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

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The “total cost of publication” in a hybrid open-access environment: Institutional approaches to funding journal article-processing charges in combination with subscriptions

« As open-access (OA) publishing funded by article-processing charges (APCs) becomes more widely accepted, academic institutions need to be aware of the “total cost of publication” (TCP), comprising subscription costs plus APCs and additional administration costs. This study analyzes data from 23 UK institutions covering the period 2007–2014 modeling the TCP. It shows a clear rise in centrally managed APC payments from 2012 onward, with payments projected to increase further. As well as evidencing the growing availability and acceptance of OA publishing, these trends reflect particular UK policy developments and funding arrangements intended to accelerate the move toward OA publishing (“Gold” OA). Although the mean value of APCs has been relatively stable, there was considerable variation in APC prices paid by institutions since 2007. In particular, “hybrid” subscription/OA journals were consistently more expensive than fully OA journals. Most APCs were paid to large “traditional” commercial publishers who also received considerable subscription income. New administrative costs reported by institutions varied considerably. The total cost of publication modeling shows that APCs are now a significant part of the TCP for academic institutions, in 2013 already constituting an average of 10% of the TCP (excluding administrative costs). »

URL : The “total cost of publication” in a hybrid open-access environment

DOI: 10.1002/asi.23446

Advancing the Business of Information Open Access Market…

Advancing the Business of Information Open Access: Market Size, Share, Forecast, and Trends :

« No debate has shaken scientific publishing in the past 20 years quite like the open access movement. Awareness has risen in the popular press, in the UK’s House of Commons, in funding bodies, and in places of research. Underlying the debate is the decades-long concern about the publishing model of peer-review processes, their fairness and their impact on the flow of research, knowledge, and discovery in society. The open access movement continues to morph as it challenges traditional modes of scholarly publishing and changes the way most major players in the space approach their futures. In this report, which is an update to Outsell’s An Open Access Primer – Market Size and Trends (published September 21, 2009), we analyze the market’s size in terms of revenue, examine both gold and hybrid journals, consider the future of green OA, and present a revenue forecast for open access-sourced journal revenue for 2013 to 2015. To underpin our projections, we provide analysis of which competitors control significant shares of the market — and which new entrants are particularly on trend and worth watching. Open access publishing is here to stay, but its evolution and ability to overtake existing subscription models remains an open question. Outsell’s goal is to cut through the noise and provide insights that support healthy and forward-looking business strategies for all stakeholders in this space — including publishers, policymakers, funders, authors and researchers, technology providers, and investors. »


The Transition to Open Access This report…

The Transition to…Open Access :

« This report describes and draws conclusions from the transition of the Association for Learning Technology’s journal Research in Learning Technology from toll-access to Open Access, and from being published by one of the « big five » commercial publishers to being published by a specialist Open Access publisher. The focus of the report is on what happened in the run-up to and after the transition, rather than on the process of deciding to switch between publishing models, which is covered in in ALT’s 2011 report « Journal tendering for societies: a brief guide » – . »


Open access brave new world requires bravery …

Open access: brave new world requires bravery :

« The year 2012 heralded significant developments in open access (OA) that impacted the relationships between the major stakeholders in scholarly publishing: researchers, funders, publishers and governments. In the UK, the clear preference for a gold OA policy enunciated by the government-backed ‘Finch Report’ is now being implemented by the research councils. Although the policy has been modified to include green routes to OA publishing, arguments continue about the optimal route to a system of open access that can work on a global scale. Resolution of these disputes will require courage and imagination. »


Exploring the Effects of a Transition to Open…

Exploring the Effects of a Transition to Open Access: Insights from a Simulation Study :

« The Open Access (OA) movement, which postulates gratis and unrestricted online access to publicly funded research findings, has significantly gained momentum in recent years. The two ways of achieving OA are self-archiving of scientific work by the authors (Green OA) and publishing in OA journals (Gold OA). But there is still no consensus which model should be supported in particular. The aim of this simulation study is to discover mechanisms and predict developments that may lead to specific outcomes of possible market transformation scenarios. It contributes to theories related to OA by substantiating the argument of a citation advantage of OA articles and by visualizing the mechanisms of a journal system collapsing in the long-term due to the continuation of the serials crisis. The practical contribution of this research stems from the integration of all market players: Decisions regarding potential financial support of OA models can be aligned with our findings – as well as the decision of a publisher to migrate his journals to Gold OA. Our results indicate that for scholarly communication in general, a transition to Green OA combined with a certain level of subscription-based publishing and a migration of few top journals is the most beneficial development. »


Cost-effectiveness of open access publications

Open access publishing has been proposed as one possible solution to the serials crisis – the rapidly growing subscription prices in scholarly journal publishing.

However, open access publishing can present economic pitfalls as well, such as excessive publication charges.

We discuss the decision that an author faces when choosing to submit to an open access journal.

We develop an interactive tool to help authors compare among alternative open access venues and thereby get the most for their publication fees.