The Impact of Open Access Models: An NFAIS Workshop

by Donald T. Hawkins (Freelance Conference Blogger and Editor)

Note: A summary of this article appeared in the February issue of Against The Grain, v. 28 no. 1, on Page 67.

The National Federation of Advanced Information Services (NFAIS) held a workshop entitled “The Impact of Open Access Models: Finding Stable, Sustainable and Scalable Solutions” on October 23, 2015 in Philadelphia, PA. The main thrust of the workshop was the entrance of open access (OA) in scholarly publishing and how it is funded. As research moves faster, we need access faster, so OA offers real opportunities.

NFAIS Survey Results

Nancy Blair-DeLeon, Director of Publishing, Family Practice Inquiry Network and former Program Manager at IEEE, reported on the results of an NFAIS survey of publishers, research libraries, and software companies to gauge attitudes towards article publishing charges (APCs) as a means of financing OA publication. OA is becoming increasingly popular; 71% of discovery service providers have seen an increase in usage of OA articles, and the number of authors publishing articles in journals with APCs has increased. Most authors of OA articles are working in the hard sciences (STEM) fields, although the number of those in the humanities and social sciences (HSS) fields is increasing. OA and funding models are confusing to authors; all they want to do is publish their works. Libraries have not observed an increased number of requests for OA articles; most researchers want answers to their queries regardless of where they come from and don’t ask for “everything that’s free”.

The big concern for publishers is whether having OA articles on their website will bring increased traffic. APCs are seen as a potential disruption of existing revenue streams from single article sales, document delivery, and article rentals. OA is causing changes to existing publishing models. Policies are still evolving, and there are still many unknowns.

Views from Society and Commercial Providers

Simone Taylor, Publisher, Open Access, John Wiley, defined Gold OA as that providing immediate access that is frequently paid for by an APC.  Green OA articles are those archived in a repository and made available after an embargo period. The typical embargo period, where required (not all journals require an embargo) is 12 months, and there is also a growing interest in Gold and Hybrid OA options. There also seems to be an increasing emphasis by government agencies on Green OA.

Most of the funding for Gold OA comes from grants specifically funding APCs. The standard APC is approximately $4,400. Wiley has two payment models: an OA account from institutions to pay APCs, and a partnership account with institutions, societies, or corporate organizations. Wiley also has agreements with aggregators allowing authors to put content on their sites, which benefits users who want a single source for content.

The future of OA involves:

  • Continued piloting and evolving of policies over the next five years,
  • Collaboration between funders, publishers, and the research community,
  • Continued evolution of business models, and
  • Increased focus on the needs of authors trying to navigate a mixed environment of subscription-based journals, and Green or Gold OA.
Brian Crawford

Brian Crawford

Brian Crawford, President, Publishing Division, American Chemical Society (ACS), noted that ACS’s author community is larger than its membership. ACS has the following OA strategy:

  • Accommodate Green OA but encourage Gold by providing stimulus incentives and expanded licensing options,
  • Support a transition to OA for the ACS journal portfolio, based on author and sponsor funding demand.
  • Develop and launch a high-visibility, high-impact OA journal,
  • Adjust business models for subscription-based electronic licensing, and
  • Demonstrate the Society’s commitment to sustainable models for open dissemination of trusted scientific information by participating in cross-industry initiatives.

ACS’s four “pillars” of OA are:

  • ACS AuthorChoice: a member-benefit hybrid OA option that gives discounts on APCs to ACS members at subscribing institutions. Authors may deposit their published articles in a repository upon payment of the AuthorChoice fee.
  • ACS Author Rewards, instituted in 2014, provides a $1,500 credit towards payment of APCs for any ACS OA article published between 2015 and 2017 to the corresponding author of every article published in 2014.
  • ACS Editor’s Choice: a panel of ACS journal editors selects one article per day to convert to OA at no charge to the author, thus highlighting the newly published work of an author and research team.
  • ACS CentralScience is ACS’s first OA journal. It has no APCs and was launched in the spring of 2015. It is highly selective, interdisciplinary, and expects to publish 150 to 200 articles per year in all chemistry-related areas.

In Crawford’s opinion, “APCs” should mean “article publishing charges”, not “article processing charges”, which would recognize and highlight the value added by publishers.

Ann Gabriel

Ann Gabriel

Ann Gabriel, Vice President, Academic and Research Relations, Elsevier, said that key drivers are the motivations of authors who want to publish in OA journals, which would result in a perceived increase in citations to their work and its dissemination, and a faster advancement of science. Elsevier’s subscription content continues to grow at a rate of 1 to 4% per year, and OA is growing 12 to 24% annually.  In 2014, Elsevier published about 400,000 articles, of which 6,000 were OA. In North America and Asia, funding agencies are trending towards Green models, while the UK and the Netherlands are trending towards Gold. Many authors still want to publish in subscription journals and said they were very unlikely to publish in an OA journal.

Elsevier has launched several innovative OA publishing projects:

  • Heliyon is a new multidisciplinary OA journal with an APC of $1,250. It will be used as a testbed to find new ways to enhance the author and reader experience. Submission, review, and editorial practices are designed to ensure rapid publication—within 72 hours after review and acceptance.
  • Two journals (Journal of Infectious Diseases and Alzheimer’s and Dementia) have changed their business model to become fully OA. The process was very successful; the number of submissions and published articles increased dramatically.
  • GI Endoscopy is an OA video journal that allows viewing a procedure in a fraction of the time it would take to read a detailed description of it.
  • Genomics Data allows researchers to publish their data along with its interpretation.
  • MethodsX publishes details of experimental methods in a microarticle format and has a very modest ($500) APC.

APCs help pay publishing costs, and 23% of Elsevier’s authors report that APCs are covered by their research funding. Elsevier aims to keep APCs within the market range. It does not charge journal subscribers for OA articles when calculating subscription prices; list prices for 27 journals were lowered in 2014 because of the decrease in the numbers of non-OA articles. There is room in the market and a need for both OA and subscription journals.

Kathleen DiLaurenti, Arts Librarian, College of William and Mary, discussed a different type of OA content: music. There are no academic record labels; composers are scholars working in the public market. They generally require a fee for production and marketing, similar to an APC for traditional publishing. The fees do not cover recording costs which can be substantial (approximate total costs can be up to $20,000).  “Peer review” for music is based on the market acceptance of a composer’s output. Most composition scholars are trying to find funding and are working with internal campus organizations or doing their own recording.

Here are two examples of music-related OA services:

  • The International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP, is a library of public domain music that currently contains nearly 100,000 original compositions that have been scanned to PDFs. Current composers can post compositions using Creative Commons licenses.
  • The Sheet Music Consortium ( is a group of libraries building an OA collection of digitized sheet music that is hosted by the UCLA Digital Library. It is harvesting metadata about the music and using linked open data technologies to make it widely available to researchers, students, and the public.

Going forward, record labels willing to examine new publishing models could collaborate and seek institutional funding, funders could work with labels to make OA more attractive to musicians, and libraries could pursue opportunities for hosting digital distribution platforms.

Models for Social Sciences and the Humanities

Rebecca Kennison, Principal, K|N Consultants, looked at OA models for communities in the social sciences and humanities and summarized a white paper on the subject, which is available at The white paper outlines a model for OA and assumes that:

  • Scholars want to be able to publish wherever they wish;
  • Sharing is the responsibility of every institution; and
  • The mission of the library is to support dissemination and preservation of scholarly output.

The current models of OA publishing using a cost-per-unit approach are not easily adapted to new forms of scholarly communication because they are not scalable or sustainable. A proposal was therefore made to create partnerships among scholarly societies, university presses, research libraries, and others to encourage institutionally-supported publishing and preservation of OA publications.

Institutions should be interested in the proposal because OA helps to address the soaring costs of higher education and the challenges of lifelong learning. Access to content builds on the teaching and learning mission of colleges and universities. The goal of the OA networks is to fund the entire scholarly communication infrastructure.

HSS scholars differ in publishing practices because they depend more on books than STEM scholars.  Books are more expensive than articles to publish; there is no historical practice of paying page charges; cost/unit pricing will not work for long; and grant funding is considerably less than for STEM researchers.

OA for University Presses

Mary Rose Muncie

Mary Rose Muncie

Mary Rose Muncie, Executive Director, Temple University (TU) Press, described the practicality of OA for university presses. They face several industry-wide challenges. Students are not buying supplementary textbooks, and information creation and consumption are becoming increasingly digital. However, print books are far from dead, so there is a need for investment in new technologies while maintaining a challenging existing business. Incorporation of OA must be within a framework of sustainability.

Presses must maintain and communicate their value to their local users, integrate with student learning, support the research community, and partner with key regional players around content production.  They are not house organs or vanity presses and want to be seen as an important force in the local community. Recently, there has been much pressure on university presses, and several of them have closed.

Publication of monographs is a large part of a university press’s business, but it is not without challenges:

  • Most university tenure committees require publication of a printed book to grant tenure and will not regard an e-book as fulfillment of this requirement.
  • Books that are revisions of dissertations make up only a fraction of long-term scholarship.
  • In theory, there is support for OA, but not under CC-BY licenses because of the investment required to publish a monograph.
  • Rights issues often prevent creation of electronic editions of books. OA editions require even more complex permissions.

The financial reality is that small and medium university presses cannot survive on what they sell, and there are no government grants for authors. TU Press is part of a state-funded university, so it has no cash to spare and must be very lean in its operations.  But its authors expect it to publish print books.  To integrate OA, TU Press proposed that the university fund faculty publishing of long-form scholarship. It has supported an AAU/ARL proposal for university support of faculty members’ first books, (i.e. those required for tenure), and it also works with Knowledge Unlatched (see Judy Luther’s presentation below), with favorable experiences. Other options include a press-library partnership; support for OA journals to create, curate, and preserve born-digital scholarship; and hosting of digital supplemental material by the library. Partnerships with the university and the library are critical to survival of the Press.

Consortium Approach to OA Funding

Judy Luther, President, Informed Strategies, spoke on behalf of Knowledge Unlatched (KU), a nonprofit organization promoting a library collaborative approach to funding the cost of OA books. She noted that the science literature is being made freely available while arts and humanities remain locked behind a firewall.  Publishers of monographs are challenged because print runs for academic books have declined sharply, forcing costs to be spread across a much smaller number of copies. As a result, libraries are struggling to afford books; academics struggle to get published; and readers have limited access to books they want.

Research funders increasingly require OA publication, but the first copy cost of a book (about $12,000) is 4 times that of an article (at $3,000), so the author-pays model does not work as well in the HSS disciplines as it does in STEM fields, mainly because HSS research is published more in books rather than journal articles, and the APCs for e-books would be unaffordable for individuals. The KU model seeks to address these problems by enabling libraries to collectively share publishers’ first copy costs (which KU calls a “Title Fee”), thereby providing the funds for OA publication. During a “pledging period”, libraries commit to “unlatch” collections of books selected by librarians; as more libraries join the program, the effective cost per book decreases. At the end of the pledging period, either the books are unlatched for the initial package price or less (depending on the number of participating libraries) or the books are not unlatched if there is an insufficient number of interested libraries

In a pilot test that served as proof of concept, a single collection of 28 books from 13 publishers was “unlatched” by 297 participating libraries from around the world. The initial price of $1,680 per collection, based on 200 libraries paying $60 per book, dropped to $1,195 for the 297 libraries who paid $43 per book at the end of the four-month pledging period.  One year later, there were over 1,000 downloads per book.

In a second round, which is still ongoing (the four-month pledging period concludes at the end of January 2016), the model was expanded to 8 collections with a total of 78 titles from 26 publishers. Libraries were offered 6 subject-based and 2 publisher-based collections, at an average price of $50 per title based on 300 participating libraries.  Full details of the program, including details of participating publishers and title lists, are available on the KU website at

Publishers like KU because it increases their visibility and the works of their authors, and it also reduces financial risk by covering first copy costs.  Libraries like KU because books become more discoverable, accessible, and affordable, and the HSS content is preserved in an OA environment.

Perspective from a Funding Organization

Helen Cullyer, Program Officer, Scholarly Communications, The Andrew Mellon Foundation, described Mellon’s Scholarly Communications Program, which is currently engaged in a major initiative to help presses and other organizations to publish high-quality scholarly works in the humanities. OA is a means to these ends.

Journals are still important for the humanities, but a significant roadblock to OA is the need for sustainable financial models. A new infrastructure is needed for publication and dissemination of OA monographs. A Mellon-funded “Pay It Forward” study led by the University of California is investigating the economic implications of journal APCs for large North American research institutions and seeking to determine how and why APCs are set at the levels they are, what levels are sustainable, and what is the attitude of faculty and administrators towards Gold OA.

The monograph is the long-term genre for publication in the humanities, and the digital medium presents opportunities for enhanced monographs. Monographs are expensive to produce, and challenges are how to demonstrate value, how to scale, and how models for OA books relate to those for OA journals.  Models only accommodating the production of PDFs are unlikely to meet the needs of users. OA is a means to certain ends, but the real issue is an infrastructure for internet-ready publications.

Moving Book Production to the Web

Erich van Rijn, Director of Publishing Operations, University of California (UC) Press, spoke on moving scholarly book production to the web. Scholarship and content consumption are moving increasingly to the web. Large commercial publishers are still using slow old time-intensive processes for publication, but people want information quickly now.  Web usage is huge: there are now 3 billion active internet users in the world.

Web applications offer an increasingly sophisticated user experience. So why don’t we write and produce books on the web? Standard workflows in publishing companies still use desktop applications like Microsoft Word. Current book production workflow is not dynamic or scalable and could be more iterative and collaborative with a single-source publication content management environment. But we cannot change the world overnight, so we will still need to be able to ingest content from Microsoft Word.

We need to start thinking outside the retail ecosystem and think in terms of discoverability, which requires richer metadata.  It is important to avoid typesetting; larger publishing houses have already sent it offshore and are saving $2.50 to $5.00 per page for a typical monograph.  We can save money by automating conversion costs and using a single-source publishing system that will produce XML/HTML-ready text and open source code. HTML5 web standards ensure interoperability, prevent code obsolescence, allow communities to form, and enhance products. They are an important part of the publishing industry’s future.

Most current systems are still focused on authoring rather than collaboration; much proprietary software does not support integration via APIs; resistance to cultural change impedes experimentation (it’s hard to introduce a change to a work process); and publisher workflows vary.  Web-based systems and OA provide an opportunity to liberate people from desktop-based processes and think about publishing online first.  Print will always be important but we still must take advantage of the web. We must think about the infrastructure we currently and how we can experiment to change and modernize it to facilitate economical and rapid publication of HSS content to the web.

Economic Implications of Journal APCs

Mackenzie Smith, University Librarian at UC Davis, described the Pay It Forward project which is investigating the economic implications of journal APCs for large North American research institutions. There is an increasing disconnect between European and North American approaches to OA: Europe tends to follow the Gold OA model and North America follows Green OA, which means a library may have to pay for the same articles 3 times: once for publishing in the subscription-based journal, and again for both Gold and Green OA versions.

The Pay It Forward project seeks to answer the question:

Can a large-scale conversion to OA journal publishing, funded by APCs, be viable and financially sustainable for large North American research-intensive institutions?

(Sustainable means costing no more than current subscription costs with a rate of growth supportable in the future.) The project is building a set of financial scenarios describing OA business models for research institutions that libraries and universities can use in their local environments. It is not only looking at what APCs actually cost but at what they should cost to maintain high-quality scholarly communication. The project is currently developing scenarios for the various stakeholders.

View of OA from a Graduate Student

Kenneth Yancey

Kenneth Yancey

The workshop closed with a presentation by Kenneth Yancey, a Ph.D. candidate in bioengineering at Cornell University, who gave the attendees a practical view from the graduate student community of how OA benefits them. He began with a brief look of the OA landscape: Various types of OA have experienced a huge growth since 2000, and today there are over 1,650 peer-reviewed OA journals.  Many funding organizations are now requiring grant recipients to provide them with OA versions of their results and reports, saying that publicly funded research should be freely available to the public. Yancey also presented the following data showing that more open access will lead to more citations and more impact of the results.

Furthermore, many developing nations have little access to conventionally published journals, so they are information impoverished and professionally isolated.

Yancey has seen both sides of the OA issue.  He obtained his B.S. and M.S. degrees from a smaller university with limited access to top-tier journals and experienced much frustration because research requires novelty, and novelty requires knowledge of the state of the field. When he transferred to Cornell for his Ph.D. studies, he found out how important ease of access was.

Cultural barriers still exist among early researchers because a lack of recognition of many new OA journals means that they do not yet have impact factors, and their concerns about predatory journals or “paper mills”. Research impact is critical to career progression; fortunately, time may solve this issue as OA journals mature. Yancey’s hope is that financially stable OA models may also help subscription journals extend their access.

Hawkins-150x148Donald T. Hawkins is an information industry freelance writer based in Pennsylvania. In addition to blogging and writing about conferences for Against the Grain, he blogs the Computers in Libraries and Internet Librarian conferences for Information Today, Inc. (ITI) and maintains the Conference Calendar on the ITI website ( He is the Editor of Personal Archiving: Preserving Our Digital Heritage, (Information Today, 2013) and Co-Editor of Public Knowledge: Access and Benefits (Information Today, 2016). He holds a Ph.D. degree from the University of California, Berkeley and has worked in the online information industry for over 40 years.

Sign-up Today!

Join our mailing list to receive free daily updates.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest