As Open Access Continues to Sparkle Media Debates, Its Progress Transforms Business Models and Leads to Partnerships

Galerie Umberto I, Naples, Campania, Italy, August 16, 2006 | © Courtesy of loloieg/Flickr.
Galerie Umberto I, Naples, Campania, Italy, August 16, 2006 | © Courtesy of loloieg/Flickr.

Though tensions between global journal publishers, such as Elsevier, flare up during their negotiations with academic libraries, the widening adoption of Open Access, such as in Switzerland, does not seem to be incompatible with journal publisher partnerships, as the prominence of Green Open Access indicates.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.

While media reviews of the journal publishing market by paywall-protected European newspapers, such as Les Echos in France, discern that large publishers tend to stand for scientific quality, confer distinction on their authors, especially from emerging economies, e.g., China, and experience double-digit growth in the number of submitted and published articles each year, this growth dynamics is not necessarily associated with the rising fees that journal publishers have to charge to cover their correspondingly rising costs, such as the input of editorial labor for the review of submitted papers.

Instead, journal subscription price increases are represented in the context of the journal access deals over which the national library consortia, such as Couperin, an association of 250 higher education and research institutions in France, seek to strike a bargain with international journal publishers. Especially, as Jean-Pierre Finance, the president of Couperin, is cited as saying that, whereas subscription deals provide libraries and their users with access to about 1,500 journal titles, even though access to only 400 periodicals is really needed, the implied suggestion is that the country-level subscription prices, such as 35 million Euros that French institutions are paying to Elsevier, are arguably overly high. Moreover, for some scholars, such as Cédric Villani from the French Henri-Poincaré institute, Open Access does not appear to provide a long-term solution to rising subscription fees, due to article processing charges, which can range from 600 Euros to 5,000 Euros, that it involves.

This makes nationally negotiated subscription agreements between large publishers and university libraries indispensable. On August 2, 2018, the Conference of Italian University Rectors has concluded with Elsevier a 5-year subscription deal. This agreement represents a partnership between the latter global publisher and more than 70 Italian institutions that provides unrestricted access to its journal databases between 2018 and 2022, while including Open Access options as part of it. In other words, subscription and Open Access models are not necessarily in conflict.

Additionally, countries that have topped European Open Access publication ratings, such as Switzerland that was recently found to publish 39% of its publications in Open Access, which amounts to 86,030 items, based on Scopus database information for the period between 2009 and 2016, have also been giving preference to Green Open Access that combines subscriptions to recently published articles with Open Access to journal archives. In Switzerland, 28.5% of Open Access papers are published in Green Open Access based on a combination of paywall models and institutional repositories, whereas only 10.6% have been published in Gold Open Access that provides immediate access to scholarly articles in this period.

As both national and regional science funders, such as the Swiss National Science Foundation and European Commission, have been making offsetting the costs of article processing charges for authors of publicly funded research results possible, hybrid or Green Open Access models may help combine journal quality with sustainable access fees.

By Pablo Markin

Featured Image Credits: Galerie Umberto I, Naples, Campania, Italy, August 16, 2006 | © Courtesy of loloieg/Flickr.

This post is based on an article that originally appeared in OpenScience, 15/08/2018,

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