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As Universities are Increasingly Entering the Open Access Publishing Frey, Resistance to Closed Access is Set to Spread

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Lund architecture, Lund University library building, Lund, Sweden, September 27, 2015 | © Courtesy of barnyz/Flickr.

As the London School of Economics is in the works to launch its own Open Access publishing platform, country-level associations of university libraries may be deciding to flip to Open Access on the basis of cost-benefit analyses of this model vis-à-vis subscription contract costs, as recently occurred in Sweden.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.


As the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) gears up to launch LSE Press, its own platform for Open Access publishing, it enters into competition with major publishing houses for market share in the online journal sector. The platform will be managed jointly by the Ubiquity Press, as a provider of cost-efficient publishing infrastructure and services, and LSE Library, as part of internal hosting of research publications in social sciences, launching narrowly targeted Open Access journals, such as the Journal of Illicit Economies and Development, and publishing Open Access books. This move by the LSE apparently occurs in response to institutional mandates, such as those related to research funding, to publish all results of scientific research in the Open Access format.

At the same time, while this development indicates that the European publishing market undergoes a tidal change favoring Open Access, concerns are also raised that book and article processing charges can add to extra publication costs. Nonetheless, universities as publishing market entrants are likely to increase competition and to be in need of sustainable operation models for their Open Access platforms in relation to both their costs and revenues. This emergent change in the publishing market can also be expected to provide national university associations with reasons to back off from their existing journal subscription agreements with large publishers altogether, while comprehensively switching to Open Access.

This is illustrated by Sweden’s cancellation of journal subscriptions for Elsevier journals, as it follows suit in the wake of contract disputes flaring up in Germany and France in recent years. More specifically, mid-May 2018, Swedish universities have cancelled their contracts with Elsevier, while shifting their funding to Open Access. According to the Bibsam Consortium that represents 85 Swedish research and education institutions, its subscription agreement with Elsevier will be allowed to run out without renewal toward July, 2018. The reasons for this transition to Open Access have been cited to include the unmet demand to switch to Open Access across all Elsevier journals and the lacking sustainability of the subscription model, usually involving regular price increases.

While Sweden plans to phase in mandatory Open Access for all publicly funded research results by 2026, it appears that among the chief factors behind this country-level transition to Open Access lies a cost-benefit analysis that the Bibsam Consortium has performed to compare the subscription and Open Access models. According to its calculations, in 2017 Elsevier journal subscription fees totaled 12 million Euros, whereas article processing charges of Open Access journals have only amounted to 1.3 million Euros in the same period.

Since these calculations make the Open Access model almost 10 times more cost-effective than the subscription model for Elsevier alone on a yearly basis, Swedish universities have decided to flip to Open Access, in a bid to restrain their journal access cost increases.

By Pablo Markin


Featured Image Credits: Lund architecture, Lund University library building, Lund, Sweden, September 27, 2015 | © Courtesy of barnyz/Flickr.

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