Open Access Makes Good Financial Sense

The new SPARC Open Access Newsletter has just rolled off the virtual presses. SPARC is the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, and is, in its own words, “an international alliance of academic and research libraries working to correct imbalances in the scholarly publishing system”. SPARC grew out of the influential Association of Research Libraries which comprises some of the leading research libraries in the United States, and today has over 800 member institutions around the world.

The SPARC Open Access Newsletter is written (single-handedly, as far as we can gather) by Peter Suber, one of the open access movement’s foremost advocates. Professor Suber and fellow activist Stevan Harnad were present at the birth of open access as we know it today: they were among the participants at the conference held by the Open Society Institute on December 1 and 2, 2001 which led to the signing of the Budapest Open Access Initiative, one of the cornerstones of today’s open access movement.

Ever since then, Peter Suber has been writing a regular newsletter, collecting news related to the development of open access. This issue, no. 153, is a real leviathan. Closely written, to approach it is a daunting task. But the effort pays off – it’s packed with information about the progress made in open access publishing in 2010. In keeping with the new year, it provides a round-up of open access initiatives across the globe, and in contrast to most news these days the outlook is exceptionally positive.

One of the things that caught my eye was a summary of calculations made by other dedicated OA campaigners. This is really food for thought. I quote:

“Donald King showed that if all TA [toll access] journals converted to fee-based OA, with an average fee of $1,500, then the one-year cost of paying the fees for US authors would be $427.5 million, or about 0.76% of the US R&D budget. If the average fee was $2,500, the cost would be $712.5 million, or 1.27% of the US R&D budget. Heather Morrison used King’s data to calculate that the conversion could result in $3.4 billion in savings in the US alone.”

In the context of the $94.3 billion budgeted for the US education sector in 2011 that may not seem like such a big deal. But I would hazard a guess that when the inevitable spending cuts start to bite, for many people those 3 billion could suddenly seem rather handy.

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