November 11, 2005

ALPSP releases "The Facts about Open Access" report

12th October 2005

[The full report from the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers is available at http://www.alpsp.org/publications/pub11.htm; below is the introduction from Chief Executive Sally Morris]

Discussion of Open Access tends to be strong on rhetoric but short on facts. When ALPSP originally conceived of this study, it was our aim to try to correct this balance by analyzing the effects, both financial and non-financial, of adopting an Open Access publication model. The more we looked into it, the more substantial the undertaking became; we were therefore delighted when both HighWire Press and the American Association for the Advancement of Science agreed to co-sponsor the study, and we later welcomed the opportunity to include data from the members of the Association of American Medical Colleges.

There are now a significant number of journals being published under various variants of the Open Access publishing model, both by new players and by traditional publishers, and the study covered a good proportion of these; the extent to which traditional publishers are experimenting is particularly noteworthy. Our original intentions have thus been amply fulfilled; we now have, for the first time, a substantial body of data about different forms of Open Access publishing, and a baseline of comparison with traditional subscription publishing.

Some of the findings confirmed what we thought we knew. For example, we were aware that by and large, Open Access journals were younger than subscription journals - though we had not realized how long-established some of them actually were. And, by virtue of their youth, it is to be expected that they have not yet achieved the same level of impact as more established journals. The study clarifies, however, just how much less is published in the average Open Access journal, and how much lower the rejection rate is. We were able to dispel the notion that Open Access journals do not carry out peer review or copy-editing; however, many more of them only conduct peer review in-house, which is not what would generally be understood as classical peer review, and fewer of them do any copy-editing for style and grammar.

On the financial side, we were very surprised to find just how few of the Open Access journals raise any author-side charges at all; in fact, author charges are considerably more common (in the form of page charges, colour charges, reprint charges, etc) among subscription journals. Open Access journals seem in general to be far more dependent on other sources of income, such as advertising and, particularly, sponsorship - whether in kind (e.g. provision by their institution of equipment, computing resources, accommodation, and staff time) or financial (e.g. from industry or from foundations). Over 40% of the Open Access journals are not yet covering their costs and, unlike subscription journals, there is no reason why the passage of time - evidenced in increasing submissions, quality or impact - should actually change that; their financial future therefore seems somewhat uncertain. Indeed, a surprising number of the Open Access publishers made comments which suggested that financial sustainability was not high on their list of priorities.

Is Open Access publishing a financially viable model? It is impossible to draw any firm conclusions, of course. However, from the evidence we have collected this seems by no means certain. What does appear clear, however, is that there is a general recognition that we all need to find a better model (or models) to provide wide and speedy access to research findings in the interests of science, and that a considerable amount of experimentation with various alternative models is taking place.

We hope that this report will aid further discussion of alternative publishing models by adding to the body of evidence-based research; of course, there may be alternative interpretations of the data and both the sponsors and the researchers would be happy to discuss these. We believe that it will be important to repeat the study every few years to identify any trends, as well as identifying new developments and their effects.

Sally Morris

Chief Executive

Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers

Posted by stemp003 at November 11, 2005 4:07 PM
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