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As Journal Subscription Fees Exhaust Library Budgets, Universities Mandate Open Access Preprint Repository Publishing

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Berkeley - UC Berkeley: Bancroft Library, CA, USA, February 26, 2012 | © Courtesy of Wally Gobetz.

Given that at some universities, such as the University of California San Francisco, journal subscriptions consume approximately 85% of collections budgets, switching to Open Access peer-reviewed pre-print repositories becomes an enticing alternative to toll-based scientific journals.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.


The financial data of the University of California San Francisco for the year 2017 tally up its annual spending on collective and specialist journal subscriptions at 60 million USD, which leaves only 15% of budgets which its branch and online libraries have to share for other content acquisitions. These figures showcase the situation of university and research libraries around the world that are confronted with the global scientific publishing industry in which private companies have the market share of 65% and approximately 85% of content is protected by paywalls. Moreover, in recent years the subscription fees to the highest-ranking scientific journals have grown at steeper yearly rates than the journal publishing market average of 6%.

This condition of the journal publishing market, which is financially unsustainable even for the richest academic and research institutions in the West, also precludes access to most recent scientific findings to those who cannot afford to shoulder ever increasing subscription fees. For this reason, universities increasingly call for a switch to Open Access preprint repositories as default-choice publishing venues for the output of their researchers and faculty. In other words, Western academic leaders, such as Prof. Keith Yamamoto, acting as a vice chancellor for the science policy and strategy of the University of California San Francisco, mandate a blanket adoption of preprint repositories, e.g., New Zealand’s Tuwhera, as valid alternatives to tall-protected journals, given that these repositories are expected to be furnished with editorial boards and peer-review procedures the costs of which are slated to be covered by internal and external, non-profit funding.

This transition to Open Access pre-print repositories is also likely to encourage the abandonment of the traditional journal-impact statistics in favor of article-level impact metrics. Moreover, Open Access repositories can accommodate both Gold and Green Open Access formats, which can be critical for meeting funding eligibility criteria. Thus, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative already requires its fund recipients to deposit their findings and results, such as articles and software code, into Open Access pre-print archives, whereas OA2020, a global alliance of research universities and foundations spearheaded by the Germany-based Max Planck Digital Library, seeks to accelerate a universal transition to Open Access publishing as the predominant model by 2020.

Given that the yearly growth of the Open Access publishing market segment, which presently captures circa 15% of all scientific article published, continues to hover around 1%, proactive steps for the transition to Open Access are needed, especially since the editorial boards of the established scientific journals significantly lack in editor diversity in term of their geographic origin. This also shows the potential of Open Access to contribute to inclusion in the field of science.

By Pablo Markin


Featured Image Credits: Berkeley – UC Berkeley: Bancroft Library, CA, USA, February 26, 2012 | © Courtesy of Wally Gobetz.

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