Transition costs of open access for universities
A research report by Alma Swan and John Houghton, commissioned by the Open Access Implementation Group (July 2012)
The transition to open access for UK research, recommended by the recent Finch Report, will challenge stakeholders across the research lifecycle to play their part. This report, commissioned by the UK Open Access Implementation Group, shows the likely costs and impact on one of those stakeholders – the university – under various conditions.
The report shows how the Finch report’s estimates that perhaps £38m will be needed per year during the transition to pay for article processing charges and associated costs, and £3m – £5m for repositories, might be distributed between different kinds of universities, for example those focusing on vocational or applied research, and pre- and post- 1992 universities.
The report shows that Green open access (OA), making research papers available via repositories, is the cheapest option for universities during a transition when they have to maintain subscriptions to journals. However, the Finch report suggests that the UK should aim to move toward Gold OA (open access journals) and the Swan / Houghton report concludes that, with worldwide Gold OA, all universities would see savings if article processing charges were at the current average levels, with large research-intensive universities seeing the greatest savings. However, this could mean they face the greatest costs should the progress toward open access be less than worldwide, and more subscriptions had to be maintained for longer.
Benefits to the public, voluntary and charitable sector of open access to higher education and scholarly research
Two research reports to JISC and the Open Access Implementation Group from Rightscom/Matrix Evidence and NCVO/OPM (May 2012)
Rightscom/Matrix Evidence (2012) Benefits of Open Access to Scholarly Research Outputs to the public sector (PDF)
NCVO/OPM (2012) Benefits of Open Access to Scholarly Research for voluntary and charitable sector organisations (PDF)
The UK public sector already saves £28.6 million by using OA. These two reports make it clear that both the public sector and the voluntary sector would see further direct and indirect benefits from increased access to UK higher education research publications. Already, more Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) organisations use OA than pay for subscriptions, despite the fact that subscription journals make up the vast majority of journals on offer.
The UK public sector spends £135 million a year, made up of subscriptions and time spent trying to find articles, accessing the journal papers it needs to perform effectively. Each extra 5% of journal papers accessed via open access on the web would save the public purse £1.7 million, even if no subscription fees were to be saved.
The UK’s valuable voluntary and charitable sector would also benefit from open access to academic research. For survey respondents, the two most frequently mentioned barriers to accessing research were cost (80%) and lack of time (46%).
Making more research free at the point of access, and easier to search across could produce significant savings, but could also lead to better decisions based on all the available evidence. As one senior scientific officer in a specialist scientific unit of large department of state observes “Open access would allow a lot more speculative reading and reading around the subject which is really useful for a holistic and high quality view to be developed.” This, in turn, offers benefits back to researchers, boosting the impact of their research by increasing its reach outside the academy.
These findings are borne out across all three reports in this series [the first looked at benefits of OA to the private sector, see below), and this body of new, quantitative work provides compelling evidence that increasing open access to research articles will have direct financial and practical benefits for the UK as a whole, benefits that are especially valuable in a time of austerity.
The reports make a number of recommendations around increasing awareness of open access in these two important sectors. These include promoting the value of the information produced as a result of public research funding  and exploring ways of improving relationships between academic researchers and workers in other sectors who rely on their research to do their jobs well.
Benefits to the Private Sector of Open Access to Higher Education and Scholarly Research
A Research report to JISC and the Open Access Implementation Group, from HOST Policy Research by Dr David Parsons, Dick Willis and Dr Jane Holland (August 2011)
Studies in Europe have shown that open access can have a beneficial impact on the private sector. This report aims to review the position for the UK. It isn’t intended to assess private sector demand for open access so much as provide practical illustrations of the benefits it can bring – as well as to review the quality of the related evidence available. It is based on a literature review and series of interviews with representatives of knowledge-oriented companies with a strong UK presence.
After a brief history of open access, the report notes that subscription barriers to journal articles frustrate researchers in the private sector – which is a concern, considering the known benefits academic research can bring the private sector.
The report also contains a detailed overview of issues raised in interviews with stakeholders surrounding open access and its implementation. There is a similarly detailed discussion of the use that the business representatives interviewed make of academic research. The majority use a lot – although they do so in a variety of different ways and use a variety of different methods to access that knowledge. The “discoverability” of that knowledge presented all those questioned with challenges. In terms of using open access resources, meanwhile, many companies had used open access journals, but few knowingly accessed repositories directly. Most open access materials were found “by accident” through web searching (eg via Google Scholar). Although the report suggests open access does not have a distinct profile among business users, it does suggest open access could generate considerable savings for them. For instance, it removes roadblocks to knowledge and lessens the “time wasting” involved in seeking alternative sources of information in order to get around subscription barriers. It may also shorten development cycles and increase productivity.
The next section deals with further benefits that open access can bring business. For instance, it is a good way to disseminate a business’s expertise and reassure investors of its knowledge-base. The report further gives examples of occasions when open access has been useful. For instance:
- Full access to journals made it possible for a company to identify specific academics who had the expertise they needed for their research.
- A legal dispute was resolved when a company spotted that their opponents were “selectively” quoting from open access journals, and were easily able to check and provide the true context for those quotes.
The report also provides numerous further examples and quotes relating to how much easier it is to scan and determine the utility of open access texts than pay per view and subscription articles – which saves companies time and money.
In terms of future considerations for how open access may benefit the private sector, and realise its potential to bring more knowledge into the commercial sector, the report provides several observations.
- As the critical mass of available open access material rises, it will naturally become more frequently used.
- A wide variety (details are given in the report) of businesses from large corporations to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) stand to benefit from the more streamlined access to knowledge open access offers (with particular benefit going to SMEs).
- Further research should be carried out as this report is small-scale, “cross sectoral and not representative of organisational scale”. A wider evidence base is needed.
- It would be useful to establish business-friendly search interfaces in repositories – and to provide “lay summaries” of content that are accessible to business readers.
Ian Carter, Chair of ARMA UK and Director of Research and Enterprise at the University of Sussex, gives his thoughts on the report; Benefits to the Private Sector of Open Access to Higher Education and Scholarly Research.
Open Access Fees Project Phase 3 Report
Final draft version prepared by JISC Collections, submitted to OAIG on 14 September 2011
This report discusses the findings of a project that investigated the hybrid model of open access publishing. As context, the report first considers two previous, linked, studies into other aspects of open access fees.
The first study, undertaken in 2009, established that institutions have a varied approach to the management of open access article-processing charges and that a more streamlined approach could contribute to a greater take-up of open access. It showed that few institutions have established funds to help academics pay open access charges. There also emerged the idea of a central database that recorded all articles funded in the UK, to address librarians’ concerns about paying for the same material twice (via subscription and open access charges), so called “double dipping” by publishers.
The second study from 2010, tested the feasibility of building the aforementioned database. It was hoped the data gathered could also inform discussions about the transparency of open access. However, outside Wellcome Trust grants, the data was not easily available.
The third study, from March 2011, and based on a series of interviews and a major workshop with stakeholders, looked at the hybrid model of open access publishing offered by publishers and the extent to which it works or be used as a transition to gold open access.
After a context overview, which notes that open access uptake is on the increase, the report presents key findings and recommendations. These include:
- There remains a lack of awareness about funds for article processing charges, and funder mandates need to be made clearer.
- Hybrid open access will remain “a minority activity” until funding processes are made clearer.
- Convoluted processes relating to open access article payment charges are also frustrating librarians.
- The report calls for a more “joined-up” approach to funding and clearer information on funder websites and in proposal submission guidance.
- Librarians also feel academics need better education about open access.
- Librarians are frustrated by publishers’ lack of transparency. Publishers need to provide evidence to back up claims that libraries aren’t paying for the “double dipping” of journals.
- Publishers and funders need to improve their communication processes about journals that are in “transition mode” and moving to open access.
- The report recommends the development of standards around the metrics for the reporting of articles published under different business models (ie fully open access, hybrid, subscription).
- Consistent and comprehensive metadata is needed to facilitate article tracking.
- Publishers need help with processes such as invoicing which could be provided by dedicated organisations, old subscription managers or, possibly, JISC Collections.