The reason it’s called gold open access

There was a 15 per cent rise in articles in journals that are all free to read/pay to publish (“Gold OA”) 2020-21 indexed by the OAJ directory, according to Stefanie Haustein (Uni Ottawa) and colleagues in an update of an on-going investigation.

It comes on top of authors and their institutions paying the top five research publishers US$1.06bn in article processing charges between 2015-2018 to appear OA. 

But Haustein and colleagues suggest Article Publishing Charges (APCs) are less driven by publishing cost than a journal’s impact. “Reputation seems to be the commodity that drives researchers to select a certain journal, and publishers set their APC fee accordingly.”

It is, they suggest, a strategy shift by the publishers, as research funders, notably as part of the EU’s Plan S, make open access from publication date mandatory. And it is being followed by “transformative agreements” where libraries pick up the costs of OA articles published by academics at their institutions, through subscriptions.

“It remains to be seen whether these agreements will successfully transform the academic journal landscape into equitable and sustainable OA publishing or whether they are just another source of revenue for commercial publishers, another perversion of the initial idea of OA,” they write.

For now, “instead of making scholarly publishing sustainable and accessible for all, high APCs and transformative agreements aim to preserve the status quo, where academic publishing is a highly profitable business for a few corporations.”



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