UoL Library Blog

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Economic Implications of Alternative Scholarly Publishing Models – a report

Posted by gazjjohnson on 27 January, 2009

One of the first questions I was ever asked by an academic in a previous incarnation was “All this open access thing is all very well, but who is going to pay for it all?” I didn’t have an answer then, and couldn’t swear to having one know – but at least I know where I might go looking for one.

There’s a big project report out on this subject that’s probably worth being aware of; though at 288 pages I don’t think I’m likely to be reading much more than skimming through it (I’m a kinethetic learner not a theorotician!).  It looks extremely data rich in terms of a lot of open access and scholarly publication information, and certainly I’d point people towards the opening few pages and last few for an overview of the issues in OA and scholalry publications today.

One figure that jumped out at me is on page 17 of the pdf, where it works out that for an academic article on 30% of the cost is the publisher.  This seems pretty rich, no pun intended,of the the j-publishers.  On the other hand p22 shows the savings to all from adopting a more OA approach to publishing.  Could this be the fabled win-win option for the future of scholarly comms?  Not much money for the UK library sector saved (only £11m, which split 180 odd ways doesn’t amount to much – but is this pre-economic collapse of recent months?) 

Hmn, reading on to p27 and looks like an OAP model will actually cost HEIs more. And a little further we have the follow quote which talks about the library world in a little more detail

It is difficult to say exactly how open access publications will be treated by research libraries
and what role libraries would play in dissemination and preservation in these alternative
publishing models. Nevertheless, we suggest that research libraries may continue to play a key
role in providing access to open access journals and have costed library handling activities
accordingly. With little evidence to date that open access self-archiving leads to subscription
cancellations, acquisition cost savings have not been included. However, should they arise in the
future, there would be potential for significant additional savings.

Towards the end of the report there’s a very heartening conclusion (p231) point made about OAP

The costs, benefits and impacts of alternative scholarly publishing models revealed by this
analysis demonstrate that research and research communication are major activities and the
costs involved are substantial. Preliminary analysis of the potential benefits of more open access
to research findings suggests that returns to research can also be substantial, and that different
models for scholarly publishing can make a material difference to the returns realised, as well as
the costs faced.

Anyway – if you are involved in research, or supporting research, this worthy report is well worth at least a cursory glance.

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