For much of the early and often heated discussion surrounding open access, there has been little evidence to support or disprove its viability. "Discussion of open access," notes Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP) Chief Executive Sally Morris, "tends to be strong on rhetoric but short on facts." But after more than five years of progress and thanks to ALPSP and several sponsoring partners, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and HighWire Press/Stanford University Libraries, the first "substantial study" of open access is now available in a jam-packed 135 page report. Compiled by the Kaufman-Wills group and released last month, the study purports to offer "a substantial body of data about different forms of open access publishing, and a baseline of comparison with traditional subscription publishing." The study was compiled based on surveys completed for nearly 500 journals, both traditional subscription and open access. That was followed up by interviews with more than 20 publishers representing over 5000 journals. The study investigates not only financial aspects but also editorial, copyediting, peer-review, and impact issues as well. Still, for most the financial reality remains the hot button issue. In releasing the report, Morris stressed that there was still too little history to make broad predictions about the future of open access. Nevertheless, the initial data offers some interesting snapshots of journal publishing. For example, over 41 percent of the open access journals in the survey reported shortfalls and just 24 percent were breaking even. Among non-open access journals, on the other hand, 81 percent of the HighWire and AAMC journals reported a profit and 75 percent of the ALPSP journals were in the black. "From the evidence it seems by no means certain that Open Access publishing is a financially viable model for all," Morris writes in her introduction, "however, there is clearly widespread recognition that a better model (or models) is needed to provide wide and speedy access to research findings in the interests of science." And clearly, as the survey reflects, a "considerable amount" of experimentation with alternative publishing models is taking place. "We hope this report will aid further discussion of alternate publishing models by adding to the evidence-based research," Morris noted, adding that the study should be repeated every few years. The full study, The Facts About Open Access: A Study of the Financial and Non-Financial Effects of Alternative Business Models on Scholarly Journals is available as a free to download PDF file at www.alpsp.org.
From The Library Journal