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Open Access impact and Federated Access Management

Kieran PrinceBy Kieran Prince
Category - Blog

Friday 3rd August 2018

I recently attended an ALPSP seminar “The Power of Partnership and Collaboration in the Publishing Industry”, delivered through a series of talks presented by a wide-range of industry experts. Ranging from Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain to collaboration between smaller independent publishers, presenters provided an interesting insight into the role of technology in partnership within contemporary publishing. With all the technology on show, it was interesting that a not so new approach to scholarly publishing raised the most discussion – Open Access.

Open Access – the end of Federated Access?

Admittedly I took slight comfort in the fact that there were publishers in the room who were equally concerned about Open Access publishing’s impact on the industry. In its current form, federated access management (FAM) and Open Access don’t mix well – by design, FAM relies on content being protected by a paywall.

Could FAM play a different role in a world where 100% of content is Open Access?

Might users one day experience FAM as a value-add service rather than an obligation?

“Yes – by all means read our journals for free, at your own leisure, but why not login to save and annotate articles?”

Open Access platforms are uniformly anonymised – is an opportunity missed by not recording this data? And while improving access to digital content, does Open Access reduce article engagement?

What is the current state of Open Access?

In the 16 years since its advent, Open Access journals have reached 21% output and account for just 4-6% of revenue. Growth has significantly slowed since the boom of the early 2000s. That being said, it still has major international support; The Gates Foundation, AAAS and the European Space Agency are some examples.

Richard Bennett, Commercial Director at Hindawi focused on the recent Wiley-Hindawi partnership. Hindawi, an Open Access platform, worked with Wiley to ‘flip’ 9 journals from a subscription to an Open Access model. One lesson to be learned is that the process is incredibly complicated, and potentially expensive. The process from author to platform needs to be transformed, all without the security of a subscription to balance costs.

A Hybrid future

This ‘Hybrid’ approach is on the rise, about 70% of publishers now offer a mix of paid and free content. It’s unclear whether this has been in response to backlash from Open Access proponents as has been the case in Germany and Sweden or whether in genuine support for the Open Access model.

Commercial publishing has been established for decades, and it’s incredibly lucrative with typical profit margins of 12-15%. With several behemoths at the helm, I doubt the industry will ever wholly embrace Open Access.

Ignoring the license fee (even with Open Access, somebody has to bear the cost), FAM provides users with the same convenience of Open Access and has the ability to add true value to the user experience. The yearn for Open Access across large parts of the publishing industry makes it something we cannot afford to ignore and we are exploring ways to support it alongside our federated access model.

To learn more about how OpenAthens might support Open Access publishing please reach out to me.

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