Open access economics on-the-fly webliography and overview


Laakso, M., Solomon, D. and Björk, B.-C. (2016), How subscription-based scholarly journals can convert to open access: A review of approaches. Learned Publishing, 29: 259–269. doi:10.1002/leap.1056


This article reviews the ways through which subscription-based scholarly journals have converted to open access. The methodology included a comprehensive literature review of both published and ‘grey’ literature, such as blog posts and press releases. Eight interviews were also conducted with stakeholders representing different parts of the scholarly publishing landscape. Strategies of conversion for different types of journals are presented at multiple levels (publishers, national, research funders, organizational, and so on). The identified scenarios are split into two main categories, those that rely heavily on article processing charges and those that can operate without relying on author-side financing. Despite there being interesting and important shared traits among many converted journals, individual circumstances largely dictate what options for conversion are viable for a journal. There is no single solution that works for every journal but rather a broad selection of different solutions, among which selection should be well informed.

Schonfeld, Roger C. (2016). A taxonomy of university presses today. The Scholarly Kitchen Oct. 13, 2016. Schonfield presents a very useful summary of the situation for university presses today in the transition to open access. Following is the first paragraph which includes what looks like some very interesting links:

There is an effort afoot in the university press and higher education communities to transition humanities monographs to open access, which to some is a vital element of repositioning humanities fields to take a more public role. Ithaka S+R colleagues have played a role in developing cost estimates for monograph publishing, several presses have led subvention modeling, and others have reflected thoughtfully on the broader transformations in business models that a shift to open should be expected to yield. While costs and business models are essential, they are not the only puzzle pieces. Project Muse’s recent announcement about supporting open access book publishing indicates that some important infrastructure is coming online to support these directions. Costs, business models, and infrastructure are vital.

October 27, 2016

Should Indian researchers pay to get their work published?
Muthu Madhan, Siva Shankar Kimidi, Subbiah Gunasekaran and Subbiah Arunachalam. Forthcoming in Current Science.


We raise the financial and ethical issue of paying for getting papers published in professional journals. Indian researchers have published more than 37,000 papers in over 880 open access journals from 61 countries in the five years between 2010 and 2014 as seen from Science Citation Index Expanded. This accounts for about 14.4% of India’s overall publication output, considerably higher than the 11.6% from the world. Indian authors have used 488 open access (OA) journals which levy article processing charges (APC), ranging from INR 500 to US$5,000 per paper publish about 15,400 papers. More than half of these papers were published in just 13 journals. PLoS One and Current Science are the OA journals Indian researchers use most often. Most leading Indian journals are open access and they do not charge APC. Use of OA journals levying APC has increased over the period of four years; they were 242 journals which published 2557 papers in 2010 which rose to 328 journals that published 3,634 papers in 2014. There has been an increase in the use of non-APC journals as well, but at a lower pace. About 27% of all Indian papers in OA journals are in Clinical Medicine, and 11.7% in Chemistry. Indian researchers have used nine mega journals to publish 3,100 papers. We estimate that India is potentially spending about US$2.4 million annually on APCs and suggest that it would be prudent for Indian authors to make their work freely available through interoperable repositories, a trend that is growing significantly in Latin America and China, especially when research is facing funding crunch. We further suggest bringing all Indian OA journals on to a single platform similar to SciELO, and all repositories be harvested by CSIR-URDIP which is already managing the OA repositories of the laboratories of CSIR, DBT and DST. Such resource sharing will not only result in enhanced efficiency and reduced overall costs, but will also facilitate use of standard metadata among repositories.

This page reflects an open approach to writing one of the forthcoming projects of SKC research. Eventually this work, or portions of it, may become formal publications, however in the short term I think it is more important to gather and share this information on an ongoing basis considering how many different streams of research and information-sharing are in progress.

One of the overall goals of Sustaining the Knowledge Commons is to periodically update my analysis of the potential for a global economic flip to open access first published in First Monday in 2013. My arguments in brief:

  • the vast majority of revenue for scholarly journals comes from academic library budgets
  • this revenue is more than sufficient to fund a fully open access scholarly journal publishing system
  • a fully OA scholarly journal publishing system is achievable at substantially less cost than the existing system
  • cost savings cannot be assumed; for example, some journals charge APCs higher than traditional average global spend per article by academic libraries; if the average tends toward these higher prices an OA system would cost more
  • cost savings are most likely if careful attention is paid to supporting more efficient processes; for example, Edgar & Willinsky in a survey of close to a thousand journals using OJS found an average revenue of $188 per article. This is approximately 4% of current spend. Exploring the potential of this DIY sector by ensuring that factors such as journal hosting and support are included and ensuring that these journals have sufficient resources for ongoing operation would be one way to approach research to support an economically sustainable OA ecosystem
  • seeking cost efficiencies would be wise because universities and research organizations have limited funding and new needs such as support for research data and institutional repositories; we need to transition the existing economics to do more, not just to support OA, important as this goal is

Transitioning a global economic system is an enormous task. Fortunately, there are many people working on this question, including academics and funders of research and research support services. I’ll need to gather information, links and citations on all this work to inform the next update on the global potential for a shift to open access. Continuing in the spirit of open research of the SKC project, I’ll be doing this work on an ad hoc basis online, adding links and organizing as time permits, and I hope that in the near future this page will become a useful resource for everyone working in this area. This is also an opportunity for me to highlight sectors such as DIY publishing and cooperatives that I see as more likely to lead to sustainable OA to balance the extensive work the SKC does on the OA APC longitudinal study.

Your feedback and suggestions are welcome via the contact form on this page. If you would appreciate attribution please indicate this with your comment. I am envisioning a list of contributors to add to the end of the page. Links and citations will be attributed only as necessary to find the original work; substantive contributions will be attributed in the text.

Organization: to start with this will page will serve as an overview section / Table of Contents with links to specific sections

Table of Contents

Collaborative approaches (e.g. Open Library of the Humanities, Knowledge Unlatched, Publishing Cooperatives)

DIY publishing (e.g. PKP)

Global open access flip action initiatives (e.g. OA2020, PayItForward)

Open access article processing charges research

Library economics research (e.g. library budget reports, results of ATI requests)

Publisher research (e.g. publishers’ reports on costs of publishing)

Study on Open Access Publishing (SOAP study). (2010). The SOAP Consortium.


The SOAP (Study of Open Access Publishing) project has compiled data on the present offer for open access publishing in online peer-reviewed journals. Starting from the Directory of Open Access Journals, several sources of data are considered, including inspection of journal web site and direct inquiries within the publishing industry.

Several results are derived and discussed, together with their correlations: the number of open access journals and articles; their subject area; the starting date of open access journals; the size and business models of open access publishers; the licensing models; the presence of an impact factor; the uptake of hybrid open access. In addition, a number of qualitative features of open access publishing, relevant to understand the present landscape, are described.

Note: the SOAP study was a major study beginning in 2008 involving traditional publishers and members of the open access community working together.

Model analysis

Subscriptions to open access flip


Major sources for information included in this series of pages, in alphabetical order, are:

Acknowledgements: thanks to Peter Suber’s long-time work on the Open Access Overview and the collaborative  Open Access Directory for inspiring this approach.