(Gold) Open Access: the two sides of the coin

Image taken from: http://blog.scholasticahq.com/post/100004713143/a-pay-it-forward-approach-to-open-access-publishing

This is the last one of a series of post published, during the last two months, as part of my Open Access visiting scholarship. This visiting at the Institute for Cultural Studies will conclude with an open presentation in a few days at the Faculty of Arts at KU Leuven, entitled: Rethinking open access: alternative forms of sustainability and social impact metrics.

In this post we present some of the virtues and misfortunes of Gold OA. This is a summary of two extremely interesting interviews, which show the two sides of the spectrum. The first one made to Jeffrey Beall who explains how “predatory publishers” are “poisoning” Gold OA. At the other side of the coin, Neil Christensen purposes a new redistributive article processing charges [APC’s] which includes micro-payments for editors and reviewers.

Jeffrey Beall (who created an incredible and scary list of ‘questionable, scholarly open-access publishers‘) explains that predatory publishers are those who exploit the gold open access model simply to make a profit. Adding, journals operate as vanity presses, offering to publish nearly any article as long as the author can pay the fee. They’re very clever, he argued, their job is to get the author fees. So the authors are the customers, and they don’t care so much about the people who read the contents. Their job is to get the money from the authors, so they do everything they can to make themselves look legitimate. Here some excerpts from the interview:

  • One trademark behavior is the use of mass e-mails to solicit manuscripts, editorships, or peer reviewers where unscrupulous entrepreneurs might use the gold open access model to make money from unsuspecting researchers hit the mainstream academic press. It’s a significant problem for the gold open access model itself, which I think is being poisoned by predatory publishers.

A call for higher transparency, accountability and a crowdsource publishing ethic:

  • There’s no objective way to measure new open access journals, especially when the publishers lack transparency and hide their operations. We can’t measure how well they’re doing their peer review or if they’re doing it at all. So the only way to judge them is by gathering all the information you can from their Web sites, from talking to them, from reading e-mails from people who have worked with them or submitted articles to them and combine all of that information and complete the analysis.
  • It’s going to be tough for libraries to filter those out because so many libraries do batch loading now. Academic librarians need to remove metadata for predatory publishers and predatory journals from their online catalogs and all of their discovery systems and library Web sites. By including predatory publishers in library systems, they’re giving these journals a tacit seal of approval from the library.
  • I wish there were a way to crowdsource publishing ethics. I wish there was a way that people could report instances of author misconduct. I think that would help science a lot.
  • What I really like is what I call platinum open access, which is the same as gold open access, except there’s no author fee. That takes away the conflict of interest for the publishers because they don’t make more money the more articles they accept.

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On the other side of the spectrum, Neil Christensen from the University of California Press (UCP) explained a work-in-progress new kind of OA journal model (to be launched in 2015), based on article processing charges (APCs) but aiming to give editors and reviewers the opportunity to put their earnings towards their supporting institution’s OA initiatives [read full interview]. Here some excerpts:

The framework:

  • You have all of this research that’s being generated by researchers that publishers are receiving for free, and then to review it you recruit a lot of researchers to do a lot of additional work for free, and then once you’ve received all of this free stuff you sell it back at a premium to the same researchers and their libraries. And that fee just seems to go up year and year and year, prices on journals are continuing to increase and the ability of the academic community to pay those fees is stagnating.
  • Traditionally there has been this notion that the world as we know it would end tomorrow if big publishers had to pay for the services that they’re receiving for free from the academy, and that’s not the case. What’s really unsustainable is the notion that the academic process can uphold the big profit margins that commercial publishing houses are showing—that’s unsustainable.

The vision:

  • There is a systematic issue there with the academy of researchers not being fully recognized for the value they were contributing.
  • The model is grounded on the idea of redistribution where we take a portion of the APC out and put it in a pool of money: We’re saying, “let’s try and do what’s already being done in terms of APCs only do it at a lower price and recognize that the academy has a role there in generating value.”
  • One element is that we want an APC that is as low as possible: we want to be non-profit and help facilitate profit for the academy. The other element is the value: a portion of the APC is going to be paid to editors and reviewers, and editors and reviewers will have the choice of what they want to do with that value.
  • When you look at the open access APCs that commercial publishers offer, they charge three, four, and five thousand dollars to publish. That’s a lot of money, and out of that money not a single cent goes back to the reviewers. Of course the editors of those journals get paid for their work. But the reviewers, none of them see that money, and their hosting institutions who provide the offices and the computers, they don’t see any of that money.

The model:

  • The aim is to create an OA mega-journal (multiple journals with a APCs model) including three sort of wide divisions: the first one is life sciences and biomedical sciences, the second is ecology and environmental sciences, and the third one is social and behavioral sciences. We had people who asked for payments discipline-specific, but we’re not trying to launch something like that. We want something wide, where you pay it forward to the general pool and that will benefit anyone.
  •  If we established an APC of $875, and out of that $875 we are going to pay $250 (micro-payments) to the reviewers and editors, that leaves us with $625 of revenue we need on the publication side to pay the platform partners and transaction partners. 
  • For each peer-review there is a point value. It’s a very simple logic: give people points for activities, look at total sum of revenue, and allocate that sum of revenue according to the points that people have generated. You take the total sum of the money in the pool and then divide it by the total sum of the peer-reviews that have been generated for that period, and then allocate the money based on how many points or value each individual has contributed, but it doesn’t matter whether or not you’ve accepted or rejected a manuscript.

My comment: Evidently Gold OA can be used for a variety of purposes. While it is a great opportunity to enable access to a larger audience, at the same time it diversifies the possibilities to offer dubious dissemination platforms. Probably, the way to go is to increase the awareness, generate community building, enable channels of discussion to explain and crowdsource the opportunities as well as the ethic behind open publishing.

 

Gold OA is not the only way of making science available,
OpenAIRE’s offers a public repository worth it to explore.

References:

Wilson, Kristen. “Librarian vs.(open access) predator: An interview with Jeffrey Beall.” Serials Review 39.2 (2013): 125-128.

Padula, D. (2014). A Pay-it-Forward Approach to Open Access Publishing: Interview with Neil Christensen of UC Press. Retrieved November 17, 2014.

5 questions to explore the rhetoric about #OpenAccess

Gold OA

“operate under a reversed business model to the traditional subscription-based publishing model. Instead of charging users a fee to read the content, they charge an open access fee at the beginning of the publication process and this enables all the content to be made freely available” [if the author can afford it]. Source: Springer Open.

If you have the chance to explore some of the major journal publishers, you will notice that most of them (if not all) have adopted the jargon of open science, using words like universal openness, sharing, open licences, etc. Here a few illustrative samples followed for some concerns:

Taylor & Taylor & Francis Open and Routledge Open:

They claim “Our standard article processing charges (APCs) for our subscription-based Open Select titles is £1,788 / €2,150 / $2,950, though this does vary”, with embargos that fluctuate between 12 and 18 months (pdf). The gold AO (APC) can be partially waived if the author belong to one of the low-income (Group A and Group B) territories.

Publishing Open Access with Elsevier (Guide)

The embargo period is journal-specific and ranges from 12- 24 months, the APC fees vary between $500 and $5,000 US depending on the journal. Here a list of their open access journals (also reference to the green OA are provided) as well as their distinct types of licenses.

Publish open access with Springer:

Publish open access with Springer involves an open access publication fee of US$ 3000/EUR 2200 (excl. VAT). This model is applicable also for STM’s books. Here some of the alternatives they suggest: Open Choice program (allows authors to publish open access in the majority of their subscription-based journals); SpringerOpen (open access journal portfolio and to publish open access books); Open Access Membership Program (worldwide support open access by covering some or all of the publication costs for their individual researchers).

In addition, the Thomson Reuters, for instance, provides the Open Access Journal Title List including free journal contents available from the Web of Science.

My comments and questions:

There’s no doubt that the future will be more open. Although the devil is in the details (the websites description still look somewhat wordy). Here a few questions that came after this exploration:

1. Why the APC fees described above can be up to 10x higher than the cases previously presented (see samples: PLoS ONE, PeerJ, Co-Action Publishing or F1000Research)?

2. As suggested by Suber (see note), humanities journals are more expensive than STM (the earliest have a higher rejection rate) and their embargos are longer. How to move toward an OA model that address that STEM and art and humanities, acknowledging that they have very different funding realities?

3. Shouldn’t exist major flexibility also in the definition of the embargo period?

4. What about allowing the authors to go for more flexible licences such as CC0?

5. If the gold OA is increasingly acknowledge as a sustainable way to promote openness, Shouldn‘t public entities claim for a more transparent accountability of publisher incomes to avoid double dip and faked peer review? (see: The UK Government Looks to Double Dip to Pay For its Open Access Policy).

On his book ‘To Save Everything, Click Here‘ Evgeny Morozov wrote that there is not much agreement about the value of openness it is never quite clear whether being open is a mean or an end. For instance, he adds, Google represents nothing less than the “utopia of openness”. It is “the greatest corporate champion of openness,” the leader of the “openness movement,” and “the incarnation of the Internet gospel of openness.”. However, the Belarusian claims […] “instead of celebrating what Google does for openness, it’s important to investigate what openness does for Google“.

I think in the case of Open Access for these publishers the same premise is perfectly applicable, explore moré in the The Cost of Knowledge.

Recommended reading: “List of Predatory Publishers 2014

Flexible models for funding open access in journal publishing

Open Access Benchmark

Benchmark comparing 9 different funding models promoting Open Access publishing

One of the main challenges that the Open Access movement faces is to explore (more) economically sustainable models to embrace and support an inclusive openness (not only for a few). In this post we present a work-in-progress including nine remarkable cases that pursue OA and flexible funding models.

An overview of this benchmark comparing these nine different funding models adopted to promote Open Access shows that although most of them are significantly subsidised is interesting to see how their approaches are complementary and not mutually exclusive. Common patterns are also: low fees, reduced fees for low-income countries, adoption of Creative Commons licences, as well as flexibility.

This benchmark includes the following cases: Public Library of Science (PLoS ONE), Ubiquity Press, PeerJ, Open Library of Humanities, Co-Action Publishing, African Journals OnLine (AJOL), SCOAP3 consortium, eLife and F1000Research. [details provided in SlideShare or GoogleDrive].

Here a summary of this revision:

  • Public Library of Science (PLoS ONE): Charging a publication fee to the authors, institutions or funders for each article published (aka, article-processing charges APC). It includes a Low- and Middle-Income Country Assistance.
  • Ubiquity Press: Also based on an article processing charges (APCs) covered by an author’s institution or sponsor, but where appropriate they waive or reduce APCs to ensure cost is not a barrier to publication.
  • PeerJAuthors who choose to pay for a publishing plan at submission get the cheapest rates ($99), authors can choose to submit for ‘free’ and pay only once accepted – in that instance their publication rates are slightly higher. Also includes a fee waiver, on request, to anyone from countries classified as Low-income economies.
  • Open Library of Humanities: Open in both monetary and permission terms. It propose an economies of scale model of Library Partnership Subsidies to collectively fund the venue and its array of overlay journals [starting in 2015]. To fund an operation publishing 250 articles and 12 books in partnership are need a banded average of just $700 from 500 libraries. They also waive or reduce APCs to ensure cost is not a barrier to publication.
  • Co-Action Publishing: Author’s publications are freely published in an OA online edition.A printed edition of the publication can also be produced at a low price. The project is funded by the Swedish Royal Library and include other sponsors (advertising revenue).
  • African Journals OnLine (AJOL): Allows free access to thousands of article abstracts, and offers a progressively charged article download service for researchers and librarians to access full text of individual articles. Fees are defined according to the income of the user’s country (It includes a Low-Income Country Assistance.). AJOL hosts over 400 peer-reviewed journals from 30 African countries
  • SCOAP3 consortium: They adopt a large-scale innovative economic model based on an international consortium of libraries and funding agencies which collaborate to cover the costs of publishers and convert key journals in the field of High-Energy Physics to Open Access at no cost for authors.
  • eLife: It is a peer-reviewed open access scientific journal for the biomedical and life sciences. It is sponsored by several founders agencies and donors.
  • F1000Research: It offers rapid open access publication, where articles are published first and peer reviewed after publication by invited referees. Research requires submitters to pay an APC for publication, but for those who are members of F1000 or are participating peer referees, a heavily discounted.

(access the file in Google Drive)

 

Reference:

Fruin, C., & Rascoe, F. (2014). Funding open access journal publishing Article processing charges. College & Research Libraries News, 75(5), 240–243. http://crln.acrl.org/content/75/5/240

The opposite of open isn’t closed but broken

Original source: http://exchanges.wiley.com/blog/2014/11/03/how-and-why-researchers-share-data-and-why-they-dont

Wiley (publishing) conducted a survey on ‘sharing data’ inviting 90,000 researchers across a wide array of disciplines. They received more than 2,250 responses from individuals engaged in active research programs. Here an excerpt of the results recently published. Source.

Although the advocates of Creative Commons seems to be more than those who challenge this licenses, there are always voices who enrich the discussion, here a comment about CC from the world of photography [read more in Joost Smiers, video]:

“many people see the CC licences as an alternative to copyright, but in fact they are not, but are simply licences for the use of work that do not actually affect your copyright” [+]

On the other side of the spectrum, one scholar who is a strong promoter of CC is Peter Suber. Here my open notebook of his ‘Open Access‘ (download)

Why OA?

OA add value in two ways: “by making it available to more people who can put it to use, and by freeing those people to use and reuse it”. The later means not only its “free availability on the public internet, but also permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself”.

A post ‘H index’ world:

“OA benefits authors as well as readers. Authors want access to readers at least as much as readers want access to authors. All authors want to cultivate a larger audience and greater impact“.

‘There’s growing evidence that OA articles are downloaded more often as well, and that journals converting to OA see a rise in their submissions and citation impact’. Therefore ‘OA is not a sacrifice for authors who write for impact rather than money. It increases a work’s visibility, retrievability, audience, usage, and citations, which all convert to career building’

“The academic custom to write research articles for impact rather than money may be a lucky accident that could  have been otherwise”. Nowaday, the understanding of impact has also changed. We (would like to) live in a post ‘H index’ world, not because there is something intrinsically mean with it, but in the Internet there’s much more things to consider than only the ranking of journals and the number of citations [see ‘social impact metrics‘]

‘If it is not open it’s broken':

  • For four decades, subscription prices have risen significantly faster than inflation and significantly faster than library budgets.
  • When libraries pay for subscriptions to digital journals, they don’t buy or own their own digital copies but merely rent or license them for a period of time. If they cancel a subscription, they could lose access to past issues.
  • The deeper problem is that we donate time, labor, and public money to create new knowledge and then hand control over the results to businesses that believe, correctly or incorrectly, that their revenue and survival depend on limiting access to that knowledge.
  • Models that work well in some fields and nations may not work as well in others. No one claims that one size fits all. There’s still room for creativity in finding ways to pay the costs of a peer-reviewed OA journal, and many smart and motivated people are exploring different possibilities [see flexible models for sustainability]
  • About one-quarter of all peer-reviewed journals today are OA. A growing number of for-profit OA publishers are making profits, and a growing number of nonprofit OA publishers are breaking even or making surpluses. Two different business models drive these sustainable publishing programs: BioMed Central makes profits and the Public Library of Science makes surpluses by charging publication fees. Fee-based OA journals tend to work best in fields where most research is funded, and no-fee journals tend to work best in fields and countries where comparatively little research is funded.

Taking the red or the blue pill:

  • Librarians traditionally distinguish four functions performed by scholarly journals: Registration (time stamp), certification (peer review), awareness (distribution), and archiving (preservation). We know that green and gold OA are complementary as soon as we recognize that green is better than gold for registration (its time stamps are faster) and preservation, and that gold OA is better than green OA for certification (peer review). Neither green nor gold OA will suffice, long-term or short-term. That’s a reason to pursue both.
  • Gratis OA removes price barriers but not permission barriers. Libre OA is free of charge and also free of some copy-right and licensing restrictions.The gratis/libre dis-tinction is about user rights or freedoms, while the green/ gold distinction is about venues or vehicles. Gratis/libre answers the question, how open is it? Green/gold answers the question, how is it delivered?
  • OA does not require waiving all rights or waiving copyright altogether. On the contrary, open licenses presuppose copyright, since they express permissions from the copyright holder. Moreover, the rights not waived are fully enforceable. In the clear and sensible language of Creative Commons, open licenses create “some-rights-reserved” copyrights rather than “all-rights-reserved” copyrights. Creative Commons offers CC0 (CC-Zero) for copyright holders who want to assign their work to the public domain.

And to conclude, ‘Even if we acknowledge the need for cultural change in the transition to OA—far more critical than technological change—it’s easy to underestimate the cultural barriers and the time required to work through them‘.

Some relevant examples of Green OA (research and or data repositories): OpenAire.eu; Zenodo.org; OpenKnowledge Service.

The Open-Access Movement is Not Really about Open Access*

The diagram illustrates how uneven could be the adoption of gold OA within the academic sector. Significant differences between distinct disciplines as well as a different approaches when wealthier and less (or non) wealthier higher education institutions are compared. How to overcome these disparities?

The diagram illustrates how uneven could be the adoption of gold OA within the academic sector. Significant differences between distinct disciplines as well as a different approaches when wealthier and less (or non) wealthier higher education institutions are compared. How to overcome these disparities?

 

I just read (and enjoyed) the chapter ‘The Humanities & Open Access Publishing: A New Paradigm of Value?‘ by Eleonora Belfiore, (which interestingly is not open access) edited in a compilation made by the same author and Anna Upchurch [Humanities in the Twenty-first century: Beyond utility and markets **]. Here some excerpts which discuss the puzzling paradoxes behind the gold OA.

A report into the future of humanities academic journal publishing, prepared in 2009 by Mary Waltham for the Modern Languages Association, concluded that:

“A shift to an entirely new funding model in the pure form of Open Access (author/producer pays) in which the cost of publishing research articles in journal are paid for by author or funding agency, and readers have access free online, is not currently a sustainable option costs provided. The sources of external funding required for such a model are also not clear and may not be available even as broadly as in STM [scientific, technical & medical] disciplines” (2009:2).

Arts and Humanities behind the gold OA:

“…The question of financial sustainability of arts and humanities journals in a scenario in which gold OA publication becomes a requisite for research funding can be hardly dismissed as facetious, especially when it is coupled with the acknowledgement the even those funding bodies who will now be expecting the outputs of the work they fund to be OA will not be able to cover fully the additional costs that are associated with gold OA. The fact that the cost of providing gold OA will not be entirely met by research funders, and will therefore have to be passed onto research themselves or their institutions, poses some serious cause for concern”. (p.205)

“…There are other reasons why OA has been spreading much more slowly in the arts and humanities than STEM subjects, and these have to do with the peculiar characteristics of journal publishing in the humanities. As Suber (2005) explains, the fact that article rejection rates are much higher in humanities journals make peer review more expensive for them; this, coupled, with the observation that demand for journal articles in the humanities declines more slowly after publication than in the science, means that embargos need to be much longer than in STEM subject journals for them to protect the economic interest of the journals, at the expense of the timely free access. Furthermore, as arts and humanities scholar are more likely than other research to want to reprint images, poems, and work of art in their article, they are more likely to have a hard time getting permission for the use of such material in open-access articles than in traditional ones in toll-access publication”. [p.207]

A first and second class OA?:

“[….] It is feared that a gold mandate is very likely to result in a deeper disparity between the wealthier higher education institutions, who might  find it easier to divert resources to meet the cost of publishing articles in gold open-access from in toll-access scholarly publications, and the less wealthy institutions, which would struggle, and might therefore be unable to support, or only selectively support, their staff’s publishing ambitions”. (p.205)

“[….] However, one might legitimately suggest that the issue of the medium- to long-term sustainability of commercial academic publishing is one that has more to do with long-standing structural problems with the industry, so that an outright rejection of a shift to gold OA , and a return to the status quo, would not in fact solve any of the current problems nor reduce the cost faced by university libraries” [p.207].

Previous post on related topics: OA in humanitiesSustainable business models on OA.

Peter Suber, presenting his book: ‘Open Access

* Title borrowed from Jeffrey Beall’s paper.

Reference:

[**] Belfiore, Eleonora, and Anna Upchurch, eds. Humanities in the twenty-first century: beyond utility and markets. Palgrave macmillan, 2013.

Hacking Open Access: Sustainable publication for Humanities

Open Access in Humanities and Social Sciences, from Eelco Ferwerda provides a remarkable compilation of this discussion.

 

Although the open access movement has been going strong for over 10 years in the areas of natural sciences and medical sciences, the humanities and social sciences have lagged behind. However, OA is not only an exclusive STEM approach anymore, the humanities are also considering how they can transition in this direction.

How to move toward sustainability?

The current system is not sustainable. Even the gold OA shouldn’t be considered as the unique or best solution, which is not entirely suitable for humanities and social sciences as well as for those who conduct self-founded research. So, the key question is: How to implement, on a large scale, a model that does not rest upon direct, author-facing payments, but instead, supports the publishing infrastructure through collective efforts?

As presented previously in the (30 exploratory models for OA sustainability) there are hybrid modes: Ubiquity Press, Co-Action Publishing, Open Editions, and the new project Open Library of Humanities, are some examples of Open Access publishing developed by scholars from those communities. Work by SCIELO, AJOL, AlluviumeLife among others are also noteworthy.

What makes the Open Library of Humanities a truly exciting experiment?

The publishing models to be adopted and implemented once the fund-raising phase is complete, are fully driven (and thus vetted and legitimated) by the academic community itself. OLH aims to develop a nonprofit, low-cost, peer-reviewed, ethically-driven, sustainable, and inclusive scholarly publishing venture. The goal is to be non-profit, but sustainable.

Here key ideas about OLH:

  • It is based on a subsidy model that is piloting costings, labour needs, infrastructure requirements and potential revenue streams.
  • It is not owned by a publisher; it’s run by scholars (and recruits “big names” on to its editorial board).
  • It provides a huge online repository of peer-reviewed articles that shows off the best in research from around the world in a way that’s fully and publicly accessible.
  • It offers article-level metrics to track each work’s impact in the scholarly field.
  • It is non-profit and open in both monetary and permission terms. It gives free access under a creative commons licence and sets out to provide a resource for scholars and librarians to digitally preserve and archive work permanently and for everyone.
  • It launched a campaign asking scholars to Pledge to Publish a paper with OLH within its first year. Scholars who so pledge and don’t have institutional support will have any fees, yet to be determined, waived.

postscript: If Humanities and Social Science journals insist on lengthy embargos they will lose the support of many in the academic community.

Refereces:
Media Coverage | Open Library of Humanities. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.openlibhums.org/media/media-coverage/

Press Release | Open Library of Humanities. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.openlibhums.org/media/press-release/

Collaborative Commons: Why cheap e-books won’t beat copyleft publications

Image licensed as Public Domain: Public Domain Information in the public domain is free for anyone to use, in any way they see fit. This includes exhibition, distribution and making derivative works.

Image licensed as Public Domain: Public Domain Information in the public domain is free for anyone to use, in any way they see fit. This includes exhibition, distribution and making derivative works.

In this series of post we have explored to what extent can we rethink the licensing instruments (perhaps beyond Creative Commons); alternative forms of economic sustainability (freemium); as well as new incentives mechanisms (non-traditional knowledge currencies) into the Open Access movement. Here we will add some arguments to the two first aspects.

Alternative forms of economic sustainability:

On its recently published book, Rifkin (2014) The Zero Marginal Cost Society, argues that the meteoric rise of a global Collaborative Commons might eclipse of capitalism. He presents some interesting arguments to better understand how and why the world of online Open Access might have a promising future, but before we need to clarify what ‘marginal cost’ means:

  • Marginal cost denotes the extra or additional cost of producing 1 extra unit of output (Samuelson, 2010)
  • The amount at any given volume of output by which aggregate costs are changed if the volume of output is increased or decreased by one unit (Thakur, S. G., Ajay Sharma, Vikram).
  • The total cost of a production run for making one additional unit of an item. The fixed costs have already been absorbed by the already produced items and only the direct (variable) costs have to be accounted for. Marginal costs are variable costs consisting of labor and material costs, plus an estimated portion of fixed costs (such as administration overheads and selling expenses). (WebFinance, 2014).

Based on this principle, Rifkin explains that “the cost of actually producing each additional unit—if fixed costs are not counted—becomes essentially zero, making the product nearly free“.

“But what if the marginal cost of producing and distributing a book plummeted to near zero? In fact, it’s already happening. A growing number of authors are writing books and making them available at a very small price, or even for free, on the Internet—bypassing publishers, editors, printers, wholesalers, distributors, and retailers. The cost of marketing and distributing each copy is nearly free. The only cost is the amount of time consumed by creating the product and the cost of computing and connecting online. An e-book can be produced and distributed at near zero marginal cost”.

The near zero marginal cost phenomenon has already wreaked havoc on the publishing and communications industries as more and more information is being made available nearly free to billions of people.

Here a slight rephrasing in brackets “[…]” of Rifkin’s argument from the Open Access perspective:

…the near zero marginal cost revolution argue that while nearly free goods and services [i.e. repositories and full open access journals, DOAJwill become far more prevalent, they will also open up new possibilities for creating other goods and services at sufficient profit margins to maintain growth and even allow the capitalistic system to flourish [apart from the classic examples of hybrid models such as Public Library of Science (PLoS) or BioMed Central (BMC) see 30 hybrid freemium models].

“The diminishing marginal cost of producing and delivering e-books has reduced retail prices significantly and forced smaller publishers and many retail book sellers out of business. Even the cheaper e-books are facing ever stiffer competition from copyleft publications that are distributed for free or nearly free“. (p.203)

Talking about the marginal cost of producing and distributing information at a nearly zero cost, Rifkin mentions the case of online education, MOOCs in particular:

…They [Moocs providers] have yet to fully realize the fact that the near zero marginal cost of education in a global virtual Commons they themselves are creating will increasingly become the new teaching paradigm for higher education, while brick-and-mortar learning eventually will play an ever more circumscribed and narrow supplementary role.

At least in information rich environments the transition from scarcity to abundance has been speeding up — not slowing down. It is still to be seen if smaller and smaller marginal costs liberate goods and services from market pricing (free). In the meantime, it will be interesting to see if in this changing scenario [of open, closed and hybrid models] is there going to be any kind of ‘natural selection‘ phenomena or David will be (finally) able to defeat Goliath.

Rethinking the licensing instruments:

Here some ideas to challenge Copy Right but also Creative Commons. Boyle (2009) argued that ‘[people have] the idealized vision of intellectual property. It is not merely supposed to produce incentives for innovation by rewarding creators, though that is vital… Copyright, intended to be the servant of creativity, a means of promoting access to information, is becoming an obstacle to both. [However] the current intellectual property policy is overwhelmingly and tragically bad in ways that everyone, and not just lawyers or economists, should care about”.

The author claims for the importance of thinking in the “opposite of property” as a concept that is much more important when we come to the world of ideas, information, expression, and invention: “public domain”, which is free of property rights and the user could do with it (content, art or creation) whatever is wanted.

Interestingly, he adds, commons can be restrictive. The term “commons” is generally used to denote a resource over which some group has access and use rights—albeit perhaps under certain conditions. (Creative) Commons is actually based on Copyright and removing the embedded conditions it would open a completely new open perspective.

The-Public-Domain-Grunge-White-Stamp-finalBoyle claims that the public domain has a vital and tragically neglected role to play in innovation and culture: Public domain has been a grand experiment, one that should not be allowed to die. The ability to draw freely on the entire creative output of humanity is one of the reasons we live in a time of such fruitful creative ferment.

References:

  • Samuelson, P. A. (2010). Economics. Tata McGraw-Hill Education.
  • Thakur, S. G., Ajay Sharma, Vikram. (n.d.). Cost Accounting. FK Publications.
  • WebFinance. (2014). What is marginal cost? definition and meaning. Retrieved October 20, 2014, from http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/marginal-cost.html
  • Rifkin, Jeremy. The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism. Macmillan, 2014.
  • Boyle, James. The public domain: Enclosing the commons of the mind. Yale University Press, 2009.

Criticism to Creative Commons: Why open access is not enough?

Screen shot 2014-10-15 at 14.59.29

Q – What has Open Access in common with Creative Commons, U2 or Radiohead?
A- All contents (either academic or artistic) are affected by CopyRight laws obsolete in the digital world.

At least within the academic world (as in many others probably) to embrace the principles promoted by Creative Commons it is something increasingly accepted, which just to be a radical idea but today it is increasingly accepted. That can be considered as a clear evidence that in a digital world new forms and frameworks for more open knowledge dissemination are needed.

For instance, UNESCO (2012), synthesized a summary of the benefits from Open Access:

Open Access improves the speed, efficiency and efficacy of research
Open Access is an enabling factor in interdisciplinary research
Open Access enables computation upon the research literature
Open Access increases the visibility, usage and impact of research
Open Access allows the professional, practitioner and business communities, and the interested public, to benefit from research.

However, as Kaja Scheliga, Sascha Friesike (2014) showed, there is an interesting tension between the rhetoric about open access and the implementation of it:

For instance, as indicated in a global survey about OER analyzed by Stockwell (2012) there is a variety of barriers that need to be overcomed (institutional, practices, regulations, technicals, economical and even technological berrier) in order to significantly implement the principles of openness in the academic (and educational) world. Screen shot 2014-10-15 at 11.57.57    

Despite that we’ve promoted the importance of Creative Commons for years (yes me too!) I consider very interesting the arguments provided by van Schijndel and Joost (2005) who argue against CopyRight and the need of a ‘world free of CopyRight but they also provide some criticisms to Creative Commons as ‘the’ solution (their analysis is mainly focus on art although it is consider relevant for the academic environment):

Copyright has become a mechanism for a few cultural conglomerates to control the broad terrain of cultural communication. The system is substantially more beneficial for cultural conglomerates than for the average artist.  

There is a need for alternative ways to protect the public domain of knowledge and creativity, and to assure many artists and other cultural entrepreneurs a fair income for their labours.

Criticism to Creative Commons.

van Schijndel and Joost (2005) emphasized three critics to the CC licences:

  • Creative Commons-like approaches is that they do not fundamentally question and challenge the copyright system.
  • The Creative Commons appears to be a useful solution that may even serve as an exemplar. But there are some strings attached. The Creative Commons does not paint a clear picture of how a diverse set of artists from all over the world, as well as their producers and patrons, might generate an income.
  • The idea behind this approach is that “A”’s work must be available for use by others, without them being obstructed by prevailing copyright. In turn, the other cannot appropriate the work. Why not? The Creative Commons entails that “A” supplies some kind of public license for his or her work: go ahead, do with the work as you please, as long as you do not bring the work under a regime of private ownership.

The same authors concluded saying, ‘Under the present system of copyright, creative adaptation is at risk of being interpreted as a wrong and of being fined by the courts, so the scope and duration of the protection are immensely important. In our approach, creative adaptation is instead applauded and encouraged‘.

Final thoughts:

I still think that the elephant in the room of Open Access is how to make it sustainable (see previous post with 30 explorations in that respect). I argue that if authors are not sponsored by any organizations (i.e. national or international agencies) they would be subject to the same challenges that van Schijndel and Joost (2005) described: no clear/sustainable sources of income. Therefore, open access or Creative Commons yes, but that doesn’t necessarily address the how to make costly effective for those who lack of any support to generate, adapt or disseminate their knowledge, creativity or art production.

Otherwise, the main risk is to turning this open access or Creative Commons debate only for the elite/privilege/sponsored sectors of the society (i.e. see U2 and their new album launched from iTunes). In a similar arena, I would like to (in)conclude this post with a quote from Yorke from Radiohead criticising the poor economic model that Spotify provides to artist:

More in The Guardian.

 

References:
UNESCO. (2012). Policy Guidelines for the Development and Promotion of Open Access. UNESCO. http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0021/002158/215863e.pdf

Stockwell, G. (2012). Computer-Assisted Language Learning: Diversity in Research and Practice. Cambridge University Press.

van Schijndel, Marieke, and Joost Smiers. “Imagining a world without copyright: The market and temporary protection a better alternative for artists and the public domain. An essay.” Cut-Up: The Art of Living in a Mediatised Landscape 20 (2005).

How to make #OpenAccess in Science more sustainable? 30 possible answers

 

 

As many others probably,  I always thought that the confusion between free and libre was problematic and likely to cause a great deal of confusion (English adjective “free” does not distinguish between “free of charge” and “liberty”, the phrases “free as in beer”). Although a similar confusion arises between free and gratis. In Science for instance, for many of us, there’s no doubt that Open Access Science should be free, but that has little to do with the real question: How to make Open Access in Science Economically Sustainable?

As discussed in previous post (i.e. changing business models or new metrics), one of the main challenges that the Open Access movement faces is to explore (more) economically sustainable models to embrace and support openness. Shieber (2014) argues a ‘transitional process should allow for a smooth transition path from toll-access to open-access‘, which as you will see in the Table above, it goes far beyond the Green and Golden possibilities of publication.

‘A transitional process is revenue-neutral in the short term does not mean that no moneys will be saved in the longer term as the result of the transition; a move to author-side fees from reader-side fees has the potential to be a much more transparent, competitive, and efficient market, which may well lead to overall cost reductions. It requires knowledge of the average revenue per article, as well as transparency of subscription prices to verify that subscription fees are reduced.’

Chang (2006) when explored “Business models for open access journals publishing“, wrote that there are four critical factors in the sustainable solutions to open access:

(1) By saving costs: The publisher can set up an expenditure reducing plan to decrease any expenditure.

(2) By increasing incomes: Try to increase incomes by not only subscribing to print journals, printed advertisements and online advertisements, but also the fee of association membership and author reprints.

(3) Through the adoption of innovative technology: By utilisation of creative ways of developing a sustainable operation of open access publishing and continuing to exploit new technology to improve the cost-efficiency of publishing.

(4) By control of the quality of journals: The high quality of journals makes the author willing to publish research in those journals.

These four factors, according to Chang, can guarantee the open access publishing model with sustainable development and make the research permanently visible and accessible, ensuring permanent preservation and making the research results available.

From these critical factors described by Chang, we have elaborated a chart focus on how increasing the income (compilation of different sources) which explores nearly 30 sub-models for funding Open Access for journals and publishers (they provide diverse levels of economic sustainability). All these sub-models are organized under the Cross-subsidy model of Anderson: cross-subsidies, three-party market, freemium and non monetary markets (previously presented). Pros and cons will be explore lately.

free

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References:

  1. Chen Chi Chang, (2006) “Business models for open access journals publishing”, Online Information Review, Vol. 30 Iss: 6, pp.699 – 713. http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/full/10.1108/14684520610716171
  2. Shieber, S. (2014). » A true transitional open-access business model The Occasional Pamphlet. Retrieved from https://blogs.law.harvard.edu/pamphlet/2014/03/28/a-true-transitional-open-access-business-model/
  3. UNESCO. (2012). Policy Guidelines for the Development and Promotion of Open Access. UNESCO. http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0021/002158/215863e.pdf “
  4. Open Access Directory (2013) OA journal business model. www.oad.simmons.edu/oadwiki/OA_journal_business_models
  5. Anderson, C. (2009). Free: The Future of a Radical Price. Hyperion.