A decision tree for learned & professional societies on the way to open access transformation

Plan S, DEAL and the conclusion of various transformation contracts in recent months (see e.g. here, here and here) have increased the pressure on scientific publishers. They are called upon to align their business models with the changing scientific communication behaviour of researchers and with the science policy demands for open access and open sciene. This also affects learned societies as publishers of scientific journals and book series. Of the 182 journals published by a German learned society, only 7.14% are available as open access journals, according to a study on "Learned Societies and Open Access" by Pampel and Strecker (2020). 55.49% have a hybrid option and 37.36% are not freely available in any way.

Even if the journals of the learned societies published by Springer Nature or Wiley are to be converted to open access with the help of the DEAL agreements or are to be given an open access option in the first place, there are as yet no clear statements on the ultimate open access status of these journals after expiry of the agreements. This means that for the period after DEAL and for the remaining journals that are published either by the journal's own publishers or by a non-DEAL publisher, further or other ways must be found to meet the requirements.

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A smooth transition from subscriptions to APCs

Proposal for a new model of transformative agreements: A smooth transition from subscriptions to APCs

The strategic goal of the National Contact Point Open Access OA2020-DE is to create requirements for the large-scale open access transformation in accordance with the Alliance of Science Organisations in Germany. This also includes analysing existing transformation approaches and formulating changes or adjustments that make sense from our perspective. This is also the reason why we see the need for a more realistic transformation model in the journal sector, because existing models as Publish & Read and Read & Publish do not best serve the needs of libraries and publishers in transforming their acquisition budgets and revenues, respectively, from subscriptions to APCs.

  • For P&R agreements to transform the scholarly journals successfully to open access, huge coordination efforts, a massive and instantaneous re-allocation of funds, or permanently large additional funds are necessary. Moreover, publishers will not offer P&R agreements to individual libraries or loose consortia with liberal opt-in or opt-out regulations.
  • With R&P agreements, the open-access transformation will stuck at low OA shares. To progress further, a switch to the P&R model would be necessary with its own obstacles.

Therefore, we see the need for a new transformative model that facilitates the switch from a pure R&P to a pure P&R model by lowering coordination costs, avoiding disruptive workflow and cost adjustments, and putting less pressure on timing. To support the arguments of this, we run a simulation on a global model. Please note: The model presented here is a proposal and approach that should help to identify and describe possible paths for the open access transformation. Indeed, the R&P model and the P&R model can be regarded as corner solutions of this.

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Report from the first national best practice workshop of the German open access monograph funds

Disclaimer: This is a guest contribution from the organizers.

On 3 December 2019, the project team of the open access fund for monographs launched by the Leibniz Association invited other fund operators from the German scientific community to an exchange of information. The workshop was hosted by the Leibniz Institute for the German Language (IDS) in Mannheim, which is in charge of the Leibniz Open Access Monograph Publishing Fund. Participants included the project participants from the other six Leibniz Institutes (DIE - German Institute for Adult Education, DIPF - Leibniz Institute for Research and Information in Education, GNM - Germanisches Nationalmuseum, IfZ - Institute of Contemporary History, TIB - Leibniz Information Centre for Science and Technology & University Library and ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics), representatives of 11 publication funds for monographs that have been created or are planned throughout Germany in the last two years, and institutions that promote open access monographs by other means: Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin, Bielefeld University, Universität Duisburg-Essen, Technische Universität Darmstadt, University of Konstanz, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, University of Münster, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and the Lower Saxony Consortium of the planned Open Access Publication Fund of the State of Lower Saxony.

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Establishing tender procedures and competition within the framework of national library consortia for open access journals

Description of a pilot project

The open access transformation is a declared goal of the Coalition S and the OA2020 initiative and the institutions supporting them. In order to achieve a large-scale open access transformation of journals, as many established subscription journals as possible shall be transformed into open access. To achieve this goal, transformative agreements are concluded such as those the DEAL project has been negotiating for several years with the three major international scientific publishers (Elsevier, Springer Nature and Wiley). In Germany, the 13+ group established by the “Alliance of Science Organisations” Working Group "Scientific Publication System" is aiming at similar negotiations with further thirteen large publishing houses. In addition, the DFG programme "Open Access Transformation Agreements" provides funding for transformative agreements.

The existing transformative agreements do not include mechanisms for the definitive flipping of journals into open access and no mechanisms to limit cost increases in the long term, as demanded by the European Commission and the European University Association, for example. Indeed, APC-based, genuine open access journals also lack mechanisms for the long-term limitation of cost increases. The price caps currently implemented in the (DFG-funded) publication funds are of limited suitability. On the one hand, they are too high for the mass of open access journals; on the other hand, they are set too low for highly selective and high-quality open access journals that are attractive to many researchers.

Against this background, we suggest to conclude pure open access contracts and, if applicable, contract components for pure open access journals within the framework of transformative agreements by tendering in secret bidding procedures as practiced by SCOAP³. The now published concept describes the intended objectives, the services to be put out to tender and a proposal for organisational implementation.

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Why competition is necessary for APCs

Elsevier could raise APCs by more than 50% to preserve its revenue and profit in a pure OA publishing landscape, as a new case study concludes.

A new research article, published by Sergio Copiello in Publications, studies how Elsevier, as an example of a very big, for-profit, subscription-based publisher, could adapt its business model to the open-access transition.

To preserve its revenue and profit on the 2017/2018 level in an open access only publishing landscape, Elsevier could raise the list-price APCs by more than 50% from an average of USD 2,824 to USD 4,173–4,482 (excl. VAT). That would safeguard Elsevier a 37% profit margin if all authors (possibly funded by their affiliated institutions) adopt the open access model and subscriptions to ScienceDirect become worthless. Currently, Elsevier generates profits margins two- to three-times higher than the overall publishing sector. If Elsevier’s profit margin aligns to the market benchmark (for example, because of increasing competition), the average APC could be within a range of USD 3,066–3,308. An alternative strategy could be to secure revenues by increasing the acceptance rate of submitted manuscripts from currently approx. 27% to approx. 45%. Of course, Elsevier could also preserve its profitability by reducing investment and operational costs.

Link to the study: Copiello, S. (2020). Business as Usual with Article Processing Charges in the Transition towards OA Publishing: A Case Study Based on Elsevier. Publications, 8(1). doi:10.3390/publications8010003

2nd DEAL done – All German research articles in Springer Nature journals to be published open access under new transformative agreement

Germany’s Projekt DEAL and the publisher Springer Nature have - like DEAL and Wiley one year before - entered a ground-breaking transformative agreement, in line with the objectives of the Open Access 2020 initiative.

Through the agreement, authors affiliated with the 700+ German academic and research institutions which are part of Projekt DEAL, will be able to publish their accepted manuscripts immediate (gold) open access in both Springer Nature hybrid and fully open-access journals, with the relative costs managed centrally by their institutions. The agreement is expected to see well over 13,000 articles a year from German researchers published open access, making it the largest of its kind. Dated 1 January 2020, the agreement provides open-access publishing services and full reading access to Springer Nature journals to scholars and students from across the German research landscape.

The signed agreement will be fully published on the Projekt DEAL website in conjunction with the start of the sign-up process for German institutions, towards the end of January 2020.

Read the official press releases of the HRK and Springer Nature.

The engagement of the many - A report on the workshop at the Open Access Days 2019 in Hanover

Shaping sustainable open-access financing with collective approaches

Author/Article Processing Charges (APC) have established themselves as the standard form of financing open-access journal articles for the promotion of open-access publications. These are being supported by an increasing number of funding institutions. In addition, the funding of book publications according to a similar scheme by means of book-processing charges (BPC) is establishing itself. Both, however, have their limits, both in terms of the selection and level of funding as well as the funding mechanisms (which authors / institutions pay, which market distortions arise when individual publications are funded, what effects does APC dominance have on diversity in the publication market). A further challenge for open-access transformation lies in the often narrow limits and difficult coordination processes of existing institutional, regional or, at best, national funding opportunities.

In order to discuss these and similar aspects together, around 40 people from the fields of university libraries, research institutions, publishers, booksellers and learned societies came together for a workshop entitled "The engagment of the many" at the Open Access Days 2019. The following concrete questions were up for discussion:

  1. Which cooperative approaches are regarded as particularly promising and why?
  2. Have there already been any experiences with participation in cooperative financing approaches? If so, how do they turn out? And what are the associated risks?
  3. What framework conditions need to be considered in order for cooperative approaches to be successful?

After an introductory lecture on collective approaches to open-access publishing, the above questions were intensively discussed with the participants in the form of a World Café.

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What follows transformative agreements?

A proposal to implement tender procedures and introduce competition between publishers in the context of national open-access consortia

Open-access transformation of scholarly publications is a declared goal of Coalition S and the OA2020 initiative and their supporting institutions. To reach a large-scale open-access transition of journals, established subscription-based journals should flip to open access. Currently, transformative agreements are favored to achieve that aim, like the agreements that have been negotiated by the project DEAL with the three biggest international publishers (Elsevier, Springer Nature, and Wiley) for several years. Transformative agreements’ design and conditions are bilaterally negotiated between publisher and library consortia. Often, previous subscription expenditures serve as a starting point for negotiations. In addition, the DEAL-Wiley Read-and-Access agreement takes over APCs for publications in pure open-access journals with a 20% discount on list price. The DEAL-Springer agreement is supposed to be signed under similar conditions.

But what can we expect after the tipping point, when transformative agreement worldwide lead to a widespread flip of scholarly journals to open access? Which actors will become important, how agreements will be shaped, which price-setting mechanisms will be applied, how will be the funding of open-access publishing organized—and finally—will we success in breaking the ever increasing subscription costs with open access, or will we be faced with a new APC price spiral?

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Open access and learned societies: 4th OA2020-DE transformation workshop in Göttingen

How can learned societies successfully implement open-access transformation?

Since the mid-1990s, increasing digitalization has changed the entire scientific communication. At the latest since 2003, the year of the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities, the topic of open access has been on the agenda for everyone to see. Plan S has once again increased the pressure on publishers to gear their business models to changing scientific communication behaviour and science policy demands for open access and open sciene. This also affects learned societies as publishers of own scientific journals and book series. Against this background, the National Contact Point Open Access OA2020-DE invited various learned societies and specialised information services (FIDs) to the Göttingen State and University Library of Lower Saxony for a transformation workshop on 4th and 5th November 2019. The focus of the workshop was on reports by learned societies that already publish their journals in open access and even perhaps have completed a transformation process, as well as on various options for support from research funding agencies, the specialised information services and libraries (Agenda).

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OA2020-DE publishes research report on the funding requirements for open access

OA2020-DE publishes transformation calculation to determine funding requirements for open access at selected German universities and research institutions

The transformation of subscription-based scientific journals into open access will in all likelihood lead to changes in the financial burden on scientific institutions in Germany. At present, APCs are the dominant business model for open-access journals that are indexed by relevant, international bibliographic databases. As this or comparable business models become widely applied to journals and the open-access transition progresses, expenses for journals will be reallocated. In order to react adequately to the open-access transformation within one's own organisation and to play an active role in shaping it, it is necessary to make reliable estimates of the financial relief or burdens with regard to the expected total institutional APC expenditure of one's own institutions. The project OA2020-DE has prepared a report to illustrate how institutions can cost-model and prepare for the transition.

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