Do OA funds support hybrid?

Cost comparisons about hybrid publication can be confusing to an individual author trying to decide if paying for hybrid open access is worthwhile. But if their funding body is paying for publication charges, they might not have a choice. This page looks at the position many OA funds take on hybrid publication.

There are indicators that more money is becoming available in the sector for open access publication. According to Wiley’s 2013 author survey on open access, authors had reported a larger percentage of funding for publication compared with the previous year: “Over half of responding authors received grant funding (24% full funding, 29% partial funding) to cover Article Publication Charges (APCs), an increase of 43% from 2012”.

This is not surprising given the continuously growing list of funding bodies, governments and institutions committing to open access. But are these growing funds available for hybrid publishing? It seems in many cases they are not.

Statements against funding hybrid open access

The Science Europe Position Statement: Principles for the Transition to Open Access to Research Publications (April 2013) specifically states that:

The Science Europe Member Organisations … stress that the hybrid model, as currently defined and implemented by publishers, is not a working and viable pathway to Open Access. Any model for transition to Open Access supported by Science Europe Member Organisations must prevent ‘double dipping’ and increase cost transparency.

To add to this, the Policy of the Compact for Open-Access Publishing Equity (COPE) notes in its question about which journals are eligible for funding support that:

…., journals that require a supplemental payment for open access on an article-by-article basis, so-called hybrid open access journals, would not be expected to be eligible. Other factors affecting eligibility might include quality of the journal and fee-waiver policies of the journal.

The September 2013 UK Business, Innovation and Skills Committee – Fifth Report, Open Access recommended:

If RCUK and the Government continue to maintain their preference for Gold, they should amend their policies so that APCs are only paid to publishers of pure Gold rather than hybrid journals. This would eliminate the risk of double dipping by journals, and encourage innovation in the scholarly publishing market. (Paragraph 77)

Funds for publication

So what about other funds? The list of open access journal funds from

License Noncommercial Share Alike Some rights reserved by Divine Harvester

License Noncommercial Share Alike Some rights reserved by Divine Harvester

the Open Access Directory contains details of 81 funds worldwide. The QUT fund is the only Australian fund listed.

A brief analysis of this list (as at February 2014) shows that 39.5% of the funds (32) state they do not support hybrid journals.

Only 13.5% of the funds (11) state they support hybrid journals outright. A further 13.5% support hybrid journals with conditions attached – either by providing less funding for hybrid journals than fully open access journals (seven funds), or by specifying that hybrid journals without embargoes are supported.

In two cases, the University of Calgary, and the University of Utah, the funds state they support hybrid journals only where there is a commitment by the publisher to proportionally reduce their subscription fees. But as noted above, it is almost impossible to determine if a journal is reducing its subscription, so this clause would be difficult to enact. In this instance, for the most part, the University of Calgary has taken publishers at their word regarding subscription reductions though this is being reviewed.

Of the 27 funds that do not mention hybrid, nine specifically state the funds “support OA journals” and in all probability this means non-hybrid journals, as is clarified in the University of Manitoba’s eligibility criteria. Without a full analysis of all of these funds, it is not clear how many do not include hybrid – but this potentially increases the number of funds that specifically do not support hybrid to half.

What does all this mean? At the very least, before considering hybrid publication authors need to check the rules of their funding body, or they might find themselves out of pocket.

Published 6 March 2014 (updated 31 March 2014)
Written by Dr Danny Kingsley
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed by AOASG under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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