Author:Okada, Masahiro


The development of information technology (IT) has drastically changed people's attitudes toward information collection. Around the globe, as long as people can access the Internet, useful information can easily be obtained free of charge. As this IT revolution has evolved, academic publishing, especially journal publishing, has dramatically changed, with the most significant innovation being the advent of electronic journals.

Electronic journals have drastically changed the attitudes of researchers. Scholars no longer need to visit a library building to read and photocopy journal articles because they can easily access and download those articles from their offices or their home computers. This remarkable convenience, however, has been accompanied by a major problem, i.e., the skyrocketing of journal-subscription prices over nearly three decades. (1) Currently, not only libraries (i.e., research libraries) in low-income countries but also those in high-income countries face serious difficulties paying the subscription fees of the journals they need.

From these circumstances, the open access (OA) movement was born. Over the past 15 years, numerous OA arguments have been made and new types of publications have appeared. As described in the next section, the extensive growth of open access publications is indisputable. However, traditional expensive toll-access (TA) journals have not been replaced by full-OA journals (i.e., Gold OA journals, which will be explained in the next section; hereafter, this type is called OA journals), and the problem of exorbitant increases in subscription prices, the so-called "serials crisis," does not seem as though it will end in the near future.

The promotion of open access is not straightforward. Various stakeholders have a variety of interests in open access. The main stakeholders are libraries, authors (researchers), funding agencies, commercial publishers, and OA journal publishers. Their positions on the OA map are illustrated in Figure 1.

Libraries, who take a strong hostile attitude toward oligopolistic commercial publishers, vehemently hope to reduce the cost of journal subscriptions. Libraries have to meet the needs of researchers and students under budgetary constraints. Although they would like the OA movement to lighten their budgetary burdens, it seems that this has not been realized up until now.

Academic authors take an ambivalent stance on the OA movement. They are increasingly aware of the merits of OA, but the reputation of journals carrying their articles is the most important factor to consider when selecting a journal (Guedon, 2017; Togia and Korobili, 2014). They hope to publish articles in prestigious journals, i.e., well-known high-ranking journals; they want their articles to be read by academics in the same sub-discipline and want to contribute to their fields. Publishing in core academic journals garners academic prestige, and a list of publications certifies the academic standing of researchers. The future of academics, i.e., their tenure, promotion, or funding, is dependent on academic publication.

Academic associations/societies, especially those that publish high-ranking journals, have benefited substantially from the sale of their TA journals, which are published through large commercial publishers. Although these societies are not profit-making entities, the income from the sale of their journals has been locked into their activity budgets. As turning TA journals into OA journals will certainly decrease income, these societies are placed in an awkward position with regard to the OA movement (Bull, 2016b; Hockschild, 2016).

Funding agencies such as governments and charity funders are playing an important role in the promotion of OA. Research funders are not profitmaking, and they strongly desire to contribute to the global community. They have strongly endorsed open access to the publications that result from the research they fund. The UK government, the EU, and charity foundations have issued OA mandates to require grantees to make their research results open. These mandates from funders are powerful and certainly serve to promote open access.

Commercial publishers that publish TA journals are profit-making entities. Leading publishers are Elsevier, Springer, Wiley, Taylor & Francis, and Sage. These publishers have been reluctant to promote OA but have recently shown interest in OA publishing because they have also identified a business opportunity in OA publications.

Non-commercial and commercial publishers that mainly publish OA journals are the primary advocates of OA and are new business entities of the digital revolution. They run their businesses based on an article processing charge (APC). A large number of full OA journals are currently published, but it is unlikely that they will replace existing TA journals. However, a unique and innovative journal model has emerged, known as an OAMJ (open access mega-journal). These mega-journals and other similar journals that publish a huge number of articles may have a great impact on the journal publishing landscape, which is described in detail in Section 4.

The positions of respective stakeholders, as suppliers of research products, are different from one another, but from the demand side, beneficiaries including authors, academics, students, and citizen-researchers--welcome OA movements. Readers simply prefer free and instantaneous access that can be obtained with one click on the Internet (Bjork, 2016).

The next section defines OA. In Section 2, the prevalence of OA and its impact will be described. In Section 3, the situations of the above-mentioned stakeholders are described in detail. In Section 4, the emergence of OA megajournals and the innovative features of their business models are introduced. The final section concludes the discussion.

  1. What Is Open Access?

    The OA movement is strongly championed by librarians who have become exasperated by prohibitively high--and rising--journal subscription fees. The UK government and charity funders have also promoted OA due to their belief that research results funded by public or charity funds should be freely available to the public. In addition, the movement is also promoted by the increasingly recognized--and much broader--concept of open science, which is a movement to make scientific research and data accessible to all people so that they can contribute to the further development of science. Suber (2012: 4) states succinctly that "Open access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions." The term was introduced by the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) in February 2002. (2)

    There are several routes to attaining OA (libre, gratis, and in between). These routes are described as follows:

  2. Gold OA: A route to making peer-reviewed articles free to read and reuse (libre OA). This type of OA is realized by the publication of articles in OA journals. The basic idea is that the author-side pays the cost of publishing in a journal by paying the APC (article processing charge), so readers are not required to pay a subscription fee. (3) As nearly 95% of OA journals use creative commons licenses (basically CC BY), (4) almost all articles in OA journals are reusable. The UK and Dutch governments advocate this Gold OA route.

  3. Green OA: A route to making peer-reviewed articles (self-archived versions) free to read. This access is enabled by the self-archiving of final manuscripts that are accepted for publication in a subscription journal. These articles are called "postprints" (any versions of an article approved by peer review) and are archived either in institutional repositories (IRs) or disciplinary repositories. Well-known disciplinary repositories are ArXiv and PubMed Central. Reuse rights depend on the respective articles. Repositories also include any versions of an article produced prior to peer review; these articles are called "preprints."

  4. Hybrid OA: A route to making published (printed) articles free to read. Many TA journals have increasingly adopted an open access option. This option makes an article immediately freely available on the journal website to everyone, although authors have to pay high fees for this option. Authors choosing this option can opt for reuse rights by selecting one of the available creative commons licenses.

  5. Delayed OA: In this route, articles published in a TA journal are free to read, but they are only made available on a journal's website after an embargo period (Laakso and Bjork, 2013). Reuse rights are limited.

  6. Academic Social Networks: In this route, articles published in a TA journal are free to read; they are shared on commercial online social networks such as ResearchGate and Academia.edu. However, this route is problematic because many articles are said to be illegally posted and hosted because of authors' negligence/ignorance of copyrights.

  7. Robin Hood/Rogue OA: A route to making articles published in a TA journal free to read; the articles are shared on illegal pirating sites. A wellknown popular site is Sci-Hub (Archambault et al., 2014).

    Open access (or open science) has been predominantly discussed in science disciplines, and OA has gained a foothold in scientific fields. However, the social sciences and humanities also follow this trend, and funders' OA mandates do not distinguish these disciplines from those in the natural sciences. (5) The history of the OA movement is provided in detail by the Open Access Directory. (6) Guedon (2017) and Tennant et al. (2016) are also very informative.

  8. How Does OA Work?

    2.1. The prevalence of OA

    Many studies have estimated the proportion of articles that are free to read, and studies have also analyzed the citation advantage of OA articles. For example, Archambault et al. (2014) analyzed data on one million randomly sampled articles from Scopus, and Piwowar et...

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