Business as usual, or not? OpenAIRE workshop about alternative publishing models

On the 5th of April OpenAIRE arranged a workshop on the theme ”Beyond APCs: alternative open access publishing business models”. 50 participants attended the workshop at the Dutch Royal Library in The Hague. Annica Wentzel from National Library of Sweden, and Sofie Wennström from the Stockholm University Library, represented the Swedish Open Access working groups.

Photo: Annica Wentzel

The OpenAIRE FP7 post-grant Open Access Pilot is now closed and 11 projects were granted support in the first call, to develop and implement technical improvements to the benefit of their infrastructure for open scholarly communication. You can read the full report here. The second call aimed to support alternative open access business models, and six bids was approved for funding: Mattering press, The Institute of Literary Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences (IBL PAN), SciPost, Fair Open Access Alliance (FOAA), Language Science Press and Open Library of Humanities. None of these projects use APCs in their business models.

The second half of the day provided an opportunity for all the grantees to develop their alternative business models together with the other workshop delegates. The tool used was a “Canvas for Alternative Open Access Publishing Business Models” (based on this model) which is a map to develop a better understanding of the target groups, the value proposition and the cost structure of an organisation. The canvases formed a structure used to discuss the six bids’ different business models in smaller groups, and at the end of the day all groups presented the highlights and new insights found during the exercise.

Photo: Sofie Wennström

The program also included inspirational talks by previous and current grantees, where they explained challenges and opportunities related to alternative OA publishing business models as well as communication and stakeholder engagement:

Shut up and give me all your money! Or not? – Challenges and opportunities with non-APC business models and self-publishing. Jeroen Sondervan from UOpen talked about how they built their publishing program as an ‘incubator’ for academic journals to develop a working model where they could become self-sufficient after a while.

Scholar-led Publishing: Scaling Small. Janneke Adema from Research Fellow Digital in Digital Media, at Coventry University. She talked about findings from the report, written together with Graham Stone from Jisc, called Changing publishing ecologies, where they mapped the current landscape of new university presses and academic-led publishing. Her talk also included insights from working with projects without a lot of funding, where they had to adjust the projects to the current means often by making better use of digital media tools.

Possible business models for the OA journals from the small scientific communities. Jadranka Stojanovski talked about Hrčak, the Portal of Scientific Journals of Croatia, where they had previously received funding to develop their national repository database to adapt to current developments in scholarly publishing. This lead to an increase in usage via the portal for smaller journals that would otherwise have a hard time to survive in the competition from bigger publishers.

Transitioning journals into an APC-free model – learnings from the KU journal pilot. Max Mosterd from Knowledge Unlatched (KU) talked about KUs latest pilot for funding OA projects, called the “KU Select Journal Model”. The model aims to transition journals during a 3-year into an APC-free publishing model by crowdsourcing funding to cover the cost of publishing. So far, they have managed to fund six journals to transition from a subscription model into OA and two projects where Gold OA publishers receive support for developing their services.

Metadata as Motor for Discovery. Stephanie Dawson from ScienceOpen talked about the importance of metadata for smaller, scholar-run publishers or journals to ensure the widest possible dissemination via big databases. There are many affordable solutions to improve the digital workflows, such as CrossRef or ORCiD, combined with a good metadata structure that could make a lot of difference with small investments.

Communication strategy of OA2020-DE – Open in order to transition. Alexandra Jobmann from OA2020-DE talked about their project to provide national and international strategies for a large-scale transition to open access. She talked about the importance of fact-based arguments for OA, and not only value-based.

Another hot topic during the day was the European Commission’s proposal to fund an Open Research Publishing Platform, which was announced just a few days before the workshop. Which player will win the bid? Would it be possible to have just one provided fulfilling all the detailed requirements, or should it be divided among several players?

Take-ways from the event include that there are many different business models for open access publishing and that they don’t all need to be charging authors to cover all the costs and to be sustainable organisations. Time will tell if the large commercial publishers also will be able to look at alternatives beyond APCs. From a Swedish perspective, where we are currently investigating the challenges and opportunities of a national transition to open access (and open science), we learned that models would need to be adaptive to fit all the stakeholders involved in scholarly communication.

Phtoto: Annica Wentzel

More information

Beyond APCs: alternative open access publishing business models, workshop at the Dutch Royal Library in The Hague, arranged by OpenAire


Annica Wentzel from National Library of Sweden, and Sofie Wennström from the Stockholm University Library, represented the Swedish Open Access working groups.