The open access movement is changing the face of digital scientific, technical and medical publishing. Open access is a worldwide effort to provide free online access to scientific and scholarly research, especially peer-reviewed journals. Proponents of the movement say that is important to allow a wide range of scientists and other community members to be able to work with scientific research in order to allow it to have the greatest impact on the world. However, free and unfettered use STM works is not in the best interests of the publishers that incur considerable costs in publishing the works and must recoup that money, plus make a profit, in order to remain solvent.
According to some research, it appears that the open access model really does work when attempting to have research circulated as widely as possible. Times Higher Education reported on a study out of the University of Turku in Finland, that said that open access research was much more likely to be shared on Twitter and Facebook, greatly increasing the potential audience for the work. However the same study said that paywalled articles, that is those not published in open access were more likely to be cited on Wikipedia and on Mendeley, showing that by increasing circulation the work is potentially devalued by scientists.
Despite mixed reviews, the concept of open access has taken off in some sectors of STM publishing. Research Information noted that a Simba Information report said the journal Nature moved to an open access formula in December of 2014 in order to after the publication came under criticism for stifling access to important research with paywalls. In Nature's model, research may be read online but cannot be printed or downloaded for free. This provides access for scientists without destroying the licensing process that the publisher uses to make money.
This point of friction, finding ways to make information as widely available as possible while still allowing publishers to generate revenue, has led to some new methods of funding the publication of STM research.
"The most common method of covering a publisher's costs is article process charges."
Article processing charges
The most common method of covering a publisher's costs is article process charges. These charges are levied at the front end of the publishing process. The author, or more specifically the author's grant funder or institution pays a fee up front that covers the publishers costs according to Open Access Scholarly Information Sourcebook.
By financially securing the project before it has even been published, these fees make it a low risk proposition for the publisher to allow the research to be published in an open access model. The payments make sense from the perspective of the researchers as well, who would want their work disseminated as widely as possible. This is the most sustainable method for funding open access OASIS reported.
Ad supported model
According to OASIS, the method that has worked best, especially in the medical field, has been ad supported access. If a journal has the right combination of readers and interest in its field, it can generate a great deal of ad revenue from conference organizers, other publishers, employers and other types of companies.
Ad revenue is often not an option for smaller, less high-profile fields and niches of study. But if the research in question truly has a wide audience of interest, then the ad model can be an effective way to support an open access format while protecting the publisher's interests.
Sales of physical journals
Medical journals like MedKnow and the British Medical Journal support open access in their online form via the sales of hard copies of the journal itself to libraries and other public institutions, OASIS reported. In the case of MedKnow, going to an open access model on the Web actually increased the sales of its physical version as the publication became more known to a wider audience.