Journals Transitioning to Open Access May Have Limited Sustainability Absent Revenue Streams

Author: Pablo Markin
Published Online: 2017-08-06

Reliance on foundation or contingency funding does not substitute for viable revenue models that journals switching to Open Access may need to maintain quality.


As the editors of the Journal of Algebraic Combinatorics have announced the termination of their contracts to Springer, the publisher behind the journal, in June 2017, it has been a move coordinated with the journal’s editorial board, to establish a rival Open Access journal Algebraic Combinatorics. The declared impetus for this transition to Open Access has been the importance of fairly priced Open Access options for the scientific community, in accordance with which the prospective journal plans to refrain from high Article Processing Charges (APCs) and profit-driven practices of the fee-based journal publisher, especially given that academic journals rely significantly on the volunteer labor of the scientific community.

This transition to Open Access has been inspired by the successful flipping of several linguistics journals from subscription-based to Open Access models, as part of the LingOA project. A similar initiative has been launched in the field of mathematics, e.g., Mathematics in Open Access (MathOA), that seeks to facilitate the transition of mathematics-related journals to Open Access. This is illustrated by the recent developments at the Journal of Algebraic Combinatorics the editorial staff of which has opted for Open Access as Springer has proved not as forthcoming as concerns the integration of Open Access into its business models as the editorial staff of the journal had expected, such as according to the principles of the Fair Open Access Alliance.

By Pablo Markin

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

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The Impact of Market Forces on Open Access Journal Publishers

Pablo Markin
Published Online: 2017-05-05

As the largest open access publisher by the number of articles published, according to the Digital Archive of Open Access Journals, PLOS can serve as a case in point for this phenomenon. In September 2015, PLOS has announced that it will be raising the APC for its flagship PLOS ONE journal from 1,395 USD to 1,495 USD, as the first APC increase for this journal since 2009. While this can be conceived of as a minor business model change for an open access publisher that sports 7 OA journals and 5 channels for scientific sub-fields, such as Muscular Dystrophy, that have streamlined peer-review procedures, are partly foundation-supported and have no author-facing charges, a closer analysis indicates otherwise. At present, the APCs for PLOS’s OA journals range from 1,495 USD (PLOS ONE) to 2,900 USD (PLOS Biology and PLOS Medicine). The financial reports of PLOS for 2015, however, reveal that its approximate gross per-article revenues have amounted to 1,438 USD. In other words, given that the 2015 yearly gross publication fee revenues of PLOS have amounted to 44,604,000 USD, circa 31,000 journals have been published by PLOS in 2015, and that the average APC for PLOS ONE has been 1,420 USD for 2015, since the APC raise went into effect in October 2015, if all of these journals have been published in the PLOS ONE mega-journal, its gross APC revenues would have been 44,020,000 USD in 2015. Thus, in the year 2015 the absolute majority of PLOS’s revenues to the rate of up to 98% have been likely derived from APCs for PLOS ONE.

By Pablo Markin

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