If Research Libraries and Funders Finance Open Access: Moving Beyond Subscriptions and APCs

John Willinsky, Matthew Rusk

Abstract

Following the examples of SCOAP3, in which libraries fund open access, and eLife, in which funding agencies have begun to directly fund open access scholarly publishing, this study presents an analysis of how creatively combining these two models might provide a means to move toward universal open access (without APCs). This study calculates the publishing costs for the funders that sponsor the research and for the libraries that cover unsponsored articles for two nonprofit biomedical publishers, eLife and PLOS, and the nonprofit journal aggregator BioOne. These entities represent a mix of publishing revenue models, including funder sponsorship, article processing charges (APC), and subscription fees. Using PubMed filtering and manual-sampling strategies, as well as publicly available publisher revenue data, the study found that, in 2015, 86 percent of the articles in eLife and PLOS acknowledge funder support, as do 76 percent of the articles in the largely subscription journals of BioOne. Such findings can inform libraries and funding agencies, as well as publishers, in their consideration of a direct-payment open access model, as the study (a) demonstrates the cost breakdown for funder and library support for open access among this sample of X articles; (b) posits how publishing data-management organizations such as Crossref and ORCID can facilitate such a model of funder and library per-article open access payments; and (c) proposes ways in which such a model offers a more efficient, equitable, and scalable approach to open access across the disciplines than the prevailing APC model, which originated with biomedical publishing.

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