Sometimes the pace of change can take everyone by surprise. For decades, people in the sciences were not impressed with the high cost of access to published academic material, yet for-profit publishing companies continued for everyone as gatekeepers thanks in part to distinct lack of enthusiasm for universities and governments to apply a new system. However in the past Five years, the dam seemed to have broken with countries around the world adopting policies to create tax-funded research more cheaply and simply accessible.
The Economist is reporting the Research Council UK is the latest to consider a step in this direction by?adopting new rules on use of publicly funded research. From now on, any journals that publish the outcomes of such research will have to make it available online for free inside a year from the original publication date.
The new rules seriously the heels of a similar relocate Feburary by the White House Office of Science Policy which directed federal agencies to adopt a similar algorithm for any scientific research they fund in February.
A week before that, an invoice which would require free access to government-financed research red carpet months had begun to wend its way through Congress. Europe is relocating the same direction. So are charities. And SCOAP3, a consortium of particle-physics laboratories, libraries and funding agencies, is pressing all 12 of the field\’s leading journals to make the 7,000 articles they publish every year free to read. For scientific publishers, it seems, the party may soon be over.
Although this push for broader and cheaper access has strong support among academics, the companies that have for a long time profited from academic publishing aren\’t nearly as enthusiastic. Maintaining research archives and charging individual users and institutions for access continues to be an immense moneymaker. Based on the Economist, one of the largest academic publishers C the Dutch firm Elsevier C has a profit margin of nearly 40%. Springer, located in Germany, reports a similarly high 36% margin on sales of $1.1 billion.
Still, going back the tide looks like it\’s not an option, so companies are instead seeking ahead of the curve by establishing open-source subsidiaries of their own.
In yesteryear year Elsevier has a lot more than doubled the amount of open-access journals it publishes, to 39. And even in those that usually charge readers (such as?Cell?and the Lancet), paying a publication fee makes a paper available free immediately.
Outsell, a Californian consultancy, estimates that open-access journals generated $172m this year. That was just 2.8% of the total revenue journals brought their publishers (some $6 billion a year), but it was up by 34% from 2011 and it is expected to reach $336m in 2015. The number of open-access papers is forecast to grow from 194,000 (from a total of 1.7m publications) to 352,000 in the same period.