Use of the Paid Open Access Option in Hybrid Open Access Journals in Agriculture: A Mixed-Methods Study

Authors : Megan Kocher, Julie Kelly

We explore the use and usefulness of the hybrid open access publishing model in agricultural sciences using a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods.

To ascertain the level of usage of the paid open access option in hybrid open access journals in agriculture, we studied the agriculture-related journals published by six commercial publishers.

These publishers offer authors the option of paying a fee, often close to $3,000 per article, to make their article immediately freely available, usually with a Creative Commons license. We defined agriculture broadly but also assigned each journal to a subspecialty (e.g., animal science) in order to see if there were differences based on these subdivisions.

For each journal we gathered data for 2014-2015 and noted the total number of research articles and the number of those that were made freely available by authors paying the open access fee.

To give context to our results we also surveyed local faculty in agricultural sciences, asking their reasons for considering the paid open access options and the sources of the funds to pay for it. Survey respondents were asked about their academic position and rank to see if there were differences to be noted.

We also investigated the findability of the open access articles, noting if each individual publisher offered a way to easily locate all the freely available articles in a particular journal and if there are other avenues to easily locate these articles.


Estimation des dépenses de publication de l’Inra dans un modèle théorique “Gold Open Access”

L’étude publiée ici est le résultat d’une simulation menée à l’Institut national de la recherche agronomique (Inra) et dont l’objectif principal était de déterminer quels auraient été les coûts de diffusion en libre accès des articles publiés par ses équipes de recherche sur l’année 2011 selon un modèle Gold Open Access (ou “voie dorée”) dans lequel le financement est assuré par les auteurs et leurs établissements.

Les auteurs de l’étude comparent ensuite ces résultats avec les coûts en abonnements supportés par l’Inra. À l’instar des estimations récentes de Wouter Gerritsma (Wageningen UR Library) au sujet de ce que coûterait le passage intégral au Gold Open Access aux Pays-Bas (, la publication de ces résultats a pour objectif d’alimenter la réflexion collective sur l’opportunité de s’orienter vers ce nouveau modèle de diffusion.


A Survey of Physical Sciences, Engineering and Mathematics Faculty Regarding Author Fees in Open Access Journals

“Discussions of the potential of open access publishing frequently must contend with the skepticism of research authors regarding the need to pay author fees (also known as publication fees). With that in mind, the authors undertook a survey of faculty, postdocs, and graduate students in physical science, mathematics, and engineering fields at two research universities (Cornell University and Syracuse University) asking for their experience with and opinion of paying author fees for publication of research in open access journals. The results of this survey indicated that most respondents had not decided against publishing in an open access journal due to the author fee requirement. Those who had paid them only requested or received coverage for those fees in grant line-items or from institutional sources in a few cases. Responses seemed to combine cautious optimism about open access journals with intense skepticism about their quality and intense opposition to the idea of having to pay any additional costs from their own pockets.”


Open Access and the Author-Pays Problem: Assuring Access for Readers and Authors in a Global Community of Scholars

Out of concern for its lifeblood—communication—academia is rushing to correct serious inequities in access and revenue distribution by embracing open access (OA) in a variety of ways: some journals provide access openly to all readers, some allow authors to pay for OA options, some share copyrights with authors to allow open sharing,etc.

For publication in some fully OA journals, though, publication charges associated with an ‘author-pays’ business model can be substantial, reflecting costs involved in production and publication of quality scholarly articles and (sometimes) significant profit margins for publishers. Such charges may constitute significant barriers for potential authors, particularly those at institutions or in countries with fewer resources.

Consequently, an OA journal for readers may in reality be a closed-access journal for authors.


This commentary is not a criticism of OA publishers with author-pays systems, such as PLoS, which has creatively faced a difficult challenge and stands as an example of a
successful non-profit OA publishing endeavor.

Nor is this commentary an attack on OA journals in general. On the contrary, this paper advocates developing a robust and vibrant variety of OA journals. Two of the authors are also publishers of OA journals that do not follow the ‘author-pays’ system, described briefly later in this commentary.


Umgang mit Open Access Publikationsgebühren – die Situation…

Umgang mit Open-Access-Publikationsgebühren – die Situation in Deutschland in 2010 :

“Mit der dynamischen Entwicklung von Open Access gewinnt die Diskussion um den Umgang mit Gebühren, die für Open-Access-Publikationen anfallen, an Bedeutung. Die deutschen Wissenschaftsorganisationen widmen sich dieser Diskussion, seit 2008 auch im Rahmen der Schwerpunktinitiative „Digitale Information“. Im Jahr 2010 wurde in einer Umfrage unter Hochschulen und außeruniversitären Forschungsinstitutionen die Praxis im Umgang mit diesen Publikationsgebühren unter die Lupe genommen. Dabei wurde deutlich, dass sich die Wissenschaftsorganisationen des Themas annehmen und bestrebt sind, Mechanismen zu entwickeln, um ihren Angehörigen die Veröffentlichung in Open-Access-Zeitschriften, die sich durch Publikationsgebühren finanzieren, unkompliziert zu ermöglichen. Darüber hinaus zeigt der Blick auf die Open-Access-Strategien der Organisationen, dass diese die Transformation von einem subskriptionsbasierten hin zu einem Open-Access-basierten Publikationssystem vorantreiben. Die Ergebnisse der Umfrage machen jedoch auch die Herausforderungen deutlich. Der Beitrag gibt einen Überblick über die Landschaft der Open-Access-Zeitschriften, beschreibt die Aktivitäten und Entwicklungen in den Wissenschaftsorganisationen und stellt die Ergebnisse der Erhebung unter wissenschaftlichen Institutionen in Deutschland vor.”

“Along with the dynamic development of open access, the question of how to handle open access publication charges is increasingly discussed. German research organisations have been involved in this discussion as part of their activities within the Priority Initiative “Digital Information” of the “Alliance of German Science Organisations” since 2008. In 2010 they commissioned a survey among universities and research institutions, focusing on their practice in dealing with publication charges. As a result, it became clear that these organisations are aware of the issue. For their members, they seek to develop mechanisms to facilitate publishing in author fee-based open access journals. In general, an overview of the open access strategies of the organisations shows an ongoing transformation process from a subscription-based towards an open access publishing system. However, the survey results also point to challenges. The article gives an overview of open-access related activities and developments in German research organisations and presents the results of the survey on handling of open access publication charges among academic institutions in Germany.”