As Universities and Libraries Defer Journal Subscription Deals, Micro- and Macro-Level Implications of Open Access Emerge

Author: Pablo Markin
Published Online: 2018-01-03

German and South Korean academic and research institutions seek to leverage the potential of Open Access to reduce costs by concerted bargaining with large publishers, such as Elsevier, as they let journal subscription negotiations protract or extend over deadlines.


As German and South Korean university, research center and library consortia have concluded the year 2017 without a journal subscription deal with Elsevier, a large-scale transition to Open Access as a default publishing model is on the cards in Germany and South Korea. Though commentators, namely Alex Holcombe and Björn Brems advocating for Open Access in their respective fields, in their recent blog piece at The Times Higher Education, a hybrid-model subscription-based media outlet itself, are quick to indicate that the academic journal publishing market is price-inelastic, as researchers primarily respond to journal-level impact factor information in their publication venue decisions, this line of argument reinforces the status quo, when large publishers with valuable portfolios of established journals across scientific fields can exact ever rising subscription fees from academic and research institutions.

However, the micro-economic arguments that the switch to Open Access based on article processing charges (APCs) can, on the one hand, unleash the race to the bottom between Open Access journals on the basis of the publication fees they charge and, on the other hand, fall short of its expected effect on the publishing market, due to the close link between researcher utility, such as promotion, and journal prestige that impact factor metrics measure does not necessarily hold. In a growing number of cases and fields either national or international funding can be drawn upon to cover APCs, which relieves the purported pressure on Open Access journals to compete on price. As the Open Access market matures and alternative, article-level impact metrics gain in currency, researchers can be expected to equally advance their careers when they publish in Open Access journals, especially if mandated to do so by their supporting institutions that foot the bill for their labor costs, research expenses or publication fees.

By Pablo Markin

The full-length original blog article and additional resources can be found at OpenScience blog.

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