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Hybrid Open Access Journals Could Facilitate Transitions to Gold Open Access Models in the Publishing Industry

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A university viewpoint, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, UK, July 18, 2017 | © Courtesy of Damien Walmsley.

As recent literature reviews and findings from the United Kingdom higher education institutions suggest, for universities the costs of publishing in hybrid Open Access journals is significantly higher than in Gold Open Access ones, due to optional article processing charges (APCs) for Open Access publishing and subscription fees they involve, even though APC-based Open Access journals have been found to demonstrate higher impact factors and submission performance than Open Access journals without APCs.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.

In his analysis of the Open Access market published online on February 19, 2017, Bo-Christer Björk suggests that the Open Access market is affected not only by the rivalry among its biggest players, such as Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, Springer Nature and Taylor & Frances, by also by the relatively limited bargaining power of scientific authors, academic editors and manuscript reviewers, the continued selectivity of journal indexing services, and the threat of substitution that institutional repositories, such as, post to journals. Furthermore, as Open Access journal publishers continue to increase competition in this market, university libraries and consortia gradually augment their bargaining power over the terms of journal subscription contracts, especially as switching to Open Access becomes increasingly feasible for researchers and authors, as Open Access mandates proliferate and funding for APCs becomes widely accessible, such as through the Austrian Science Fund and Wellcome Trust.

At the same time, as Bo-Christer Björk concludes, the journal publishing market is far from being disrupted by Open Access, but follows an evolutionary track, when, based on secondary data, its Open Access segment increases its market share by 1% to 2% yearly, since journals with high impact factor rankings maintain their strong market positioning in the face of stiff competition from their Open Access rivals the underperformance of which in citation indices has barred them from making greater strides. Yet, industry-wide transitions to Open Access can also take place, if publishers begin converting their journal portfolios into Gold Open Access backed by transitional arrangements that bridge the gap between subscription-based revenue levels and Open Access models. This has been especially relevant for the United Kingdom (UK) market that in recent years has increasingly favored Gold Open Access over Green Open Access, under the influence of the European Union funding and the realization that publishing models based on Green Open Access tend to under-perform.

This is illustrated by the retrospective study of Stephen Pinfield, Jennifer Salter, and Peter A. Bath published in 2017, according to which in recent years UK universities have been facing not only continuously rising subscription costs but also increasing APC payments and administering expenses attendant to publishing in Open Access. In this respect, these authors suggest that Green Open Access may serve as a transitional model that both help stem the increases in journal subscription costs and mitigate the financial pressures that Open Access introduces for universities, as in 2014 in the UK APCs have ranged from 0 USD to 6,904 USD approximately with mean APCs of 2,415 USD. However, the heterogeneity of the models on which the Open Access market is built, library budget limitations of higher education institutions and funding agency preferences favoring Gold Open Access journals over their hybrid or Green Open Access counterparts may place hurdles to the further expansion of the Open Access sector.

Therefore, for the publishing market, hybrid or Green Open Access journals can represent transitional models, such as in combination with third party-financed cost offsetting arrangements, toward Gold Open Access the models for the implementation of which continue to be in flux.

By Pablo Markin

Featured Image Credits: A university viewpoint, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, UK, July 18, 2017 | © Courtesy of Damien Walmsley.

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