Publishers and open access

Won’t open access put publishers out of business?

Large academic publishers are some of the most profitable companies in the world. Publishers have claimed over the past 10 years that open access threatens their viability. In recent years, the number of journals has risen faster than library budgets so some cancellations are inevitable. However, there is currently no evidence that depositing work in open access repositories causes journal cancellations. In high-energy physics, where researchers have been archiving for over 21 years, the two main publishers (American Physical Society and Institute of Physics) have publicly acknowledged that they have seen no cancellations attributable to open access deposits.

Most OA repositories insert a link to the journal’s website. This brings the journal to the attention of potential new readers and new authors. Having more articles from the journal in open access may increase the journal’s impact factor making it more attractive to readers, authors and librarians.

If green open access were to become widespread scholarly publishers could move to new business models that are based on value-adding or selling services rather than access to the digital text. Many industries have had to restructure in response to the rise in personal computing and the Internet. Companies which offer a service their customers want at a fair price will flourish.

Why would a journal publisher allow OA?

Increasingly, research funding bodies – such as ARC, NHMRC in Australia and NIH, RCUK and the European Commission internationally – require an open access copy of articles reporting the funded research. Consequently, journals that facilitate some form of open access will be more attractive to authors.  For example, authors in receipt of an NIH grant must retain the right to authorise open access through PubMed Central (for a certain version after a certain delay). If a given publisher won’t accept those terms, the grantee must look for another publisher.

Publisher support for OA encourages goodwill between publishers and the institutions which subscribe to their journals.

Are authors being forced to choose between high impact journals and OA?

No. Making work open access in a repository does not alter the choice of publication outlet. This is what the NHMRC & ARC open access policies require.

There is an increasing amount of evidence to show that open access journals have the same scientific impact as subscription journals. The 2012 paper “Open access versus subscription journals: a comparison of scientific impact”  shows that open access journals founded in the last 10 years recieve on average as many citations as subscription journals launched during the same time. There are many high impact open access journals (eg:  PLoS Biology has Journal Impact Factor of 12.9).