An Open Question

The push for open access means STM publishers must revamp business models and, in some cases, redefine their role.

Over the past year or so, Wiley has doubled the number of hybrid open access journals (a variation of open access where some articles of a journal are free and some are not) online. It introduced 10 new “fully gold” open access journals (journals that are fully funded up front and are free to fully access immediately). Wiley began offering a manuscript transfer system for authors to move papers back and forth and became a member of the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA) this past August.

“I think it’s fair to say that we’re offering more in 2012 than ever before,” she says of Wiley. “I think it’s recognition that we want to develop a cohesive long-term plan for open access across our business.”

Burley and her team are working with everyone—authors, funding agencies and scholarly societies—to take the next steps forward as the entire STM publishing business swiftly shifts from print to digital, too. A number of print journals are being phased out, in order for the company to repurpose those funds to invest in technology to develop its new platform, she says. Today Wiley offers 225 STM online-only journals.

“In an open access world, the authors and funders are your new customer group,” she says. “We want to build and innovate with all different models that are alternatives to subscription. We’re never going to be satisfied that it’s good enough. We just want to make it better and improve it. That’s what we’re spending our time on.”

A Group Effort

When an all-star collection of scientists and academics, representatives of the library community, influential research funders, and folks from a handful of leading publishers came together a little over 10 years ago for an Open Society Institute event in Budapest, everyone was still figuring out open access. What would the standard approach to open access be moving forward? An agreed upon definition of this concept did not yet exist, and this group of more than a dozen was determined to hammer one out.

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  • EllieAsksWhy

    I find this open access model for publishing of scholarly journals to be very puzzling. I am not affiliated with any publishing entity, nor library, nor do I work doing anything that is compensated by any publisher or copyright protected content generator. Disclaimer out of the way! Also, I appreciate it, very much, when Wiley and others offer some open access articles rather than requiring Athens or Shibboleth access for everything.

    This is the mystery though: Scholarly publishing can’t be free. Those who do it, the publishing and production and distribution, are skilled, educated people that need to be paid for their work. I infer that scholarly publishers have earned outsize profits in the past. That doesn’t mean that they should now work for free. The article says this:
    "to publish an article, these activities—the editorial process, technology developments, making sure that research is discoverable, maintaining the integrity and quality… etc.—necessitate a significant investment"
    Well of course they do! How will these fees be paid if there is free and open access to all journal content? That isn’t a business model that is rational or achievable. This is the other portion:
    "To offset these costs and make open access a viable business model, many funding agencies will pay money upfront to publishers."
    Hmm, who are the funding agencies? Is such a practice ethical, of paying publishers for including the research that you funded in their journals? Doesn’t it lead to conflict of interest? It wasn’t done in the past, I don’t recall.

    Everything cannot be free. Just because it is produced electronically doesn’t mean it costs nothing to produce. Maybe there shouldn’t be so many journals, publishing lots of sub-par quality papers. Maybe existing as well as new, yet sensibly grown journals should remain fee-based, in order to maintain standards, quality and value to readers. Costs could be less, although I am very fond of print publications, I confess. This push for an all open-access model for scholarly publications seems ill-conceived to me. There is tremendous pressure to yield to it though, as it is de rigeur EVERYWHERE… sigh.