The ‘OA market’ – what is healthy? Part 2 | OASPA

by Malavika Legge The debate begins with the word ‘market’ Talking about open access and a market in the same sentence ignites all kinds of passions and opinions. Of course, a market around OA publishing exists as sized and estimated by Delta Think to be worth ~US$1.6 billion in 2021 versus their $975 million estimate for 2020. Delta Think’s most recent projections are that the OA journals market could be worth over US$ 2 billion in 2024 if current trends continue. But when OASPA talks to stakeholders about an ‘OA market’, what exactly do we mean?  The purpose of OASPA’s ‘OA market’ work is to examine the money flows needed to sustain OA publishing. Any way you look at it, the economics of funding and enabling OA publishing is something we all need to grapple with.  Building on the ‘OA market’ work done in 2021, OASPA wished to learn more about what is felt by those in different parts of the world. Despite considerable effort, there was an overall European weighting to views that were collected in 2021, and so, the purpose of my follow-on work has been to round out and supplement the perspectives that had initially been collected.  Last week I shared some of the perspectives from stakeholders based outside of Europe about the ongoing ‘OA market’ effort from OASPA. Considering the differing philosophies around scholarly publishing across world regions that came to light in these conversations (see my previous post), should OASPA be labelling the prevailing economic system an ‘OA market’? Or should we call it an OA system, the OA landscape, an OA exchange? Or something else altogether?  Debate around the name ‘OA market’ is not new, and the issue was already debated at some length in the 2021 workshops. I continued to unpack this dilemma around the name ‘OA market’ with some of the 15 people from around the world acknowledged in my last post. These stakeholders were willing to provide me with their input and expertise on OASPA’s 2021 issue brief and reflections on the ‘OA market’. In these conversations, opinion remained divided on the use of the term ‘market’ in describing the OA environment. “I would avoid [the term market]…” said one voice, since it presupposes that OA needs “an equilibrium between supply and demand driven by money, which is not the actual central reason why science is done and communicated.” Variations on this thinking were echoed by others. What was even more interesting to me, however, were the ‘anti-market’ forces (and the other things!) that I was told OASPA was missing in its assessment of the ‘OA market’. A distillation of these thoughts are outlined below.  

The ‘OA market’ – what is healthy? Part 1 – OASPA

“I joined OASPA in the summer of 2022. Considering the point of representation, and the need to reflect a greater diversity of viewpoints, particularly from those outside of Europe, I’ve been gathering non-European perspectives on the ‘OA market’ work done so far. 

I had email conversations and in-person conversations via Zoom with 15 individuals. All participants were asked to review the work completed by OASPA in 2021 (as documented in the issue brief and reflections). Feedback was specifically sought about the ‘OA market’ and the three areas of focus outlined above….

1. Publishing can be a cost rather than a revenue/profit source…

2. Wide access is being achieved in ways that are not always recognized…

3. APCs and OA are (not?) the same…

4. How can libraries focus on content acquisition and (OA) publishing?…

5. Pricing is a huge problem…

6. “Brain drain” and (Western) market gain…

7. Equity first for better health and diversity…”


The curious internal logic of open access policymaking – Samuel Moore

“This week, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) declared 2023 its ‘Year of Open Science‘, announcing ‘new grant funding, improvements in research infrastructure, broadened research participation for emerging scholars, and expanded opportunities for public engagement’. This announcement builds on the OSTP’s open access policy announcement last year that will require immediate open access to federally-funded research from 2025. Given the state of the academic publishing market, and the tendency for US institutions to look towards market-based solutions, such a policy change will result in more article-processing charge payments and, most likely, publishing agreements between libraries and academic publishers (as I have written about elsewhere). The OSTP’s policy interventions will therefore hasten the marketisation of open access publishing by further cementing the business models of large commercial publishers — having similar effects to the policy initiatives of European funders.

As the US becomes more centralised and maximalist in its approach to open access policymaking, European institutions are taking a leaf out of the North American book by implementing rights retention policies — of the kind implemented by Harvard in 2008 and adopted widely in North America thereafter. If 2023 will be the ‘year of open science’ in the USA, it will surely be the year of rights retention in Europe. This is largely in response to funders now refusing to pay APCs for hybrid journals — a form of profiteering initially permitted by many funders who now realise the errors of their ways. With APC payments prohibited, researchers need rights retention to continue publishing in hybrid journals while meeting their funder requirements….”

Market forces influence editorial decisions – ScienceDirect

“In this issue of Cortex Huber et al. recount their experience in attempting to update the scientific record through an independent replication of a published study (Huber, Potter, & Huszar, 2019). In general, publishers resist issuing retractions, refutations or corrections to their stories or papers for fear of losing public trust, diminishing their brand and possibly ceding their market share (Sullivan, 2018). Unfortunately, this is just one way that market logic – retaining a competitive advantage among peers – explicitly or implicitly influences editorial priorities and decisions more broadly….

There’s the well-known tautology that news is what newsrooms decide to cover and what’s “newsworthy” is influenced by market logic. That news organizations, charged with relating truth and facts, are subject to market-based decisions is a major source of contention among the discerning public. It should be even more contentious that the stewards of scientific knowledge, academic publishers, are also beholden to it….

Although top journals are loathe to admit they ‘chase cites’ (Editorial, 2018), market forces make this unavoidable. One example is a strategy akin to product cost cross subsidization such as when in journalism profitable traffic-driving, click-bait articles subsidize more costly and in-depth, long-form investigative reporting. In order to attract the ‘best’ science, top journals must maintain a competitive impact factor. If the impact factor strays too far from the nearest competitor, then the journal will have trouble publishing the science it deems as most important because of the worth coveted researchers place on perceived impact….

Although publishers tout the value of replications and pay lip service to other reformative practices, their policies in this regard are often vague and non-committal….

Most professional editors are committed to advancing strong science, but however well-intentioned and sought in good faith reforms are, they are necessarily hamstrung by market forces. This includes restrained requirements for more rigorous and responsible research conduct. Journals do not want to put in place policies that are seemingly so onerous that authors decide to instead publish in competing but less demanding journals. Researchers need incentives for and enforcement of more rigorous research practices, but they want easier paths to publication. The result is that new policies at top journals allow publishers to maintain a patina of progressiveness in the absence of real accountability….

The reforms suggested by Huber et al. are welcome short-term fixes, but the community should demand longer-term solutions that break up the monopoly of academic publishers and divorce the processes of evaluation, publication and curation (Eisen and Polka, 2018). Only then may we wrest the power of science’s stewardship from the heavy hand of the market.”

Open Access Market Sizing Update 2022, Oct 25, 3pm (BST) | Delta Think

“We estimate that the OA market grew to around $1.6bn in 2021.

The 32% increase over 2020 is significantly larger than the growth in the underlying scholarly journals market, which is typically low to mid-single digit. It is larger than expected for the OA market.
Growth in OA will remain above that of the underlying scholarly journals market, although we anticipate both will slow in 2022 before resume underlying trends. The open access market is on target to be over $2bn in 2024.
Around 45% of all scholarly articles were published as paid-for open access in 2021, accounting for just under 15% of the total journal publishing market value. (Note that this year, we have changed our method of calculating total market, which will mean our figures for market share will increase by one or two percentage points).
We anticipate a 2021-2024 CAGR of 13% in OA output and 12% in OA market value. …”

Delta Think OA News & Views: Market Sizing

“Each year, Delta Think’s OA Market Sizing analyzes the value of the open access journals market. This is the revenue generated by providers or the costs incurred by buyers of content. This webinar will cover highlights from the 2022 News & Views (released October 18) as well as potential impact scenarios based on the August OSTP Memo.”


News & Views: OSTP Memo – Modeling Market Impact – Delta Think

“This month we look at the possible effects of the new OSTP Public Access policy on the value of the scholarly publishing market. We also suggest some ways that publishers can meet the challenges ahead….

At this stage it is not possible to predict the specific approaches the various federal agencies will choose. The policy does not rule out publication in hybrid journals and the economic impact assessment discusses the notion of publication charges. Issues around licenses, manuscript types, and manuscript location, are left open as well as requirements around data.

The models below consider a general case: What might happen if “open” content in some form is good enough to replace subscriptions? And is there an upside if the newly open content were paid for in some way? …

The OSTP’s Economic Impact Statement (issued along with its new policy) puts this proportion at between 6.7% and 9.1% of global output. Our own analysis suggests a figure between 6.6% and 7.2%. …

Specific publishers will find their situation different to the broad market averages. One difference will be the share of their papers arising from US federally funded research. Delta Think has worked with publishers, predominantly US-based, where federally funded research accounts for 30-50% of their publications. A second difference is the size of the gap between the lower revenue generated per open access article, and the higher revenue generated per subscription access article. For many publishers, the difference is less than the market average. So as the balance of their publication output shifts towards OA, their subscription revenues won’t fall as quickly as market averages….

A few other important drivers are not immediately obvious from the charts:

The US’s share of global output is declining slowly: 1 percentage point or less per year, depending on the data sources used. Therefore, the effects of the OSTP policy reduce over time. (Which is why the charts head back towards the horizontal axis.)
Pricing policies are key. Understanding reduction in market value could help publishers to set price increases and help funders and buyers to understand likely cost implications. Publication fees can be optimized across a portfolio of journals and subscription prices raised further to offset softening revenues.
As the difference in revenues per article between OA and subscription narrows, then the effects become less profound. We have long noted that publication charges are likely to rise to achieve parity with subscriptions.
The models show revenue changes compounded over time. They don’t show annual revenue increases generated by increasing APC prices….”


Statement from Shelley Husband, Senior Vice President, Government Affairs, AAP, on Decision by The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to Make Private Sector Publications Freely Available – AAP

“Today’s announcement from OSTP about access policies for private sector research publications comes without formal, meaningful consultation or public input during this Administration on a decision that will have sweeping ramifications, including serious economic impact….

In a no-embargo environment, in which private publications will be made immediately available by the government for free, our primary concerns are about business sustainability and quality.  

Many publishers have increased the speed and efficiency of the publication process, regularly launched new journals to increase the dissemination of research and embraced diverse publication and access models to sustain and support researchers and research institutions, including those that reduce time to access.  This important work is part of a competitive marketplace geared towards excellence; it is very different than the government mandating business models.  How will publishers, especially small publishers, sustain the accuracy, quality, and output that the public interest requires?

As we work with the Administration and Congress in the days ahead, our focus will be to preserve our nation’s leadership in research and innovation, and to ensure that we continue to have a vibrant independent industry for scholarly publications.”

Helpful feedback on ‘Social cost’ · Gabe Stein

“Well, some people read my last blog post about startups and academic publishing, which doesn’t usually happen. Thanks to everyone for reading, and for providing awesome feedback on Twitter.

I’m not active on Twitter for a variety of reasons, mental health and not wanting to do free work for surveillance capitalists chief among them. But I’d like to meaningfully engage with, and give folks credit for, their helpful feedback. Plus, I realized it served as a great opportunity to experiment with the very new models of evaluation we need to see become mainstream in a low-stakes environment….”

Social cost · Gabe Stein

“At first glance, the staid academic publishing industry seems like a perfect fit for disruption in the form of an enterprising startup. Its total addressable market, or TAM, (~$19b revenue/year) is more than big enough to support a unicorn or two. It relies on centuries-old processes based in the limitations of print that have been proven to be ineffective and inequitable. It is dominated by a few large mega-corporation incumbents who, like the newspaper industry before them, have become used to extracting enormous profit-margins for activities that produce questionable value….

So, an enterprising startup should be able to succeed by raising enough money to build a slick new publishing platform and pay to subsidize researcher usage of it until their institutions are forced to recognize their contributions and pay to support the platform. Thanks to the rise of a new generation of private labs like Arcadia Science, a KFGundefined member and partner, and Focused Research Organizations (FROs), the job actually appears to be less complex than ever, because a lot of the initial bootstrapping of the platform can be cross-subsidized by a new type of institution without the constraints of universities, rather than paid for directly by the startup.

In theory, I think this should work. And to be clear, I think private labs and FROs are a key part of the solution, because they can help reduce the risk of adopting new forms of publishing by proving the models outside the status quo. But in practice, what we’ve learned building KFG over the last 7 years is that the startup approach to building disruptive academic publishing technology is often doomed by a failure to understand the complexity of the market….

With the caveat that I’m incredibly biased by my employer, I believe the solution, as I wrote above, lies in creating a new type of knowledge institution that combines the best of startups, non-profits, and expert consultants. These institutions must be capable of producing innovative, trusted technology that allows anyone to experiment with new approaches to publishing. But that’s not enough. They must also be able to reduce switching costs by combining those tools with services that help users maintain the right ties to the status quo that give them the credit and credibility in the current system without reinforcing the worst parts of it. And they must find a way to become sustainable on their own merits so that they’re not reliant on grants, of which there simply aren’t enough to support technology organizations over the long term. KFG won’t be the only one of these institutions, and our approach won’t be the only one that works (if it does). But until we acknowledge the complexities of this market, and the challenges new entrants face, we’re going to see a lot of startups come up empty in their attempts to disrupt anything except their own bank accounts.”

The Closed-Loop Academic Publication Data Conundrum

“For this presentation we are looking at some of the potential implications of the increasingly closed-loop model of academic publication, student learning platforms, personnel management, and other elements of quantification being developed and sold by an increasingly small number of academic solutions companies. While there are a number of interpretations of these mergers, acquisitions, and ventures, from our perspectives as librarians from two ends of the research apparatus, we see many problems stemming from the increasingly tight connections between the scholarship that is produced, the perceived value of these publications in the market, and impacts on future research funding, student development, faculty positions, and more. We are uneasy, as we will discuss, by the ways in which this constricting pipeline may endanger our shared values in libraries and in higher education more broadly….”

Elsevier appoints Judy Verses as President, Academic and Government Markets

Elsevier, a global leader in research publishing and information analytics, is pleased to announce the appointment of Judy Verses to the newly created role of President, Academic and Government Markets. Judy will join Elsevier on May 2, 2022, as a member of the company’s executive leadership team, reporting to Kumsal Bayazit, CEO; she will be based in Amsterdam.

Judy will be responsible for Elsevier’s global strategy for product development, sales, marketing, academic relations and research intelligence solutions to serve the needs of academic researchers, librarians, research leaders, policymakers and funders. She will be instrumental in building on Elsevier’s extensive open access (OA) offerings that include more than 600 gold OA journals, over 2,000 institutions served by transformative deals around the world and some 119,000 OA articles published in 2021. Judy will oversee the company’s broad product portfolio aimed at academic and government customers, including…


EU: academic publishers are monopolists |

The market power of academic publishers has been a concern for all those academic fields where publication in scholarly journals is the norm. For most non-economist researchers, the anti-trust aspects of academic publishing are likely confusing and opaque.

For instance, libraries and consortia are exempted from organizing tenders for their publication needs as each article exists only in one journal with one publisher. This is called the single or sole source exemption from procurement law and essentially means that academic publishers have monopolies on each of their articles and hence each of their journals.

At the same time, this conglomerate of monopolies is often referred to as the “publishing market“, where there is market consolidation or concentration, leading up to an “oligopoly“.

So which is it now, a market with competing providers or a conglomerate of monopolists? » EU: academic publishers are monopolists

“The market power of academic publishers has been a concern for all those academic fields where publication in scholarly journals is the norm. For most non-economist researchers, the anti-trust aspects of academic publishing are likely confusing and opaque.

For instance, libraries and consortia are exempted from organizing tenders for their publication needs as each article exists only in one journal with one publisher. This is called the single or sole source exemption from procurement law and essentially means that academic publishers have monopolies on each of their articles and hence each of their journals.

At the same time, this conglomerate of monopolies is often referred to as the “publishing market“, where there is market consolidation or concentration, leading up to an “oligopoly“.

So which is it now, a market with competing providers or a conglomerate of monopolists?…”

Why publication services must not be negotiated |

Recently, the “German Science and Humanities Council” (Wissenschaftsrat) has issued their “Recommendations on the Transformation of Academic Publishing: Towards Open Access“. On page 33 they write that increasing the competition between publishers is an explicit goal of current transformative agreements:

publishers become publication service providers and enter into competition with other providers

This emphasis on competition refers back to the simple fact that as content (rather than service) providers, legacy publishers currently enjoy monopolies on their content, as, e.g., the European Commission has long recognized: In at least two market analyses, one dating as far back as 2003 and one from 2015, the EC acknowledges the lack of a genuine market due to the lack of substitutability:

it is rare that two different publications can be viewed as perfect substitutes, as there are differences in the coverage, comprehensiveness and content provided. Therefore, in terms of functional interchangeability, two different publications could hardly be regarded as substitutable by the end-users, the readers. On that basis, the Commission found that consumers will rarely substitute one publication for another following a change in their relative prices


Publications for different academic subjects are clearly not substitutable from the reader’s point of view. Even within a given discipline, there may be little demand side substitution from the point of view of the individual academic between different publications.

As this lack of substitutability is one of the main sources of the problems associated with academic publishing today, not just the German WR, but many initiatives around the globe see increased competition among publishers as key to moving forward.