How does Open Access relate to subscription journal pricing?

FSU Libraries have been forced to cancel a ‘big deal’ journal package with Springer. The available budget for library collections at FSU has remained flat for the past five years, while the cost of library resources has risen by 4-6% annually, and by as much as 9% for journal subscriptions in STEM-related fields. This situation is inherently unsustainable, and it is the product of the subscription-based model of scholarly publishing. Under this model, the cost of journal subscriptions has increased at 300% the rate of inflation since 1986, resulting in tremendous financial burden on academic libraries and their parent universities. The subscription model also restricts the dissemination of faculty research, placing it behind paywalls so that anyone who can’t pay can’t read it, and thereby limiting its impact on other researchers and the general public.

Open Access (OA) is a movement based on the principle that this situation is fundamentally unjust, and that the fruits of academic endeavor should be freely available to everyone. OA archiving and publishing are the two main strategies for accomplishing this goal, and they promise to benefit both the global research community and individual authors, moving published research into the open and thereby broadening its readership and generating more citations. OA is also fast becoming a requirement for recipients of research funding, as many public and private funding agencies are enacting public access policies to make the results of funded research accessible to all.

But how is OA relevant to FSU Libraries’ current budget crisis? Does OA provide viable alternatives to the subscription-based model of scholarly publishing? How does OA propose to counteract the predatory pricing practices of commercial academic publishers, and how successful has it been in that effort thus far? Do current developments suggest that OA will provide a long-term solution in future? To explore these questions, let’s take a closer look at the main forms of OA and how they compare to the traditional model.