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Open Access Translates into Revenue Streams, As Scholarly Associations and Funders Enter into Framework Agreements

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Fermilab 011, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, Chicago, Illinois, USA, September 5, 2009 | © Courtesy of Michael Kappel/Flickr.

As hybrid Open Access models fuel the uptake of Open Access among researchers, publishers roll out experimental agreements that combine subscription charges with Gold Open Access, as part of institutional memberships, while adding to model sustainability.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.


A recent publishing market report indicates that, whereas between 2015 and 2017 the annual growth rate of the scholarly journal market has slightly exceeded 1%, in the same period the Open Access sector has demonstrated double-digit expansion, even though with signification variation between publishers. Whereas the overall growth rate in the Open Access journal publishing sector has been found to be slowing, as market-leading publishers, such as PLOS One and BioMed Central, have seen their revenues stagnate and their offering and journal portfolios in need of reorganization, traditional publishers have been augmenting their activity in the domain of Open Access.

While the share of articles published in Open Access with global publishers, such as Elsevier and Springer Nature, continues to range from 2% to 4%, even if their Open Access output growth will remain in single digits, this could lead to significant revenue increases, given their large journal portfolios, e.g., over 2,000 titles in some instances. On the one hand, this can spur the transitioning of journals into Open Access or the addition of Open Access options to existing service offerings. On the other hand, both publishers and universities may be willing to bet on hybrid or experimental Open Access models, such as in the framework of institutional memberships, that combine subscription fees with either discounts or offsetting possibilities for article processing charges (APCs) that Open Access journals levy, to ensure their sustainability.

Especially as universities or their associations renegotiate subscription agreements with journal publishers, framework agreements can generate benefits for both funders and researchers, since they can promote cost transparency, simplified invoicing, and APC discounts, as is demonstrated by the agreement in which the Austrian Science Fund has entered with Frontiers on December 20, 2017. Similarly, on June 14, 2018, the libraries of the globally renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology have entered with the Royal Society of Chemistry into an innovative agreement that combines subscription fees with Gold Open Access, which enables an immediate unrestricted accessibility of research findings upon their publication.

Though institutional memberships of this type represent a novelty in North America, they can provide a sustainable path for a gradual transition toward Open Access, since subscription fees can either fully or partially cover the APCs of researchers from participating institutions. Particularly for mid-size or non-profit publishers, membership agreements can assist with shifting the core of their business models to Open Access, while experimenting with the business models used for its implementation. The advantages of these framework agreements for university libraries and their associations, such as the Bibsam Consortium in Sweden, involve process efficiency, bargaining power and fee discounts.

Thus, institutional memberships are likely to promote unrestricted knowledge dissemination through innovative Open Access models.

By Pablo Markin


Featured Image Credits: Fermilab 011, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, Chicago, Illinois, USA, September 5, 2009 | © Courtesy of Michael Kappel/Flickr.

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