James O. Welch, Jr. and Virginia B. Welch Professor of Computer Science
Head of Information
Max Planck Digital Library
Director of Collections
California Digital Library
This session will report on efforts at the University of California, the Max Planck Society, Harvard University and several other partners to explore the economic feasibility of a transition to a more open, sustainable, and efficient journal literature under a gold open access (OA) publication model. Most studies of the potential impact of a shift to gold OA journals funded through article processing charges (APCs) contend that such a shift would be unaffordable for research-intensive institutions, where the majority of research output is concentrated. However, available studies on this topic frequently rely on simple models that fail to take into account the full range of factors that may affect the cost of gold OA to an individual institution, such as co-authorship patterns among institutions, the potential use of sponsored research funding to subvent publication costs, and emerging business models aimed at bringing down the cost of peer review and dissemination. In this session we will present preliminary findings from separate analyses and case studies at the University of California and the Max Planck Society and describe an extensive, multi-pronged study being undertaken in 2015 by the University of California and three major university partners under the auspices of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to model the potential impact of gold OA on North American research institutions. The goal of the session is to initiate a discussion among the various stakeholders in scholarly communication about the feasibility of such a transition in light of the rapid expansion of OA in Europe and elsewhere. European funding agencies, both public and private, are implementing OA policies that require or support gold OA, while in the US, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has asked all major government funding agencies to provide their own plans for providing open access to their supported research literature, and other major funders, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, are also implementing such policies. As these developments unfold, many worry where the money will come from to support them and what consequences, intended or unintended, they are likely to have. The results of the growing APC handling experience at the Max Planck Society suggest that full gold OA in a prolific research organization can be achieved within existing subscription spending levels. If these findings are replicable in North America, such a perspective could open the way to new cost allocations and more robust support infrastructures for open access publishing.