Scholarly journal publishing in transition – from restricted to open access

Authors : Bo-Christer Björk

While the business models used in most segments of the media industry have been profoundly changed by the Internet surprisingly little has changed in the publishing of scholarly peer reviewed journals. Electronic delivery has become the norm, but the same publishers as before are still dominating the market, selling content to subscribers.

This article asks the question why Open Access (OA) to the output of mainly publicly funded research hasn’t yet become the mainstream business model. OA implies a reversal of revenue logic from readers paying for content to authors paying for dissemination via universal free access.

The current situation is analyzed using Porter’s five forces model. The analysis demonstrates a lack of competitive pressure in this industry, leading to so high profit levels of the leading publishers that they have not yet felt a strong need to change the way they operate.

OA funded by article publishing charges (APCs) might nevertheless start rapidly becoming more common. The driving force currently consists of the public research funders and administrations in Europe, which are pushing for OA by starting dedicated funds for paying the APCs of authors from the respective countries.

This has in turn lead to a situation in which publishers have introduced “big deals” involving the bundling of (a) subscription to all their  journals, (b) APCs for their hybrid journals and (c) in the future also APCs to their full OA journals.

This appears to be a relatively risk free strategy for the publishers in question to retain their dominance of the market and high profit levels also in the future.

URL : http://www.openaccesspublishing.org/Landscape%20Green%20versionacr.pdf

How subscription-based scholarly journals can convert to open access: A review of approaches

Authors : Mikael Laakso, David Solomon, Bo-Christer Björk

This article reviews the ways through which subscription-based scholarly journals have converted to open access. The methodology included a comprehensive literature review of both published and ‘grey’ literature, such as blog posts and press releases.

Eight interviews were also conducted with stakeholders representing different parts of the scholarly publishing landscape. Strategies of conversion for different types of journals are presented at multiple levels (publishers, national, research funders, organizational, and so on).

The identified scenarios are split into two main categories, those that rely heavily on article processing charges and those that can operate without relying on author-side financing.

Despite there being interesting and important shared traits among many converted journals, individual circumstances largely dictate what options for conversion are viable for a journal. There is no single solution that works for every journal but rather a broad selection of different solutions, among which selection should be well informed.

URL : How subscription-based scholarly journals can convert to open access: A review of approaches

Alternative location : http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/leap.1056/full

Hybrid open access—A longitudinal study

Authors : Mikael Laakso, Bo-Christer Björk

This study estimates the development of hybrid open access (OA), i.e. articles published openly on the web within subscription-access journals. Included in the study are the five largest publishers of scholarly journals; Elsevier, Springer, Wiley-Blackwell, Taylor & Francis, and Sage.

Since no central indexing or standardized metadata exists for identifying hybrid OA an explorative bottom-up methodological approach was developed. The individual search and filtering features of each publisher website and a-priori availability of data were leveraged to the extent possible.

The results indicate a strong sustained growth in the volume of articles published as hybrid OA during 2007 (666 articles) to 2013 (13 994 articles). The share of hybrid articles was at 3.8% of total published articles for the period of 2011–2013 for journals with at least one identified hybrid OA article.

Journals within the Scopus discipline categorization of Health and Life Sciences, in particular the field of Medicine, were found to be among the most frequent publishers of hybrid OA content.

The study surfaces the many methodological challenges involved in obtaining metrics regarding hybrid OA, a growing business for journal publishers as science policy pressures for reduced access barriers to research publications.

URL : Hybrid open access—A longitudinal study

DOI : http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.joi.2016.08.002

Converting Scholarly Journals to Open Access: A Review of Approaches and Experiences

Authors : David Solomon, Mikael Laakso, Bo-Christer Björk

This report identifies ways through which subscription-based scholarly journals have converted their publishing models to open access (OA).

The major goal was to identify specific scenarios that have been used or proposed for transitioning subscription journals to OA so that these scenarios can provide options for others seeking to “flip” their journals to OA.

The report is based on the published literature as well as “gray” literature such as blog posts and press releases. In addition, interviews were conducted with eight experts in scholarly publishing.

The report identifies a variety of goals for converting a journal to OA. While there are altruistic goals of making scholarship more accessible, the literature review and interviews suggest that there are also many practical reasons for transitioning to an OA model.

In some instances, an OA business model is simply more economically viable. Also, it is not unusual for a society or editorial board to transition to an OA business model as a means of gaining independence from the current publisher.

Increasing readership, the number and quality of submissions, and impact as measured in citations are important goals for most journals that are considering flipping. Goals and their importance often differ for various regions in the world and across different disciplines.

Each journal’s situation is unique and it is important for those seeking to flip a journal to carefully consider exactly what they hope to achieve, what barriers they are likely to face, and how the changes that are being implemented will further the goals intended for their journal.

We found that there are many issues that must be addressed in the process of changing a journal’s business model to OA.

The transition process is complex and in most cases requires at least a year. For example, it is necessary to address manuscripts in process and how to manage back issues. Obligations to subscribers must be negotiated, particularly when the journal’s subscription is bundled with other journals in multi-journal contracts, called “big deal” agreements.

A great deal of effort should go into marketing so that authors and readers are adequately informed of the change. Implementing the transition at the beginning of a volume also helps to avoid confusion.

Society-owned journals have specific challenges, such as losing the membership perk of free or discounted subscriptions for members. The wishes of the society’s membership and its willingness to accept sacrifices, such as increased dues or reduced services, must be considered if the society must give up income to flip.

Commercial publishers have a somewhat different set of goals from nonprofit or small societies. The goals and funding options for flipping journals to OA vary across disciplines and in different parts of the world. While there are many similarities across journals, each has its own unique challenges when converting from subscription to OA.

There are a variety of factors that facilitate conversion to OA. These forces are both top down and bottom up. Governments, funding agencies, and library cooperatives through large-scale initiatives such as mandates and special funding programs can facilitate conversion and directly and indirectly influence journals converting to OA.

Also, individuals and small groups, such as editors, the editorial board, or society members, have converted journals through their own efforts. There is no process that works for all journals and there are important variations in circumstances for each journal.

There are also barriers and risks to consider. Whether or not article processing charges (APCs) are used, ensuring adequate resources to publish the journal over the long term is critical.

Unintended consequences are also a concern. APCs, or even just the change to OA, may discourage submissions or decrease their quality. Loss of free or discounted subscriptions may decrease membership for societies.

Obtaining a good understanding of the potential risks and benefits of flipping through surveys, focus groups, and pilot programs, such as flipping only a section of a journal, are strategies for understanding and substantially reducing the risks associating with changing the business model.

The scenarios are organized into those based on APC funding and those based on obtaining resources or funding through other sources. A SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis was performed on a number of journal scenario examples to assess the risks and benefits of each scenario.

URL : Converting Scholarly Journals to Open Access: A Review of Approaches and Experiences

Alternative location : https://dash.harvard.edu/handle/1/27803834

 

Article processing charges for open access publication—the situation for research intensive universities in the USA and Canada

Authors : David Solomon, Bo-Christer Björk

Background

Open access (OA) publishing via article processing charges (APCs) is growing as an alternative to subscription publishing.

The Pay It Forward (PIF) Project is exploring the feasibility of transitioning from paying subscriptions to funding APCs for faculty at research intensive universities.

Estimating of the cost of APCs for the journals authors at research intensive universities tend to publish is essential for the PIF project and similar initiatives. This paper presents our research into this question.

Methods

We identified APC prices for publications by authors at the 4 research intensive United States (US) and Canadian universities involved in the study.

We also obtained APC payment records from several Western European universities and funding agencies. Both data sets were merged with Web of Science (WoS) metadata. We calculated the average APCs for articles and proceedings in 13 discipline categories published by researchers at research intensive universities.

We also identified 41 journals published by traditionally subscription publishers which have recently converted to APC funded OA and recorded the APCs they charge.

Results

We identified 7,629 payment records from the 4 European APC payment databases and 14,356 OA articles authored by PIF partner university faculty for which we had listed APC prices.

APCs for full OA journals published by PIF authors averaged 1,775 USD; full OA journal APCs paid by Western European funders averaged 1,865 USD; hybrid APCs paid by Western European funders averaged 2,887 USD.

The APC for converted journals published by major subscription publishers averaged 1,825 USD. APC funded OA is concentrated in the life and basic sciences.

APCs funded articles in the social sciences and humanities are often multidisciplinary and published in journals such as PLOS ONE that largely publish in the life sciences.

Conclusions

Full OA journal APCs average a little under 2,000 USD while hybrid articles average about 3,000 USD for publications by researchers at research intensive universities.

There is a lack of information on discipline differences in APCs due to the concentration of APC funded publications in a few fields and the multidisciplinary nature of research.

URL : Article processing charges for open access publication—the situation for research intensive universities in the USA and Canada

DOI : https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.2264

A longitudinal study of independent scholar-published open access journals

Authors : Bo-Christer Björk, Cenyu Shen, Mikael Laakso

Open Access (OA) is nowadays increasingly being used as a business model for the publishing of scholarly peer reviewed journals, both by specialized OA publishing companies and major, predominantly subscription-based publishers.

However, in the early days of the web OA journals were mainly founded by independent academics, who were dissatisfied with the predominant print and subscription paradigm and wanted to test the opportunities offered by the new medium.

There is still an on-going debate about how OA journals should be operated, and the volunteer model used by many such ‘indie’ journals has been proposed as a viable alternative to the model adopted by big professional publishers where publishing activities are funded by authors paying expensive article processing charges (APCs).

Our longitudinal quantitative study of 250 ‘indie’ OA journals founded prior to 2002, showed that 51% of these journals were still in operation in 2014 and that the median number of articles published per year had risen from 11 to 18 among the survivors.

Of these surviving journals, only 8% had started collecting APCs. A more detailed qualitative case study of five such journals provided insights into how such journals have tried to ensure the continuity and longevity of operations.

URL : A longitudinal study of independent scholar-published open access journals

DOI : https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.1990