Berlin-based publisher De Gruyter. Prior to that he served in different functions from Managing Director to Executive Board member at what is now Springer Nature. He is a lecturer at Humboldt University in Berlin.

Open access (OA) is undergoing yet another metamorphosis. So far, the space has been dominated by author-pays (via Article Processing Charges – APCs) models, both hybrid and “pure”. And while funders like Wellcome and the German Research Foundation are reviewing their policies – many of them a decade old by now – it is becoming ever clearer that APCs will not be the future of OA, at least not uniquely. With their normative approach of flipping traditional acquisition budgets, Ralf Schimmer, Kai Geschuhn and Andreas Vogler have been advocating in principle that which is now becoming reality: i.e. that in order to really shake up the academic publishing market, other transactional models are necessary….

To make OA really work, libraries have to cooperate and co-spend in order to shift the market-shaping from publishers to themselves. Publishers are structured like supermarkets: They operate as global consortia around their own products, generating demand, shouldering financial risk and investments and in the process generating profit. As long as libraries or other agents are not prepared to supersede this role with a better structure, the underlying problem will remain….”

News & Views: Trendspotting in OA Spending – Delta Think

“The findings in the report are not surprising: they match closely with Delta Think’s numbers from October, and with those in similar reports. Open access is established; it now covers significant minority share of output, but its growth is slowing:

  • Globally, publishers offer OA options mainly through hybrid journals: 72% of journals are hybrid, 19% fully OA, and 9% of journals are subscription only.
  • Uptake, in terms of articles suggests that 19% of all articles published are available immediately on publication as OA, split between 15% in fully OA journals and just under 4% in hybrid journals.
  • The report explores delayed OA options, giving a read on Green OA, with an uptake of just under 5% in the year of publication.
  • The 2017 update reduces its OA estimates slightly compared with its 2015 version. The results are summarized in the table below. The variations speak to the challenges in gathering data, and the necessity to keep refining models over time….”
  • APCs now form a significant additional expense. For the payments that universities make to the seven largest publishers, the ratio between subscriptions and APCs is 5:1. This equates to a 17% share of revenue compared to a 31% share of output. As we have discussed in our previous market analyses, on average the revenue generated by OA is proportionately less than its share of output.
  • More than half the expenditure on APCs in 2016 went to the three major publishing groups, Elsevier, Springer Nature, and Wiley, with a particularly sharp rise for Elsevier since 2014.
  • The report confirms the well-known finding that APCs for hybrid journals are more expensive that those in fully OA journals: 28% higher on average in 2016.
  • But, this gap may be closing: hybrid prices paid rose by 14% in the three years from 2013 (to £2,095 on average), but by 33% for fully-OA journals (to £1,640) in the same period. Delta Think’s market models suggest that, whilst hybrid prices are higher, they also bear higher discount levels, so it would appear that the gap between fully OA and hybrid prices is closing….
  • The number of APCs paid by a sample of 10 UK universities rose more than fivefold.
  • The average cost of an APC rose by 16% (as compared with a rise of 5% in the consumer price index; the CPI.)
  • Spending on subscriptions for the report’s sample rose by 20%.
  • Nuances within hybrid spending show the same quadrupling of APCs, with combined APC & sub spending up by one third…in other words, APC spending is eating share. The ratio between subscription and hybrid APC spending has fallen to 6:1 in 2016 from 19:1 3 years previously….”

The Development of Open Access in Latin America and Caribbean: Mapping National and International Policies and Scientific Publications of the Region

“In this paper, we map OA publications in Latin America and observe how Latin American countries are moving forward and becoming a leading force in widening access to knowledge. Our analysis, developed as part of the H2020 EULAC Focus research project, is based on mixed methods and consists mainly of a bibliometric analysis of OA publications indexed in the most important scientific databases (Web of Science and Scopus) and OA regional repositories, as well as the qualitative analysis of documents related to the main OA initiatives in Latin America. Through our analysis, we aim at reflecting critically on what policies, international standards, and best practices might be adapted to incorporate OA worldwide and improve the infrastructure of the global knowledge commons.”

Poynder On Point: Ten Years After

“The open access (OA) movement has had some big wins this year: In July [2004], a cross-party group of British politicians called on the U.K. government to make all publicly funded research accessible to everyone “free of charge, online.” That same month, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations recommended that all NIH-funded research be made freely available 6 months after publication. But where did the OA movement come from, and where is it taking us? …”

Europe set to miss flagship open access target | THE News

“The European Union is set to miss its target of having all scientific research freely available by 2020, as progress towards open access hits a “plateau” because of deeper problems in how research is assessed. Sixty to 70 per cent of universities reported that less than a fifth of their researchers’ peer-reviewed publications are freely available, depending on the type of open access, according to a survey of more than 300 members of the European University Association. 

Only one in 10 universities said that more than 40 per cent of their research was published as “gold” open access, where there is no delay making it public. In 2016, EU member states’ science and industry ministers, supported by the European Commission, backed a move to full open access in just four years. This latest survey asks members about papers published in 2013, 2014 and 2015, so may not capture all progress made to date. But it still concludes that to hit the 2020 target “will require greater engagement by all of the relevant stakeholders”.

This chimes with an EU progress report released at the end of February which concludes that “100 per cent full open access in 2020 is realistically not achievable in the majority of European countries participating in this exercise in the foreseeable future”. Lidia Borrell-Damian, the EUA’s director for research and innovation, said that “unfortunately [full open access] is very difficult to achieve” and that “we have reached a plateau in which it’s very difficult to move forward”.

Open access had taken off in some subjects – like physics, where the open access arXiv pre-print platform is widely used – in which “traditional indicators” of journal prestige such as impact factors and other measures of citations were “less relevant”, she explained. But in most disciplines, these measures were still crucial for burnishing researchers’ career prospects, she added, making it difficult for authors to switch to less prestigious, lower impact factor open access journals. “As long as it [research assessment] is based on these proxy indicators, it’s impossible to change the game,” Dr Borrell-Damian said. Search our database of more than 3,000 global university jobs

This is backed up by the survey findings. The biggest barrier to publishing in an open access repository was the “high priority given to publishing in conventional journals”, a hindrance cited by more than eight in 10 universities. “Concerns about the quality of open access publications” were also mentioned by nearly 70 per cent of respondents. In some disciplines, to publish open access, “you have to be a believer or activist” and it comes “at the risk of damaging your own career”, Dr Borrell-Damian said.

Echoing a long-standing concern in science, she argued that “we need a whole new system” of research assessment that does not rely so heavily on citations and impact factors. The EU’s flagship Horizon 2020 funding scheme requires grant recipients to publish their findings openly, but this was a far from universal policy for national funding bodies, she added. A spokesman for the EU Council acknowledged that “more efforts will be needed overall to accelerate progress towards full open access for all scientific publications”.”

Peter Suber reports how Openness advances | petermr’s blog

“Peter Suber is one of my role models as one of the clearest and therefore most compelling advocate of Openness. He collects almost comprehensive information if what is happening and reports it in a compellingly simple clear manner. He is one of those people whose prose is a joy to read. Where others’ thinking is muddled (or deliberately obfuscated) he cuts it apart clinically and compellingly….

He’s written a review of 2010, (long but compelling) and there are countless examples of organizations and people bringing in Open ideas, requirements, practices, content, tools. The involvement of governments is particularly welcome. This is mainly an account of the positive, though he also notes neutral (e.g. hybrid OA is stagnant at best [PMR – I never liked it anyway]) and some retrograde practices or vacillation of some organizations.

Without a denominator (or the true-negatives) it’s difficult to give absolute numbers to the growth in OA. For example how many governments did nothing. How many Universities don’t care about Openness (at least enough to spend money). And IMO Universities are the primary problem in much of this – publishers have built a 10-billion dollar market on the apathy of vice-chancellors and it’s now going to be hard to pull it back….”

Kristin Antelman, Leveraging the Growth of Open Access in Library Collection Decision Making

“A primary goal for collection management is assessing the relative value of continuing information resources. A variety of new environmental factors and data are pertinent to relative value. One of the emerging metrics is the degree to which the articles within a subscription journal are also available open access (OA). That OA level directly affects the value of a journal subscription. This paper outlines a theoretical model for accounting for open access in decision making by proposing an Open Access-adjusted Cost per Download metric. Refinements to the metric are also discussed, as well as how it can be applied, and the broader scholarly communication implications of leveraging open access in library decision making….

From the perspective of the individual institution, transformation of the broader scholarly communication system will always be indirect. Each research library can focus on journal value, supporting new OA models where applicable, and making decisions that support management flexibility suitable for a rapidly changing environment. Since the library shields costs from journals’ primary stakeholders (readers), the library bears the responsibility to be good stewards of those resources. If we choose not to use OA in decision making, even as the data becomes more readily available and reliable, we are not being good stewards of our institutional resources, and we are not serving future researchers as much as we could be through development of collectively heterogeneous and deep collections.33 One of the broadest questions research libraries are faced with is an ethical one: are we perpetuating a legacy, and suboptimal, scholarly communication system that does not best serve either current or future researchers? While the impact of the perpetuation of the traditional journal subscription model on research libraries’ collective collection diversity is out of scope here, it is relevant to note that continued commitment to the model, especially in the form of a big deal, constrains experimentation with—and adoption of—new OA funding models. The resulting lack of budget flexibility, even in the presence of organizational will to make substantive changes, consigns OA-related initiatives to the margins where they are largely disconntected from the core players and systemwide economic forces. Transition to a competitive OA journal market will require disruption of the current market.34 Until libraries use all available data, including about OA, to reduce expenditures on traditional subscription journals, large publishers will continue to develop a separate author-facing market (Hybrid OA) and to restrict non-market OA (Green). A meaningfully reduced spending on traditional subscription journals will push lower value journals into unsustainability as subscription journals; they may then become viable through competing for authors as Gold OA journals, or they may be nonviable and be eliminated. The OA-adjusted Cost per Download is one tool to support libraries in leveraging, and even just thinking about, all of the data that is available to us in a rapidly changing scholarly communication landscape.”

Research: Sci-Hub provides access to nearly all scholarly literature | eLife | Daniel Scott Himmelstein et al.

“Abstract: The website Sci-Hub enables users to download PDF versions of scholarly articles, including many articles that are paywalled at their journal’s site. Sci-Hub has grown rapidly since its creation in 2011, but the extent of its coverage was unclear. Here we report that, as of March 2017, Sci-Hub’s database contains 68.9% of the 81.6 million scholarly articles registered with Crossref and 85.1% of articles published in toll access journals. We find that coverage varies by discipline and publisher, and that Sci-Hub preferentially covers popular, paywalled content. For toll access articles, we find that Sci-Hub provides greater coverage than the University of Pennsylvania, a major research university in the United States. Green open access to toll access articles via licit services, on the other hand, remains quite limited. Our interactive browser at allows users to explore these findings in more detail. For the first time, nearly all scholarly literature is available gratis to anyone with an Internet connection, suggesting the toll access business model may become unsustainable.”