An Open Question
Kaufman says STM publishers need to look at open access more flexibly. "Publishers have to think, 'What does this mean today,' while still understanding it might change tomorrow. They don't have to lock into everything," he says.
"The misconception is that you need to do everything the same way for every title," he says. "You have some journals with relatively low, institutional subscription rates because they have a lot of advertising or commercial reprints. If you have a journal with a lot of commercial reprints, the impact of how you implement open access might be very different from a journal that is entirely reliant on subscription revenues. Likewise, even within a title, there might be differences in open access offerings at the article level based on factors such as funding agency requirements."
Building a Business Model
One of the biggest challenges in an open access world is to make sure that publishers can recover the heavy costs associated with the publication of scientific research.
Of the 2,000 journals Springer, one of the world's largest and most aggressive open access publishers, publishes each year, more than 330 are now open access. It recently announced it will add open access books to its offerings.
The business is constantly evolving, and open access is certainly a growing piece of the work, says Eric Merkel-Sobotta, Springer's EVP of Corporate Communications.
"There are some common misconceptions about what publishers do to publish an article, but I assure you these activities—the editorial process, technology developments, making sure that research is discoverable, maintaining the integrity and quality of the science we publish, etc.—necessitate a significant investment," he says. To offset these costs and make open access a viable business model, many funding agencies will pay money upfront to publishers.
According to Merkel-Sobotta, Springer fully supports, and heavily invests in, open access as a business model today. The publisher has been on the forefront of open access since 2004 when it launched its Springer Open Choice model.