On January 31st, we had a discussion that was open to all library staff about the Economics of the Scholarly Communication Ecosystem. Those of us in the Open Access Group had been reading about the economics behind open access (OA) publishing, traditional, toll-access publishing, and hybrid publishing. We hoped the discussion would be a forum for us to share what we’d learned and hear from participants about their thoughts on the issue.
Here are some of the highlights of the discussion:
- While the literature we (OA Group) had read indicated that switching to a system that pays for publishing services (Article Processing Charges, APCs) rather than paying for access would be much cheaper for libraries, some participants said they had read literature indicating that for research universities, the cost would be higher.
- This brought up the issue of funding agencies paying for some APCs, so that universities and libraries wouldn’t be responsible for paying all APCs for their authors.
- Of course, these discussions assumed a complete switch to open access publishing, but that isn’t the reality. There was much discussion around how we cope with the current transitional system we are in – most journals still charge a subscription fee (even if they also offer hybrid OA), while some journals are open access (both free and with fees for publishing).
- We discussed the OA funds that some university libraries are making available to faculty at their institutions. Most of these funds are small in size (less than 100k), are available only to those people who do not have grant funding available to pay APCs, and cannot be used for hybrid-OA.
- One participant asked if there had been much discussion in the library about which route to OA librarians preferred. We talked briefly about some of the pros and cons of green-OA vs. gold-OA. This is certainly a topic that could use further discussion.
- There was some frustration expressed with the fact that we’ve been talking about OA for 20+ years now and we still have much the same system as we did in 1994. While there are some very successful OA journals, many of the OA journals that started up during that time have since folded.
- Some of the collaborative efforts discussed included SCOAP3, the Compact for OA Publishing Equity, and SHARE.
- One interesting topic brought up was a concern that universities (and the legislatures that fund public universities) do not truly understand what it means to be a public good. This lack of understanding coupled with very high costs for access to information and a transitional scholarly communication environment could lead administrators to pull funding away from the library – similar to what happened with many university presses.
While this was a great opportunity for us all to talk about the issues facing us right now, there is still much we didn’t get a chance to discuss. We hope to have discussions on other topics in the future.
Our reading list is available here.