Sustaining open data business

These thoughts on sustaining open data business were provoked by ORCID, a not-for-profit business set up by a group of large academic publishers and a few leading universities. Its aim is to provide a central directory of researchers, with profiles describing them.
ORCID is committing to provide open source software but not necessarily open data – offering some limited “non-commercial” activity of the service. Researchers can open their data by “claiming” it but what volume of them are going to do that? Do many more than 15% of academics publish their work in their local open access institutional repository?
I want to illustrate that it is perfectly possible, if not necessary, to support a business publishing open data. Strategies for successful open data companies:
  • Charge for quality – as offer a cleaned up better authoritative version of a somewhat crowdsourced database
  • Charge for high volume – as SimpleGeo offer 10K per day calls to the service and charge a small fee after that.
  • Charge for private data storage – as Talis offer free triplestores for linked open data, and charge for a private data service.
  • Charge for analytical capacity – Fortius One offer the free GeoCommons web map making service and charge for the GeoIQ analysis package.
Of course one can always do consultancy and custom development to cover costs. Establishing a namespace, becoming a reference point for others; geoname linked data is used because it is widely used, because it arrived early in the domain.
In a survey of potential users, the most sizeable number of ORCID prospective users thought the data would only really be useful as open data. Charging for institutional access and sponsorship are seen as ways to sustain it. Yet there plenty of ways to sustain open data business, for-profit or not or in between. We might yet get a system that really serves academic publication rather than markets to it.

The economics of open access

When we talk about the economics of open access, the conversation usually begins with the high cost of traditional journal subscriptions.  For a nice summary of the argument that the economics of journal pricing is out of control, this portion of the ACRL toolkit on scholarly communications is an excellent resource.  But that is only the beginning of the discussion.  There is a lot more to say about open access economics.
One great source to grasp the nuance of the issues is a 2009 issue of the journal Economic Analysis and Policy, which itself made the transition from toll access to open availability under a Creative Commons Attribution license.  A special issue of the journal was dedicated to the economics of open access; the full contents are linked to this blog post, which make finding them much easier.
I can especially recommend the first two articles in this special issue of EAP.  John Willinsky does an excellent job in “The Stratified Economics of Open Access” of analyzing traditional publishing market segments and looking at how each is experimenting with open access.  Conley and Wooders, in “But what Have you Done for me lately,” ask the very basic questions about what publishing an academic article should cost and what the most economically efficient model for scholarly communications might look like.
As I said, the conversation usually begins with high journal prices.  Open access is not a solution, per se, to the problem of journal costs, but it is a solution to the access problem that is created by skyrocketing prices.  For most academic authors, the issue of how much publishing really costs and how much of a university’s budget is actually going into shareholder value at Elsevier or Informa is very much secondary.  Their concern is how to get their work into the hands of those who need it and might be able to use it.  High subscription costs prevent that access and thus reduce the impact of scholarly work.  That is the problem that new models of distributing scholarship, most of which are forms of open access, can solve.
As Conley and Wooders’ article makes clear, open access is not free in the sense of being without any costs, although consumers of open access articles do get the information they need without charge.  Open access models are really about ways to streamline and redistribute the costs of publication so as to solve the access problem that is becoming so severe in the traditional system.
When we talk about the economics of open access, there are two factors that we should not forget.  First, the are costs, known as lost opportunity costs, associated with traditional publishing that are recaptured by open access.  Every time a researcher or teacher cannot get to the information she needs to do her work, or must obtain it by labor-intensive means like interlibrary loan or direct contact with the author, time and knowledge, which are both worth money, are wasted; open access reduces that loss.  Second, open access provides the benefit of greater impact to the scholarly authors of articles made accessible through the various OA models.  This benefit for the authors, like the benefit to the reader of quick and toll-free access, increases the overall value of research.  When we examine the economics of open access, the increased value of the research itself must be part of the equation.
Taken from Duke web site

Librarians and Libraries and Open Access

“Roses red and violets blue
stays unread
till paid by you”

How can librarians prove that their libraries still provide education?
Their situation is nohow a warming one. However, the solution couldn’t be more simple.


Complex Situation

Libraries order journals and books. The cost of academic material is climbing rapidly (from 1989 to 2003 by 315% according to ARL). This is possible because the market is dominated by a small number of large publishers who can demand very high prices for their publications. The world production of scholarly outputs, by contrast, has been at least doubled.
Even the most well endowed library cannot afford to provide all of the research material necessary for its students/researchers, let alone the one in the developing world. In addition, library budgets have been severely slashed everywhere.


Two Crises and the Damage Done

SERIALS PRICING CRISIS (in its forth decade according to Peter Suber)
  • costs climbing, number of journals growing, library budgets are being slashed
  • researchers must do without access to some of the journals critical to their research.
PERMISSION CRISIS (in its first decade according to Peter Suber)
  • legal and technological barriers are raised limiting how libraries may use the journals
  • legal barrier: copyright law, licensing agreement
  • technological barrier: digital rights management which blocks access to unauthorized users
Both crises impede research
and when research is impeded
so are all the benefits of research.

Peter Suber


Simple Solution

This would present an insoluble problem in the print machine era, however with internet technology available, both crises may be answered with Open Access to research material. The middleman can now be left out of the picture and mutual responsibility in promoting the wide dissemination of knowledge is now solely on librarians and publishers.
A report commissioned by the Wellcome Trust, for example, concludes that “open access is not only a practical, efficient and sustainable model for disseminating high-quality peer-reviewed research, but that it is a system that could also bring savings of as much as 30%
SPARC is calling recently for stories being collected for the OA Week about Open Access causing major swerve in specific scientific study. Thus, even if it didn’t prove as a money saving solution, it will, undoubtedly prove as a “community-saving” solution.


Librarians Act Today and Envision the Year 2025

That librarians are strong advocates for Open Access is obvious when recognized that SPARC, one of the strongest OA organization on a global level, was founded by the research library community.
Other than that, librarians are:
  • educating faculty and administrators on campus about Open Access
  • building digital repositories for OA journals/books
  • supporting OA journals (which make more than 20% of peer-reviewed journals today)
There are weak spots to the movement with librarians not always being as engaged as
they should, but the idea is still in its growth process and the awareness is yet to be raised.
The latest report, Futures Thinking for Academic Librarians: Higher Education in 2025, sponsored by ACRL, provides nine likely, high-impact scenarios for the future of higher education and the supporting role of librarians, and it is abbreviated in bullet points by Philip Davis from Scholarly Kitchen:

Taken from InTech

OASIS Topics

Income Models for Supporting Open Access (by SPARC)

Developing a sound business model is a critical concern of publishers considering openaccess distribution. Selecting the model appropriate to a particular journal will depend not only on the expense hurdle that must be cleared, but also on the publisher’s mission objectives, size, business management resources, risk tolerance, tax status, and institutional or corporate affiliation.
This Web site and accompanying guide provide an overview of income models currently being used to support the openaccess distribution of peer-reviewed scholarly and scientific journals. These resources will be a useful tool both for publishers exploring new potential sources of income and for libraries weighing where to direct meager library funds.
READ or download the guide
Supply-side income models: supply-side models, funded primarily by producers of the content or by proxies that pay on their behalf.
“Income models for Open Access: An overview of current practice” examines the use of supply-side revenue streams (such as article processing fees, advertising) and demand-side models (including versioning, use-triggered fees). The guide provides an overview of income models currently in use to support openaccess journals, including a description of each model along with examples of journals currently employing it. Download the PDF.