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The Sustainability of Open Access Publishing Models Past a Tipping Point

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As Open Access models draw growing industry attention and academia support, recent studies indicate their increasing sustainability and continued evolution.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.

A recent trade review of the Open Access (OA) journal publishing sector  indicates that it is slated to continue its growth trajectory in the coming years. In terms of its academic industry performance, the OA sector has enjoyed rapid growth and can be expected to sustain this momentum, according to market projections. While article processing charges (APC) represent an important source of the OA model sustainability, the publication of articles in OA can avail itself of a wide range of funding sources, such as national science foundation grants.

Indeed, in many countries, public funding agencies and national-level scientific and medical institutes, such as the European Research Council, Research Councils in the United Kingdom, the British Wellcome Trust and Howard Hughes Medical Institute in the United States, have been active in promoting OA journal publishing. This represents a growing institutional recognition of the viability of the OA models both in terms of their publication market visibility and journal-level revenue performance across various disciplines and national borders.

Thus, according to the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), in terms of journal titles, the largest players in the OA journal publishing market are Hindawi Publishing Corporation (561), BioMed Central (308), De Gruyter Open (301), Elsevier (285), and Springer (179). Despite the challenges that OA academic publishing faces, such as the necessity to distinguish between predatory publishers and legitimate OA journals as a problem that the DOAJ addresses, OA models continue their evolution, as journal editorial boards develop their APC policies and university libraries seek to renegotiate their journal subscription contracts with major journal publishers.


DOAJ-Listed Open Access Journal Titles | Source: The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). Pablo Markin’s Illustration.
DOAJ-Listed Open Access Journal Titles | Source: The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). Pablo Markin’s Illustration.

As OA journal publishers gradually gain in credibility, evolve their peer review procedures and increase their operational transparency, they build an increasingly well-founded case for APC as a foundation of their sustainability. Though OA models may not necessarily work for every publisher, a growing number of journals make a transition from a subscription-based approach to OA models. The potential of OA publishing models is particularly great in emerging economies, since they can boost the international visibility of local researchers and institutions. Moreover, in March 2017, the European Commission has expressed its commitment to promoting OA publication platforms.

With a greater acceptance of OA publication formats in the scholarly community around the world and an increasing policy-making recognition of the benefit that OA models can bring, such as cost-free access to latest research results, OA journals are expected to become increasingly present in the academic market in terms of both articles published and journal titles.

By Pablo Markin

Featured Image Credits: Panel: Culture, Creativity and Openness. Digitally Open: Innovation and Open Access Forum, Qatar, October 26, 2010 | © Courtesy of the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology, Qatar.

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1 Comment

  1. In addition to the large publishers, there are many smaller open access publishers, such as ourselves in organic chemistry and nanotechnology, offering the scholarly community diverse and innovative publication channels. The internet not only removes issues of distribution of information, but allows decentralization of many aspects of publishing. It also enables other publishing models to be implemented, such as the no-APC platinum open access model that we at the Beilstein-Institut and others are using.

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