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Hybrid Open Access Mega-Journals Gain in Traction as Scholarly Societies and Journal Publishers Partner

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“Sculpture by El Anatsui: Earth developing more roots, 2011 (Aluminium bottle caps, copper wire)” / Sakshi Gallery / Art Basel Hong Kong 2013 / SML.20130523.6D.14115, May 23, 2013 | © Courtesy of See-ming Lee.

While developed world universities and libraries weigh the pros and cons of Open Access plus subscription models, developing countries embrace Open Access mega journal-style repositories with open post-publication peer review procedures in partnership with established publishing platforms.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.

As the international Open Access community mulls the possibility of turning data sets into revenue streams by dint of the latter’s ability to be analyzed, circulated and packaged in abstract form, scholars hailing from the American academia grapple with the economics of scientific journal publishing by seeking to explore how the supply and demand can be re-equilibrated in this industry. Currently, the demand for the scientific journal subscriptions appears to continue to outstrip they supply, which ensures the high subscription fees, such as those of Springer, for journal bundles that their publishers vend, given their effective oligopoly hold on this market and the exclusive access to highly-reputed journals they provide.

However, this situation resists a facile conclusion that Open Access journals can significantly change the equilibrium prices in this market, as quality journals incur significant publication costs and do not differ significantly in their reviewing, editing and submission practices from subscription-based journals, as far as unpaid labor input is concerned. In other words, Open Access journals will have to have article processing charges (APCs) compensate for the lost revenue streams that toll-based journals derive from subscription fees. In turn, this leads to a relatively minor impact that the advent of Open Access has had on the market-wide equilibrium prices that end up being charged for article publication and access either directly or indirectly.

In other words, while the arm’s length principle, i.e., the independence of journal publishers and their editorial teams from universities and research institutions, has ultimately ensured the quality of the more reputed academic journals across multiple fields of inquiry, hybrid Open Access journals published via partnerships between recognized publishers and academic societies may prove as attractive as their subscription-based journals with reduced fees, such as Oikos that Wiley and Nordic Society Oikos jointly publish.

It is notable that the hybrid Open Access model is slated to find a wider application in Africa, where the Kenya-based African Academy of Sciences (AAS) has partnered with the London-based F1000Research publishing platform to announce the launch of AAS Open Research as essentially a mega-journal that will provide Open Access to scholarly articles, data sets, empirical research protocols and other scholarly output, while using streamlined publication procedures in combination with open peer review. This initiative will join AOSIS, a South Africa-based Open Access journal publisher. Furthermore, to ensure its economic sustainability, AAS Open Research will prioritize submissions from AAS-related scholars and those funded by Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Africa.

This indicates that this initiative is likely to fall into the domain of hybrid Open Access with the AAS Open Research platform acting as a mega-journal that seeks to substitute subscriptions with local and international funder partnerships, while maintaining APCs as a basis of its long-term sustainability. Thus, as the partnerships of F1000 with global foundations, e.g., the Wellcome Trust and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, show, in both developed and developing countries Open Access will only marginally affect the effective equilibrium prices in the journal publishing market.

By Pablo Markin

Featured Image Credits: “Sculpture by El Anatsui: Earth developing more roots, 2011 (Aluminium bottle caps, copper wire)” / Sakshi Gallery / Art Basel Hong Kong 2013 / SML.20130523.6D.14115, May 23, 2013 | © Courtesy of See-ming Lee.

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