On Wednesday, April 2, 2020, SSP presented our virtual large-scale virtual event, “Seeking Sustainability: Publishing Models for an Open Access Age.” This event was originally scheduled as an in-person event in conjunction with the UKSG Annual Meeting (planned for Brighton, UK), but as with so many things in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, adjustments had to be made. Despite a few technical glitches, the event transitioned successfully to the webinar format.
The event kicked off with SSP Program Director, Mary Beth Barilla, sharing introductions and encouraging the audience to submit questions as the original event was intended to be an interactive discussion. To that end, the content presentation began with a poll of the audience to gauge familiarity with various open access (OA) models: transformative agreements, pure publish agreements, subscribe to open, and membership models. While the audience was least familiar with pure publish agreements, well over half of the attendees were aware of all four models.
Following the poll was a keynote presentation by Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe (Professor, University of Illinois-Urbana-Champagne, SSP Board Member, and Scholarly Kitchen Chef). Lisa started with a historical review of library subscription models, provided a succinct and useful overview of the OA landscape, and closed on “issues to consider” with a focus on challenges of sustainability. You can find Lisa’s related post covering the highlights of her keynote and a link to the slides on The Scholarly Kitchen.
Following the keynote was a panel discussion moderated by Heather Staines (Head of Partnerships at the Knowledge Futures Group). Each panelist represented a unique perspective on new and emerging publishing models in their respective organizations’ drive toward a more “open” future. The first presenter was Scott Delman (Director of Publications at the ACM) who discussed the recently launched ACM Open program, a transformative model developed in collaboration with several research libraries and with the goal of shifting the burden of payment to the 1000 universities that represent the vast majority of what is published every year, with a fairly even distribution of revenue coming from “publish” vs. “read.” As a result, the majority of institutions will pay less to access ACM content while the top institutions will be asked to pay more as the costs of publication are borne by the institutions where the publications are coming from.
Next, Steven Hall (Managing Director, IOP Publishing) discussed 3 routes to OA under Plan S: publication in an OA journal or on an OA platform, publication in a subscription journal offering immediate green OA, or publication in a subscription journal as part of a transformative agreement. Steven expressed concerns regarding the sustainability of green OA and depositing the accepted manuscript with a CC-BY license, as most of the cost of publication lies in getting the article to the accepted manuscript stage. He argued that green OA with a CC-BY license represents an appropriation of the publisher’s investment by funders. He also suggested that publishers bear some responsibility in rarely discussing where the costs of publication lie (IOP is a participant in the Coalition S transparency initiative). Transformative agreements, on the other hand, do promise sustainability, even for a publisher similar in size to IOP, and they work well for researchers, as they can continue to publish in the journals they believe are the best fit for their research. Finally, Steven pointed out that adequate attention needs to be paid to winners and losers in changing business models and that global issues such as the distribution of costs have not been considered under Plan S or other funder mandates.
Ruth Harrison (Imperial College London Library Services) spoke about the role of higher education in supporting scholarly research and communication and the shift to OA. As Imperial College is a research-intensive institution, supporting both OA and publishing generally is an important part of the work of the library, with the goal of supporting researchers to make their work accessible, either in a journal or through self-archiving. The main goal of the library is that researchers have access to the content they need, whether through subscriptions or OA. There is also strong support at Imperial College for authors’ retaining copyright while publishing where they want to. Ruth laid out the following important principles: responsible spending of public money, ensuring researchers have the right publishing options and encouraging publishers to explore different models.
The final panelist was Martin Paul Eve of the University of London and the Open Library of the Humanities, discussing the collective funding model of the Open Library. Because they are not funded in the same way as STEM disciplines, the humanities require a different model. In return for joining the Open Library, library members receive a governance stake. The content is freely accessible to everyone, a model that is similar in many ways to the emerging Subscribe to Open model. Although the Open Library is a relatively small publisher, the model also has similarities with the Big Deal in that a library does not join to support a specific journal but to fund the organization as a whole. Getting this model off the ground and gaining 300 institutional members in 5 years took an incredible amount of work, and the initial seed grant was critical. In evaluating new business models, the effort involved in explaining and marketing the new model must be taken into consideration, as must the reality that an initiative like the Open Library is totally dependent on the larger global environment for continued funding.
The session closed with some time for Q&A, which focused largely on the importance of transparency and the caution that, like other mandates, the drive for transparency is a challenge for smaller organizations for whom it is a cost to provide that information. The question was also raised as to whether libraries have the bandwidth to handle multiple models at the same time (the answer: libraries have always done this)!
Thanks to the organizers, speakers, and attendees for an engaging event! If you were an attendee, you can access the recordings at any time. The videos will be accessible to everyone in the SSP Library in early June.
News contribution by SSP member, Nicola Poser. Nicola is Director of Marketing and Sales at the American Mathematics Society.