Originally posted to Liblicense and the SPARC Open Access Forum. This post is part of the Transitioning to Open Access Series.
Gene Sprouse of the American Physical Society expresses the concerns of APS about ongoing sustainability of their publishing program with a shift from subscriptions to open access publishing, in his Liblicense Message, Gene Sprouse of the American Physical Society expresses the concerns of APS about ongoing sustainability of their publishing program with a shift from subscriptions to open access publishing, in his message: http://www.library.yale.edu/~llicense/ListArchives/0712/msg00014.html.
SCOAP3 is a consortium within physics exploring the idea of shifting physics publishing to a fully open access model.
The fear is that if payment is voluntary, libraries may choose to drop out of the consortium. This is a reasonable concern. Thanks for Gene for raising it.
Here is a thought: some of the members of SCOAP3 have access to facilities which are necessary for researchers in high energy physics, such as CERN, the world's largest particle physics laboratory.
Could members with such facilities have rules about participation in SCOAP3 for institutions whose scientists would like to be visiting researchers? It should be possible to formulate rules that are flexible to meet the needs of wealthy and less-wealthy institutions, those with many physicists, and those with few. If participation in SCOAP3 were a requirement to participate in the research, drop-outs should be highly unlikely.
Because research in this area is expensive, a price structure based on research intensity would be fair.
Another approach to fairness for different countries would be to translate pricing into average wage equivalents. For example, if a reasonable price for a high-intensity research institution in a western country equates with an average month's salary for a researcher, then have a price structure that charges the equivalent of an average month's wages in local currency. This way, wealthy and poor institutions could be equal contributors, even if the revenue received were not equal.
Physics may be unique in having key central facilities such as CERN.
However, something that all worthwhile academic institutions do need is accreditation. In order to be accredited, an academic institution needs to have, among many other things, a library which meets particular standards.
Perhaps, in the future, one of these standards for libraries will be participating in dissemination of scholarly information.
Larger or research-intensive universities may prefer to have their own OA publishing programs and/or open access archives. Smaller schools, or those without research programs, could contribute to a central fund. This central fund could then be used to subsidize projects such as SCOAP3, or other existing or potential open access projects, from subsidizing OA journals to subsidizing university presses so that they could provide full open access. Like having a library, such contributions could be considered essential for accreditation rather than optional.
With this approach, smaller and less research-intensive institutions would have an opportunity to participate in paying for scholarly publishing, much as they do now with subscriptions, as well as clear guidelines on what is expected.
There are many models within universities, libraries and library consortia, and governments that could be considered for managing such central funds. There need not be a single fund; there could be many.
The output of such a fund would be the open access materials themselves; this is an approach that lends itself very well to a transparent accountability.