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Open Access Offers Financial Sustainability, as Publishers Increasingly Combine Article Publishing and Access in Deals

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Delft, South Holland, Netherlands, September 19, 2012 © Courtesy of দেবর্ষি রায়/Flickr.

For research university libraries faced with dwindling budgets and rising costs integrating Open Access into their journal subscription can assist with negotiating better contract conditions, especially since recent studies suggest that academic faculty consult recent studies less intensively than assumed.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.


As universities seek to reduce the financial burden associated with higher education for their students by slashing library use fees, journal subscription budgets are likely to be further squeezed, as funding gaps widen. In other words, as universities and libraries experience budget cuts, shouldering growing scientific journal subscription costs ceases to be sustainable. In this respect, switching to Open Access can be one of strategies for ensuring that classroom assignment assignments or ongoing research projects are not disrupted by subscription contract cancellations or paywall restrictions. While estimates suggest that at present existing journal subscriptions at Utrecht universities cover approximately 75% of scholar needs for article access, this statistic may both vary around the world and change abruptly if corresponding institutional access contracts fail to be renewed.

On a yearly basis, the global needs for article access of approximately 10 million researchers in different countries have been estimated to reach 2.5 billion papers. These figures are slated to climb as new studies are conducted and the ranks of active researchers expand, while putting upward pressure on journal subscription expenses as publishers handle growing access demand, electronic storage needs and article output. For this reason, European universities encourage scientific journals to flip or transition to Open Access, both in response to governmental mandates for making new studies freely accessible and to put pressure on large publishers, such as Elsevier, Wiley and Springer Nature, to reconsider the bundle of services that universities and libraries receive in exchange for their subscription fees.

With the growing adoption of Open Access, universities obtain a mechanism to cap article access costs by reducing the pool of recent articles the access to which necessitates subscription deals. For instance, the Association of Universities in the Netherlands has concluded a publish-and-read agreement with major journal publishers, such as Springer. In this manner, European universities can both strive to reach the goal of 100% Open Access for publicly funded research, while ensuring that, whenever necessary, local researchers are enabled to access latest research from top-notch journals, which contributes to university competitiveness. These agreements can contribute to the accelerated transition to Open Access, such as in the Netherlands where 84% of all articles published by local scholars were in Gold Open Access in 2017. Similar publish-and-read contracts have been concluded in other European countries, such as Austria and Sweden, as well.

Moreover, the declining ability and willingness of university libraries to take rising journal subscription prices in stride are matched by findings that indicate that close to between 66% and 80% of articles covered by conventional subscription deals are hardly consulted or accessed. Therefore, transitions to Open Access are likely to be continuing apace as traditional journal access and publishing models become unsustainable, the prospect of reducing journal subscription expenses becomes increasingly appealing and a growing number of research universities and associations walk away from deals that do not include Open Access.

By Pablo Markin


Featured Image Credits: Delft, South Holland, Netherlands, September 19, 2012 © Courtesy of দেবর্ষি রায়/Flickr.

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