A major publisher has reached a pioneering agreement with Austrian universities and research funders to lower subscription prices as the take up of gold open access increases.
The agreement between the Institute of Physics’s publishing arm; the Austrian Science Fund; library consortium the Austrian Academic Consortium and the Austrian Central Library for Physics at the University of Vienna will see the Austrian Science Fund cover the article fees for every author it funds to publish open access with the Institute.
In exchange, the publisher has agreed to lower the cost of accessing its journals for participating members of the Austrian Academic Consortium in proportion to the extra funding it receives from article fees.
Last week the UK’s universities and science minister David Willetts called on publishers to give a boost to the take-up of journal-provided gold open access by reaching such price offsetting agreements with individual universities, ensuring that their total expenditure on journals did not increase.
Stephen Hall, managing director of IOP Publishing, told the Lords Science and Technology Committee’s inquiry into open access last year that it was inevitable that the UK would pay more in publishing costs if it made the first global move towards full gold open access. This was because even if publishers lowered their subscription charges as their revenue from article fees increases, those reductions would be distributed around the world rather than being focused on the UK.
However, responding to the Austrian initiative, he said: “We are aware of a growing demand from research funders and universities to look more closely at the relationship between open access publication charges and journal subscription and licence fees. We believe this initiative will provide all the partners with valuable data on how it might be made to work, at a global and local level.”
A spokeswoman for the institute explained that a key factor in running the three-year pilot project in Austria was the “strong and constructive relationship between the three participants and the existence of a national university consortium with a longstanding licence for IOP [journals]”.
“While we are open to exploring similar pilots elsewhere, they may not be feasible under different circumstances. We have already refined our thinking on such pilots during the course of negotiating this agreement,” she said.
Kerstin Stieg, coordinating director of the central head office of the Austrian Academic Consortium, said: “This pilot project is outstanding and exemplary in terms of bringing together subscription agreements and open access, and enabling their costs to be managed at a national level. We hope and trust that this agreement will lead the way to further projects in uniting subscription agreements and open access.”