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Open Access: certainly no longer the end of the world or an industry

March 19, 2013

by Sarah Kosofsky

One of the hottest topics in the scholarly publishing industry is that of Open Access.  The different types of Open Access and the question of which pricing/membership models work best have been talked about at great lengths, but underneath it all is the concern that Open Access journals will hurt the business of traditional scholarly publishers, or worse, put them out of business.

A recent study, however, by HSBC, suggests that Open Access is not such a great threat to the publishing industry, if a threat at all.  Instead of traditional publishers meeting their demise at the hands of OA, instead, they will adapt to the change in the market (11); OA is not a replacement, but a different way of sharing information.  The introduction of OA has been and will continue to be gradual, not immediate and without warning.  Both the OA and traditionally published resources will each have their individual roles within the industry.

That’s not to say, of course, that the change in the industry will go completely smoothly.  One foreseeable problem suggested by the study is that libraries might lose more funding than they save in subscriptions.  “Funders may cut funding to institutions by the amount that they expect to pay in APCs but universities may have been historically under-allocating funds to libraries because funds to cover subscriptions were never explicit” (10). In regards to the oft-mentioned concern regarding OA quality, the study says “moving to OA does not change the chief motivation of the author, ie to be published in the highest status journal possible. Researchers rely on journal titles to provide an external measure of the quality of their research. Established journals provide prestige and validation for a researcher and both are key to furthering career prospects and securing funding” (11).

Time will tell how exactly OA is integrated into the industry, but it will certainly be interesting to see how it becomes an integral part of how research is read and published.

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