Friday, February 19, 2021

Report: Open Access Policy may be Unsustainable for Publishers

An eye-opening report by consulting firm FTI, forecasts a massive financial cost to UK university presses and journal publishers if proposed UK Research Institute (UKRI) guidelines on open access are fully implemented. The report also suggests that UK based research contributes more than 60% to the economy than it costs to produce and this impact would be under threat as publisher business model erode. The report estimates that in the period 2022 – 2027 the loss to UK based journal publishers would be £2.0B and that monograph publishing (already on a shoestring) would be unsustainable for many current publishers.

The UKRI policy has not been finalized but it broadly understood to follow the Plan S open access directives: UKRI funded articles should open access immediately on publication, with no an embargo, free to access and under a copyright license which maximizes access.  

UK research itself may be comprised as output would migrate to other markets and other countries where legacy business models would be sustainable, and while other countries and markets might also be on an open access trajectory, the fact the UK would move earlier and faster might perpetuate some of these older models. The report refers to this as a ‘first mover disadvantage’.

The report won’t speculate on what options may be considered by publishers when this UKRI policy is adopted; but, this policy may have devastating effects on publishers, particularly smaller, association or membership-based publishing in niche markets. It is also unclear how much researchers, academics and libraries may benefit since in the totality of academic research this policy might immediately impact only a small amount of published content. Libraries will still continue to license large fee-based content to support their constituencies. What the report points out is the potentially disproportionate negative impact on UK based publishers and that some would ‘go out of business’.

Read the full report here

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