Knowledge Exchange on the costs of Open Access

Kyle Brady
Friday 20 April 2018

The cost of Open Access isn’t a late-breaking field. In 2014 a cost of £9.2m for UK research organisations to achieve RCUK Open Access compliance was quoted [1]. This is in addition to the millions paid to publishers for article processing charges.  Because the market in scholarly publications is constantly adapting and costs for Open Access and library journal subscriptions are inexorably rising, it’s incumbent on institutions to monitor not just the cost of the product, but the cost of managing it.  Open Access and open data have been identified as strategic for Librarians and university senior management [2].

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The Knowledge Exchange partnership works at an international level to develop the infrastructure of open scholarship and promote common standards.  It regularly publishes reports on its activities. Its consensus report on monitoring Open Access publications and cost data published April last year makes recommendations based on the work and feedback from stakeholders at their meetings in Copenhagen, November 2016 and Utrecht, May 2015 [3].  The stakeholder recommendations are wide-ranging from non-prescriptive suggestions that are open to interpretation at different institutions to detailed specifications that are actually being implemented. A good example of the latter is that Wellcome Trust now requires publishers to include many more details on their article processing charge invoices where its funds are used to pay.

The meeting outcome was a list of 48 recommendations, but summarised to make them relevant to crucial stakeholders – CRIS (research information systems), Publishers and Libraries.

Key points

Offsetting agreements give money back to customers, usually as a proportion of the costs of Open Access linked to levels of subscription.  They’re a top priority for UK research libraries.  I liked the priorities suggested, using what we’ve learned to improve effectiveness in negotiating offsetting agreements:

  1. Contribution to the transition to Open Access
  2. Affordability
  3. Ease of administration
  4. Transparency
  5. Facilitating compliance with funder policies

The extent of Springer Compact opt-outs quoted (~30%) is unsurprising and we know from experience it’s often due to author misconceptions around OA and poor publisher communications about their products.

There is discussion of high-level standards and interoperability and a recommendation made to ensure that CRIS follow the OpenAIRE Guidelines on interoperability. Elsevier has now agreed to implement these in Pure, the system used by 39 UK institutions including St Andrews (250 worldwide).  St Andrews is leading this push: our own Anna Clements is leading a short-life working group of the UK Pure User Group and also pushes for coordination as a member of EuroCRIS.

Many issues and recommendations address pain points familiar to OA practitioners in their day-to-day work:

  • Complicated workflows
  • The gap between publisher and institutional workflows
  • The high Total Cost of Publication
  • The lack of high quality metadata from publishers and CrossRef under-use

With care stakeholders could use the recommendations as indicators to measure their progress gathering their data. 
The RCUK Open Access policy 5-year transition period expired 1 April 2018. It’s interesting to reflect that much remains to be done, particularly influencing publishers to flip hybrid journals to fully Open Access model ones to achieve “immediate, unrestricted, on-line access to peer-reviewed and published research papers, free of any access charge.”

1. Counting the Costs of Open Access

2. Open Access 2016-2017 EUA Survey Results

3. Knowledge Exchange consensus on monitoring Open Access publications and cost data: Report from workshop held in Copenhagen 29-30 November 2016

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