Heading for the open road: costs and benefits of transitions in scholarly communications

Added by Catherine Gray on 07 April 2011 11:36

This new report investigates the drivers, costs and benefits of potential ways to increase access to scholarly journals. It identifies five different routes for achieving that end over the next five years, and compares and evaluates the benefits as well as the costs and risks for the UK.

Research Information Network - Press release, 7 April 2011

The Research Information Network (RIN), Research Libraries UK (RLUK), the Wellcome Trust, the Publishing Research Consortium (PRC) and the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), are pleased to announce the publication of Heading for the open road: costs and benefits of transitions in scholarly communications. This report investigates the drivers, costs and benefits of potential ways to increase access to scholarly journals. It identifies five different routes for achieving that end over the next five years, and compares and evaluates the benefits as well as the costs and risks for the UK.

The report suggests that policymakers who are seeking to promote increases in access should encourage the use of existing subject and institutional repositories, but avoid pushing for reductions in embargo periods to the point where they might put at risk the sustainability of the underlying scholarly publishing system. They should also promote and facilitate a transition to open access publishing (Gold open access) while seeking to ensure that the average level of charges for publication does not exceed c.£2000; that the rate in the UK of open access publication is broadly in step with the rate in the rest of the world; and that total payments to journal publishers from UK universities and their funders do not rise as a consequence.

At a time of financial stringency for universities, research funders and publishers, it is important that all the stakeholders in the scholarly communications system work together to find the most cost-effective ways of fulfilling their joint goal of increasing access to the outputs of research. This report provides the first detailed and authoritative analysis of how this might be achieved over the next five years. We hope that it will stimulate new dialogue and new approaches to policy and practice across all stakeholders.

Michael Jubb, Research Information Network, said:

“This work has been commissioned and overseen by five organisations with very different standpoints on the future development of the scholarly communications system. Its detailed analysis provides a basis on which we can pursue practical and wide-ranging discussions about how to improve the effectiveness of scholarly communications for the benefit of the key stakeholders: researchers, and those who are interested in the results of research.”

Debby Shorley: RLUK, said:

“This rigorous report moves  us a good bit further along the rocky road to a world where publicly funded research is publicly available. While its conclusions are by definition somewhat inconclusive, the core message is loud and clear: sooner or later OA will be the dominant publishing model. For RLUK this can’t come soon enough.”

Commenting on the analysis which suggests that the gold model has the potential to achieve the highest benefit-cost ratio whilst at the same time lowering the UK’s net costs for scholarly communication Sir Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust, remarked that “This report shows that financial savings to the UK – and particularly UK academic institutions – can be realised if an ‘author pays’ publishing model is implemented effectively.  This is a challenge and an opportunity to the best publishers of scholarly journals.”

Graham Taylor, Publishing Research Consortium, said:

“We commend this perceptive and timely report as an important contribution to the debate around the evolving scenarios for scholarly communication in a digital age. Crucially the report examines the costs and risks of transition to, as well as the potential benefits of arrival at, a more open world. As publishers investing in vital services for the community, we want to offer scaleable, sustainable, and cost-effective solutions towards the goal of universal access, and this report offers valuable insights into how that might be achieved.” 

Neil Jacobs, JISC, said:

JISC welcomes the release of this report, which is a further valuable contribution to the evidence base. As the report’s title hints, the conclusions support greater moves toward open access. The UK higher education community invests considerable sums in scholarly communication, and we anticipate this report helping us improve the value we gain from that investment. However, we acknowledge that the domain under study is a complex one, and the steps made by this report in assessing opportunities and risks mark a useful start to an important debate.”

For further information contact Ellen Collins, ellen.collins@rin.ac.uk, 020 7412 7893

Notes to editors

1.    The Research Information Network (www.rin.ac.uk) has been established by the higher education funding councils, the research councils, and the national libraries in the UK. We investigate how efficient and effective the information services provided for the UK research community are, how they are changing, and how they might be improved for the future. We help to ensure that researchers in the UK benefit from world-leading information services, so that they can sustain their position as among the most successful and productive researchers in the world.

2.    RLUK is a consortium of 29 of the largest research organisations in the UK and Ireland, including the three UK national libraries. Founded more than 25 years ago, RLUK has directly and indirectly sponsored some of the major free online UK resources in support of research, including Copac, the de facto UK Union Catalogue of over 35 million books and serials.  RLUK is dedicated to ensuring the highest standards of research library support.

3.    The Publishing Research Consortium (www.publishingresearch.net) supports global research into scholarly communication in order to enable evidence-based discussion. Our objective is to support work that is scientific and pro-scholarship. Overall we aim to promote an understanding of the role of publishing and its impact on research and teaching. The founding partners are The Publishers Association, the Association of Learned, Professional and Society Publishers and the International Association of STM Publishers.

4.    The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. It supports the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities.  The Trust’s breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health. It is independent of both political and commercial interests

5.    JISC supports UK colleges and universities in the innovative use of digital technologies. For further information contact the JISC press office on 07879 880198 or jisc@press.ac.uk

6.    CEPA is an economic and financial policy advisory business, established in 2001.  Our vision is to be a centre of excellence for the provision of financial, economic and strategic advice – with a particular emphasis on the interaction between public and private sectors in the delivery of services with ‘public good’ characteristics.  We cover a broad range of sectors, and have a particular interest in policy issues in educational publishing markets, e.g. scholarly publishing; and digital learning materials for school.  Our key strengths include: financial and business case modelling; strategic and financial advice on policy issues; economic and finance advice on the rationale for public sector intervention; and cost-benefit analysis and evaluation.

7.    Mark Ware Consulting was established in 2003 by Mark Ware following a director-level career in STM and B2B publishing. The consultancy provides services to publishers, libraries, learned societies and others in the areas of strategy, business development, and market research and evaluation. www.markwareconsulting.com

8.    The scenario considered five possible routes to wider access to research publications, outlined briefly below.

Green Access - is increased by growth in deposits – by authors and publishers – of accepted manuscripts into institutional and discipline-based repositories.
Delayed Access - A significant increase in the number of publishers providing free access to the version of record of articles on their platforms following an embargo period set in relation to the readership ‘half-life’.
Gold Increased - access achieved through growth in numbers of author-side payments leading to immediate access to the version of record through the publisher platform, and also in some cases by a subject and/or institutional repository.
Licence Extension - Increased access to the version of record achieved through national licence extensions to the HE sector and NHS.
Transactional - Increased access focused on targeted user groups (e.g. SMEs, independent researchers and professionals). Access to the version of record at the point of publication.

9.    The full report and supporting documents are available at www.rin.ac.uk/trans-dynamics

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