In transition to a sustainable Open Access?

8 October 2014 0

One step ahead

Higher education institutions are operating in an altered context now with the advent of digital, networked technologies. The IT Revolution had resulted in new dysfunctions and inequalities in scholarly communication.

Authors, such as Hopkins (2009), among others, suggest that Higher Education requires resilience, to face this changing landscape of knowledge dissemination. Resilience requires adaptation and evolution to new environmental conditions, but retains core identity, in other words ‘the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganise while undergoing change, so as to retain essentially the same function, structure, identity and feedbacks’.

In order to better understand how resilient are the post-secondary institutions regarding the transition that OA (open access) it is important to consider four key aspects: incentives, metrics, changing business models and sustainability.

IncentivesThe importance of establishing effective incentive models for open contributions and tool builders, for example, meaningful metrics and research grants.

The analogy between corporations and scientific investigators (particularly in terms of competition, cooperation and competitive advantage) might not be always applicable because of the different incentive structure the comparison is not universally applicable.(Venters, et al., 2013)

One source of resistance is the belief that impact will suffer if the work is submitted to an open access publisher.Evidence for this belief has been mixed with some studies supporting this claim, while others showing that open access publishing increases citations (e.g. Davis, 2010; Hajjem, Harnard & Gingras, 2005). Thus, the resistance to OAP both in terms of general academia… is declining (Weller and Anderson, 2013).

All of the largest research-led universities now have repositories in place and have, in many cases, developed policies or even ‘mandates’ [regarding Green publication] at an institutional level .(Pinfield, 2010).

Open Access mitigates or resolves these dysfunction and inequalities, such as: (a) fair returns to all stakeholders; (b) unlimited access and efficient usage; (c) quality safeguarding (transparent processes including easier detection of plagiarism and fraud); and (d) free sharing and re-use (e.g. CC-BY license). (Venters, 2013)

In the UK if the UK Publishers’ Association ‘Decision Tree’ offers open access publishing but no APC funds are available to the author, then the embargo would vary from 12 to 24 months. (Venters, 2013)

MetricsThe way we conducts science has changed so fundamentally that a metrics mechanism that ignores this change is totally passe.

Policy issues related to software sustainability such as measuring impact, giving credit, and incentivizing best practices; and education and training. (Venters, et al., 2013)

In addition to how long a project has been active, other metrics are important, such as number of developers, number of institutions, and whether there are active collaborators acting as advocates for the continued viability of a (research) project beyond individual projects and/or institutions.(Venters, et al., 2013)

Current assessment mechanism is counter productive to scholarly communication. Need to make policy makers realise and accept that. Today only formal citations count. Not other impact. How to come up with other metrics that can be generated in an open and scalable way?

  • Need a multidimensional metrics model to count various things. If possible, the model should apply across disciplines.
  • Impact factor doesn’t work for across disciplines.
  • Scholarly communication system is skewed by impact assessment as it is (Clark, 2011)

Changing business models: Scholarly publishing is now supported by two business models: subscriptions and article-processing charges (APCs), and it is in the interest of all stakeholders that the foundations be solid and the publishing operation sustainable (Venters, 2013)

Currently, most of the policies encourage publication in a journal that makes articles available in an OA form. This might either be a fully-OA journal, such as those published by Public Library of Science (PLoS) or BioMed Central (BMC), or a so-called ‘hybrid’ journal which permits an OA fee to be paid to make a particular article OA. Since, in both cases, pre-publication OA fees are normally payable, a number of funders have policies which specify that grant-holders should where possible pay an OA fee in addition to promoting to send a copy in an OA repository (Pinfield, 2010).

There is an ostensible argument that, as the business models of publishers shift from library subscriptions to OA publication charges, the income for publishers will come from OA fees increases, therefore it is expected that the subscriptions should correspondingly reduced their cost. “As the business model associated with author-side fees becomes more widely accepted, it is only reasonable to expect publishers to make such changes”.  (Pinfield, 2010).

Sustainability: Building a sustainable approach to research communications of the future will require the exploration of the space of potential business models. It will be required toUse various architecture evaluation [metrics] approaches to assess sustainability” Venters, et al. [2013]


If OA publishing models are to become widely accepted and adopted, research funders, institutions, should provide co-ordinated arrangements for ensuring that such funds are properly resourced. (Pinfield, 2010).

As a summary can be suggested that OA publishing faces challenges such as:

  • Sustainability (as well as changing business models).
  • Participation of faculty (particularly for institutional).
  • Confusion over what can be deposited (post print, pre print, published version?)
  • Copyright issues murky and (often) frustrating (Shreeves, et al. 2012)

Funding strategies:

  • It is equally important, however, for institutions to identify ways in which researchers can be helped to pay OA publication fees.
  • Only a minority of institutions have developed any formal way of enabling authors to pay OA fees, either at central or faculty/ departmental level. At the same time, authors report a lack of support from their institutions.
  • One of the potential benefits of a business model based on author-side fees is that it scales with research resources; funding institutions need to ensure that internal funding streams allow this to happen.(Pinfield, 2010).

The main recommendations of this revision suggesting that (a) that a mixed economy with subscription-based and open access journals should be tolerated for the foreseeable future; (b) policy direction should be set towards open access; (c) actions needed to implement this should be identified by relevant stakeholders; (d) the costs of transition should be monitored (Venters, 2013)





Pinfield, S. (2010). Paying for open access? Institutional funding streams and OA publication charges. Learned Publishing, 23(1), 39-52.

Sarah L. Shreeves and Molly Kleinman. Lee C. Van Orsdel changed the template, made revisions and added new slides in May 2012. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. To view a copy of this license, visit

Venters C, Lau L, Griffiths MK, Holmes V, Ward RR, Xu J. The Blind Men and the Elephant: To- wards a Software Sustainability Architectural Evaluation Framework. figshare; 2013. 790758. Available from: .

Walker, B.; Holling, C.S.; Carpenter, S.R. and Kinzig A. (2004). Resilience, adaptability and transformability in social–ecological systems. Ecology and Society, 9(2), (p. 5). Available at: Accessed 12th December 2012

Hopkins, R. (2009). Resilience Thinking. Resurgence, 257.

Weller, Martin and Anderson, Terry (2013). Digital resilience in higher education. European Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning, 16(1) p. 53.

Katz, Daniel S., et al. “Summary of the First Workshop on Sustainable Software for Science: Practice and Experiences (WSSSPE1).” arXiv preprint arXiv:1404.7414 (2014).

Clark, T., De Waard, A., Herman, I., & Hovy, E. (2011). The Future of Research Communication (Dagstuhl Perspectives Workshop 11331). Dagstuhl Reports, 1(8).

Armbruster, C., & Pleintinger, A. (2013). Academic Publishing in Europe – Short report: The funding of publishing. Changes and consequences for science and society29–30 January 2013, Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences preceded by the Education and Training Course: “Talking to the Elephant in the Room” on 28 January 2012. Information Services and Use, 33(1), 41–49. doi:10.3233/ISU-130692