Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, July 27, 2007

University publishing in the age of the internet

Ithaka has released a new report by Laura Brown, Rebecca Griffiths, and Matthew Rascoff, University Publishing in a Digital Age, July 23, 2007. 

From the splash page: 

Scholars have a vast range of opportunities to distribute their work, from setting up web pages or blogs, to posting articles to working paper websites or institutional repositories, to including them in peer-reviewed journals or books. In American colleges and universities, access to the internet and World Wide Web is ubiquitous; consequently nearly all intellectual effort results in some form of “publishing”. Yet universities do not treat this function as an important, mission-centric endeavor. The result has been a scholarly publishing industry that many in the university community find to be increasingly out of step with the important values of the academy.

This paper argues that a renewed commitment to publishing in its broadest sense can enable universities to more fully realize the potential global impact of their academic programs, enhance the reputations of their institutions, maintain a strong voice in determining what constitutes important scholarship, and in some cases reduce costs.

From the body of the report:

Alongside these changes in content creation and publication, alternative distribution models (institutional repositories, pre-print servers, open access journals) have also arisen with the aim to broaden access, reduce costs, and enable open sharing of content. Different economic models will be appropriate for different types of content and different audiences. It seems critical to us that there continue to be a diverse marketplace for publishing a range of content, from fee-based to open access, from peer reviewed to self-published, from single author to collaboratively created, from simple text to rich media. This marketplace should involve commercial and not-for-profit entities, and should include collaborations among libraries, presses, and academic computing centers....

[A]s is often decried by open access advocates, universities sometimes must pay excessively high prices to gain access to published scholarship. (Open access efforts may be a solution to some of these problems, but we will argue that there is no one-size-fits-all solution across disciplines and types of content.)...

The academic community seems to be looking to open access models as a solution to these challenges. But while open access may well be a sustainable solution in STM disciplines, where federal and private research grants can conceivably be extended to support publication fees, one model will not serve as a panacea. A more desirable future, in our view, features a diverse set of publishing models ranging from fee-based to open depending on the nature of the content and the interests of stakeholders. Universities should have a stake in developing these models.

Also see the bulleted list at pp. 36-37 on the "often complementary strengths and weaknesses" of libraries and university presses "that could be harnessed to deliver a compelling new publishing enterprise."


  • There is no one-size-fits-all solution across disciplines and types of content….In its context, this assertion leaves the impression that OA advocates would disagree.  But all OA advocates I know acknowledge that the challenges and models differ from discipline to discipline (even if OA itself is desirable and feasible in each), and acknowledge that OA suits some types of content, like journal articles, better than other types, like books.
  • The authors seem unaware that most OA journals charge no publication fees.
  • In their questionnaire to university press directors (Appendix D, p. 46), the authors ask, “Is your university prepared to provide more subsidy to your press to make up for revenues lost to open access? How much more money would you be willing to budget for your press?”  These are fair questions, but there are no complementary questions along these lines:  “Are you aware of the evidence that some open access journals make a profit or surplus?  Are you aware of the evidence that some open access monographs stimulate a net increase in the sales of the print editions?”