Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Will universities pay more for OA journals than TA journals?

Henk Ellermann, Open Access more expensive? DigiLib, January 23, 2004. Excerpt: 'In a not so recent report by Phil Davis and others called Report of the CUL Task Force on Open Access Publishing Presented to the Cornell University Library Management Team, August 9, 2004 the idea that Open Access is cheaper for a university than a subscription based model was challenged. They estimate the cost for publishing an article in an Open Access Journal to be 1500 dollars or, probably, more. At Cornell there are 3636 Cornell first author articles, meaning that this publishing mode would cost them 5 and half million dollars (at least). Since Cornell currently spends around 4 million dollars for scholarly resources this means they will pay more and actually get less. Exit Open Access? Of course this is not the case, and it is not even concluded by the authors of this report....First of all, Open Access is not just about university economics, nor even just about economics. If the discussion is to be focused on economics then it is imperative to broaden the scope and consider the detrimental effects of the "access by subscription" model on the free flow of information and knowledge that is in itself extremely important for any modern economy. This is not done in this report, the focus is on "library economics" only. Another economical point that has not been taken into account in this report is the cost of buying back articles that have been handed over to publishers. I am refering to, of course, the use of copyrighted material in books and educational materials. I would like to see an estimate of these "costs" too and preferably even an estimate of how much is not re-used this way because of the copyright issues.'

(PS: Henk is right. There are other considerations missing from this kind of calculation as well. (Cornell's isn't the only one; there was another at Yale last year.) One of the main considerations is that universities will not be the only institutions to pay OA journal processing fees. Funding agencies will pay many of them, especially in biomedicine. Another is that many OA journals --most of the journals listed in the DOAJ-- do not charge any processing fees at all. Another is that universities can provide OA, through institutional repositories and policies encouraging their use, without having to fund OA journals. There are also many miscellaneous considerations that are difficult to take into account. For example: processing fees are highly variable; universities already pay an array of page charges and other fees that would disappear under OA; universities can reduce some of the processing fees for their faculty with institutional memberships at BMC and PLoS; OA will reduce many library expenses beyond subscriptions, such as ILL, licensing, and user authentication; and finally, high-output universities tend to subscribe to more journals than low-output universities, and therefore as OA journals spread, high-output universities will save more than other universities through the conversion, cancellation, or demise of subscription-based journals.)