Elsevier 2009 $2 billion profits could fund worldwide OA at $1,383 per article

Elsevier’s Annual Report, reports “robust financial performance in unprecedented global recession”, with operating profits up.

Elsevier per se and Lexis-Nexis each earned over $1 billion US IN PROFIT in 2009, for a profit rate of 35% (Elsevier) and 26% (Reed Elsevier). Together, this is MORE THAN $2 billion in profit from scholarly publishing in 2009.

If the total profit from Elsevier and Lexis-Nexis is added together and converted to U.S. dollars, the total is $2,075m. Divided by the estimated worldwide scholarly article output of 1.5 million articles per year (Björk et al, 2008), this comes out to $1,383 U.S.

In other words, the profits of this one company alone could fund a global, fully open access scholarly publishing system, at a rate of $1,383 U.S. per article.

A minority of open access journals charge article processing fees. Of those that do have such charges, some charge more than this amount; however, others charge less.

In other words, the world’s scholarly journal article output could be published as fully open access with the funding that currently goes to the profits of just one company in this field.

Calculations are available here. Note currency conversion from GBP April 27, 2010


Björk, B., Roosr, A., & Lauri, M. (2008). Global annual volume of scholarly peer reviewed journal articles and the share available via different open access options. Paper presented at the ELPUB2008. Open Scholarship: Authority, Community, and Sustainability in the Age of Web 2.0 – Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Electronic Publishing Held in Toronto, Canada 25-27 June 2008. Edited by: Leslie Chan and Susanna Mornati. Retrieved from http://elpub.scix.net/cgi-bin/works/Show?178_elpub2008

Reed Elsevier 2009 Annual Report

This post is part of the Transitioning to Open Access series.

Symptoms of Premature Gold OA — and their Cure

Gold” Open Access (OA) journals (especially high-quality, highly selective ones like PLOS Biology) were a useful proof of principle, but now there are far too many of them, and they are mostly not journals of high quality.

The reason is that new Gold OA journals are premature at this time. What is needed is more access to existing journals, not more journals. Everything already gets published somewhere in the existing journal quality hierarchy. The recent proliferation of lower-standard Gold OA journals arose out of the drive and rush to publish-or-perish, and pay-to-publish was an irresistible lure, both to authors and to publishers.

Meanwhile, authors have been sluggish about availing themselves of a cost-free way of providing OA for their published journal articles: “Green” OA self-archiving.

The simple and natural remedy for the sluggishness — as well as the premature, low-standard Gold OA — is now on the horizon: Green OA self-archiving mandates from authors’ institutions and funders. Once Green OA prevails globally, we will have the much-needed access to existing journals for all would-be users, not just those whose institutions can afford to subscribe. That will remove all pretensions that the motivation for paying-to-publish in a Gold OA journal is to provide OA (rather than just to get published), since Green OA can be provided by authors by publishing in established journals, with their known track records for quality, and without having to pay extra — while subscriptions continue to pay the costs of publishing.

If and when universal Green OA should eventually make subscriptions unsustainable — because institutions cancel their subscriptions — the established journals, with their known track records, can convert to the Gold OA cost-recovery model, downsizing to the provision of peer review alone (since access-provision and archiving will be done by the global network of Green OA Institutional Repositories), with the costs of peer review alone covered out of a fraction of the institutional subscription cancellation savings.

What will prevent pay-to-publish from causing quality standards to plummet under these conditions? It will not be pay-to-publish! It will be no-fault pay-to-be-peer-reviewed, regardless of whether the outcome is accept, revise, or reject. Authors will pay for each round of refereeing. And journals will (as now) form a (known) quality hierarchy, based on their track-record for peer-review standards and hence selectivity.

I’m preparing a paper on this now, provisionally entitled “No-Fault Refereeing Fees: The Price of Selectivity Need Not Be Access Denied or Delayed.”

Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum

Wiley STM: 3rd quarter profits up 18%

From John Wiley and Sons announces Third Quarter Fiscal Year 2010 Results:

“Global STMS revenue for the third quarter of fiscal year 2010 rose 13% to $228 million”

“Direct contribution to profit for the third quarter increased 18% to $89 million”

Comment: this is a 39% profit rate, at a time when library customers are hit hard by the effects of the Global Economic Crisis. Some of the profits are coming from outsourcing from high cost regions to low-cost regions. The U.S. is losing jobs in spite of all these profits.

Deposit Mandates vs. Permission Mandates

In “Open Access – if you build it (for them) they will come?,” Jan R. writes:

Robert Darnton[‘s]… “The Case for Open Access” makes the useful point that Universities will probably be much more effective in building their IRs if they mandate permission (i.e. require faculty to secure and then give the university non-exclusive permission to host their works on the institutional repository) as opposed to mandating deposit (i.e. requiring faculty to do the work of stocking the repository.)

But what Professor Darnton actually wrote (in Feb 2008) was this:

Many repositories already exist in other universities, but they have failed to get a large proportion of faculty members to submit their articles. The deposit rate at the University of California is 14 percent, and it is much lower in most other places. By mandating copyright retention and by placing those rights in the hands of the institution running the repository, the motion will create the conditions for a high deposit rate.

In other words, Darnton was not comparing deposit mandates to permission mandates: he was comparing (actual) repositories without deposit mandates to (hypothetical) repositories with permission mandates (not yet in existence at the time, the world’s first being Harvard FAS‘s, adopted in that month).

There was then (and there still is now, two years later), no evidence at all that mandating permission would be more effective in generating Open Access than mandating deposit. Quite the opposite. Deposit mandates (of which there are more, and of longer standing than permission mandates) have been extremely effective, and that evidence was already there in 2008. In contrast, the effectiveness of permission mandates, which are more recent (beginning in 2008) and less numerous, is not yet known.

Moreover, permission mandates, because they in fact ask for more than just deposit, all have to allow an opt-out clause (for those authors who cannot or do not wish to negotiate permission with their publishers). Hence not only is the effectiveness of permission mandates not yet known: it is not even clear whether permission mandates are indeed mandates at all.

[MIT, the university with the planet’s first university-wide permission mandate, had 850 deposits in March 2010, one year after adoption. This needs to be considered as a percentage of MIT’s annual journal article output: the figure to beat is the current worldwide baseline 20% rate for spontaneous, unmandated deposit. Most deposit mandates are at about 60% within 2 years and well on the road toward 100%. — But I’ve also heard recently that Harvard’s longer-standing FAS policy has more promising compliance rates, which I hope will be reported publicly, by way of feedback and guidance on the effectiveness of the Harvard model.]

The bottom line is that deposit mandates are necessary for OA, whereas permission mandates are (desirable but) not necessary. The optimal solution is hence to mandate deposit, without opt-out, plus permission, with opt-out:

? “Upgrading Harvard’s Opt-Out Copyright Retention Mandate: Add a No-Opt-Out Deposit Clause

? “Which Green OA Mandate Is Optimal?

? “The Immediate-Deposit/Optional-Access (ID/OA) Mandate: Rationale and Model

? “Optimizing OA Self-Archiving Mandates: What? Where? When? Why? How?

? “How To Integrate University and Funder Open Access Mandates

? “On Not Putting The Gold OA-Payment Cart Before The Green OA-Provision Horse

Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum

Informa (Taylor & Francis etc.): profits up, majority renewing at previous high rates

According to the Informa 2009 Annual Report, the Adjusted Operating Margin (profit) is up to 25.3% in 2009 from 2008’s 23.9%. From Highlights, Summaries, and Outlook: “the majority of subscriptions are renewing in line with previous high rates”. As Executive Director Peter Rigby puts it, “”During a period of sustained economic decline across the world, our Publishing assets have performed exceptionally well”. Publishing is now responsible for 72% of that 25.3% operating profit.

When the majority of customers worldwide are reeling from severe cutbacks from the global economic crisis, this is an excellent example of an inelastic market, not at all responsive to customers.

Canada’s 1st Institution-Wide Green OA Mandate; Planet’s 90th: Concordia University

[This is Canada’s 11th OA Mandate: 8 funder mandates and 2 departmental mandates, but it’s Canada’s first institution-wide one. Sweden’s Blekinge Institute of Technology has also just adopted an institution-wide OA mandate, its second, alongside a funder mandate: See ROARMAP.]

Concordia University Opens its Research Findings to the World; Senate Supports Free Internet Access to Faculty and Student Research

MONTREAL, April 22 (AScribe Newswire) — Concordia University’s academic community has passed a landmark Senate Resolution on Open Access that [requires] all of its faculty and students to make their peer-reviewed research and creative output freely accessible via the internet. Concordia is the first major university in Canada where faculty have given their overwhelming support to a concerted effort to make the full results of their research universally available.
      ”Concordians have, once again, found a way to share their innovative findings and creativity with communities the world over”, says Judith Woodsworth, President and Vice-Chancellor of Concordia. “As befits its role as host of the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences next month, our university is now leading the way on this year’s Congress theme: Connected Understanding/le savoir branche.”
      Gerald Beasley, Concordia’s University Librarian, was instrumental in the campus-wide dialogue on open access that began more than a year ago. “I am delighted that Senate voted to support the recommendations of all four Faculty Councils and the Council of the School of Graduate Studies. There are only a handful of precedents in North America for the kind of leadership that Concordia faculty have demonstrated by their determination to make publicly-funded research available to all rather than just the minority able to afford the rapidly rising subscription costs of scholarly databases, books and journals.”
      This past year, Concordia launched Spectrum, an open access digital repository that continues to grow beyond its initial 6,000 dissertations submitted at Concordia, and at its predecessors Sir George Williams University and Loyola College. [In addition to requiring deposit of peer-reviewed journal articles, the] Senate Resolution encourages all of Concordia’s researchers to deposit their research and creative work in Spectrum.