Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Open Access Economics: Funding Agencies and Leverage

Funding agencies and other groups are beginning to make commitments to providing monies for publishing fees. In addition to providing direct support for open access publishing, this could be an opportunity for libraries to leverage additional change.

Here is a thought: if publishers are beginning to receive revenue from a new stream (publishing charges for open access), subscription fees should decrease by a correponding amount, should they not? Indeed, has not Springer promised this with their Open Choice program? Something to keep in mind when that renewal comes up...

Why not use these savings to create a fund to support further open access publishing? This could take a number of approaches, such as paying for membership fees to open access publishers, or fully or partially paying publication fees on a per-article basis.

From my point of view, one of the keys to success of a production-based economics model is ensuring that it is cost effective. There are likely many ways to encourage cost effectiveness. Here is one idea: Libraries could fund publication fees based on a sliding scale. For example, modest publication costs (e.g. $500 per article) could be paid in full, with a decreasing percentage of the fee paid based on the amount - e.g. 80% of costs up to $1,000, 75% up to $1,500, and so forth. This ensures that faculty are aware of the costs of publication, at least whenever the costs are high enough that it is important to be aware.

Here is a thought for libraries wondering where the monies for staffing to adminster such a system might come from: why not interlibrary loans staff? Why knows more about how to manage payment for information on an item-by-item basis, or how to make a system based on this as efficient as humanly possible? One reason this makes sense is that every article that becomes open access no longer needs to be obtained, by anyone, through interlibrary loan (staff may help patrons to discover the item, but there will not be a need to request from another library, track and pay for the service, etc.). It seems logical that there would be some correspondence between the percentage of material becoming open access, and a decrease in interlibrary loans - perhaps slow at first, then gradually growing.

This strikes me as a relatively smooth, and humane, way to manage the transition. There must be other ways to manage the transition that will make it as seamless as possible for everyone, staff at publishing houses included.

Many thanks to those who participated in the breakout session on policy issues at OAI4, who inspired this train of thought.

This post reflects my personal opinion only and does not represent the opinions or policy of the BC Electronic Library Network or the Simon Fraser University Library.

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