The ‘Must Stock’ Challenge in Academic Publishing: Pricing Implications of Transformative Agreements

Author : W. Benedikt Schmal

The high relevance of top-notch academic journals turns them into ‘must stock’ products that assign its often commercial owners with extraordinary market power. Intended to tackle this, university consortia around the globe negotiate so-called ‘transformative agreements’ with many publishing houses. It shall pave the way towards standard open-access publishing.

While several contract designs exist, the ‘publish-and-read’ (PAR) scheme is the one that comes closest to the ideal of an entirely open access environment: Publishers are paid a fixed case-by-case rate for each publication, which includes a fee for their extensive libraries. In turn, all subscription payments are waived.

I theoretically derive that this contract design benefits the included publishers regardless of whether the number of publications in these publishers’ journals grows or declines. Consequently, widespread PAR contracts are likely to raise entry barriers for new (open-access) competitors even further. Intending to lower costs for the universities, their libraries, and, ultimately, the taxpayers, this PAR fee contract design of transformative agreements might cause the opposite.

URL : The ‘Must Stock’ Challenge in Academic Publishing: Pricing Implications of Transformative Agreements

Arxiv :

Choice of Open Access in Elsevier Hybrid Journals

Author : Sumiko Asai

Open access articles in hybrid journals have recently increased despite high article processing charges. This study investigated the impacts of grants and transformative agreements on authors’ choice of open and non-open access articles by comparing two article types. The samples were hybrid journals launched independently by Elsevier.

The results revealed that the authors who received more grants in countries with transformative agreements were more likely to choose open access articles. By contrast, authors in developing countries were likely to publish non-open access articles.

These findings imply that authors’ choices depend on the funding systems and open access policies in individual countries. Consequently, open access may become a barrier to the dissemination of work for researchers who have financial difficulty choosing open access, although it enables everyone to access articles free of charge.

URL : Choice of Open Access in Elsevier Hybrid Journals


Does it pay to pay? A comparison of the benefits of open-access publishing across various sub-fields in biology

Authors : Amanda D. Clark, Tanner C. Myers, Todd D. Steury, Ali Krzton et al.

Authors are often faced with the decision of whether to maximize traditional impact metrics or minimize costs when choosing where to publish the results of their research. Many subscription-based journals now offer the option of paying an article processing charge (APC) to make their work open.

Though such “hybrid” journals make research more accessible to readers, their APCs often come with high price tags and can exclude authors who lack the capacity to pay to make their research accessible.

Here, we tested if paying to publish open access in a subscription-based journal benefited authors by conferring more citations relative to closed access articles. We identified 146,415 articles published in 152 hybrid journals in the field of biology from 2013–2018 to compare the number of citations between various types of open access and closed access articles.

In a simple generalized linear model analysis of our full dataset, we found that publishing open access in hybrid journals that offer the option confers an average citation advantage to authors of 17.8 citations compared to closed access articles in similar journals.

After taking into account the number of authors, Journal Citation Reports 2020 Quartile, year of publication, and Web of Science category, we still found that open access generated significantly more citations than closed access (p < 0.0001).

However, results were complex, with exact differences in citation rates among access types impacted by these other variables. This citation advantage based on access type was even similar when comparing open and closed access articles published in the same issue of a journal (p < 0.0001).

However, by examining articles where the authors paid an article processing charge, we found that cost itself was not predictive of citation rates (p = 0.14). Based on our findings of access type and other model parameters, we suggest that, in the case of the 152 journals we analyzed, paying for open access does confer a citation advantage.

For authors with limited budgets, we recommend pursuing open access alternatives that do not require paying a fee as they still yielded more citations than closed access. For authors who are considering where to submit their next article, we offer additional suggestions on how to balance exposure via citations with publishing costs.

URL : Does it pay to pay? A comparison of the benefits of open-access publishing across various sub-fields in biology


How open are hybrid journals included in transformative agreements?

Author : Najko Jahn

The ongoing controversy surrounding transformative agreements, which aim to transition journal publishing to full open access, highlight the need for large-scale studies assessing the uptake of open access in hybrid journals. This includes evaluating the extent to which transformative agreements enabled open access.

By combining publicly available data from various sources, including cOAlition S Journal Checker, Crossref, and OpenAlex, this study presents a novel approach that analyses over 700 agreements and nine million journal articles published in more than 11.000 hybrid journals. Estimates suggest a strong growth in open access between 2018 and 2022 from 4.3% to 15%. In 2022, 58% of hybrid open access was enabled by transformative agreements.

This trend was largely driven by the three commercial publishers Elsevier, Springer Nature, and Wiley, but the open access uptake varied substantially across journals, publishers, disciplines, and country affiliations. In particular, comparing the developments in the OECD and BRICS areas revealed different publication trends relative to hybrid open access.

In conclusion, estimates suggest that current levels of implementation of transformative agreements is insufficient to bring about a large-scale transition to full open access.

URL : How open are hybrid journals included in transformative agreements?

Arxiv :

How transformative are transformative agreements? Evidence from Germany across disciplines

Author : W. Benedikt Schmal

Research institutions across the globe attempt to change the academic publishing system as digitization opens up new opportunities, and subscriptions to the large journal bundles of the leading publishers put library budgets under pressure. One approach is the negotiation of so-called transformative agreements.

I study the ‘DEAL’ contracts between nearly all German research institutions and Springer Nature and Wiley. I investigate 6.1 million publications in 5,862 journals covering eight fields in the years 2016–2022 and apply a causal difference-in-differences design to identify whether the likelihood of a paper appearing in an eligible journal increases. The effect strongly depends on the discipline.

While material science, chemistry, and economics s tend to hift towards these journals, all other disciplines in my sample do not react. Suggestive evidence hints at the market position of the encompassed publishers before the ‘DEAL’ was established: Springer Nature and Wiley appear to benefit more from the contracts in disciplines in which they possessed a higher market share ex ante.

The transformative vigor of these agreements in terms of publication behavior seems to be limited. It and highlights that the developments in this intertwined market require further examination.

URL : How transformative are transformative agreements? Evidence from Germany across disciplines


The Nexus of Open Science and Innovation: Insights from Patent Citations

Author : Abdelghani Maddi

This paper aims to analyze the extent to which inventive activity relies on open science. In other words, it investigates whether inventors utilize Open Access (OA) publications more than subscription-based ones, especially given that some inventors may lack institutional access.

To achieve this, we utilized the (Marx, 2023) database, which contains citations of patents to scientific publications (Non-Patent References-NPRs). We focused on publications closely related to invention, specifically those cited solely by inventors within the body of patent texts. Our dataset was supplemented by OpenAlex data.

The final sample comprised 961,104 publications cited in patents, of which 861,720 had a DOI. Results indicate that across all disciplines, OA publications are 38% more prevalent in patent citations (NPRs) than in the overall OpenAlex database.

In biology and medicine, inventors use 73% and 27% more OA publications, respectively, compared to closed-access ones. Chemistry and computer science are also disciplines where OA publications are more frequently utilized in patent contexts than subscription-based ones.


Is gold open access helpful for academic purification? A causal inference analysis based on retracted articles in biochemistry

Authors : Er-Te Zheng, Zhichao Fang, Hui-Zhen Fu

The relationship between transparency and credibility has long been a subject of theoretical and analytical exploration within the realm of social sciences, and it has recently attracted increasing attention in the context of scientific research. Retraction serves as a pivotal mechanism in addressing concerns about research integrity.

This study aims to empirically examining the relationship between open access level and the effectiveness of current mechanism, specifically academic purification centered on retracted articles. In this study, we used matching and Difference-in-Difference (DiD) methods to examine whether gold open access is helpful for academic purification in biochemistry field.

We collected gold open access (Gold OA) and non-open access (non-OA) biochemistry retracted articles as the treatment group, and matched them with corresponding unretracted articles as the control group from 2005 to 2021 based on Web of Science and Retraction Watch database.

The results showed that compared to non-OA, Gold OA is advantageous in reducing the retraction time of flawed articles, but does not demonstrate a significant advantage in reducing citations after retraction. This indicates that Gold OA may help expedite the detection and retraction of flawed articles, ultimately promoting the practice of responsible research.