Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, open access has never seemed more important. PLOS, the non-profit, open access publisher that claims to have propelled the movement for open access alternatives to subscription journals, recently launched an alternative, ‘collective action’ business model. The Community Action Publishing (CAP) model charges a fixed annual fee to institutions to cover open access publishing costs, rather than levying article processing charges on researchers themselves.
As reported in Science, the 3-year pilot at PLOS plans to test this model with their two most selective journals, PLOS Biology and PLOS Medicine. A transparent fee structure will see institutions pay one of 12 tiers of annual fees, ranging from a few hundred dollars to nearly $40,000, allowing any researcher at that institution to publish in the PLOS journals at no additional charge. To incentivise participation, authors at institutions that do not opt in will be charged ‘non-member’ fees to publish.
The CAP model aims to:
- demonstrate that highly selective open access publishing can cover its costs (plus a 10% capped profit margin), without charging high article processing fees
- equitably distribute the costs amongst institutions that publish most in the journals
- cap revenue and redistribute fees when the revenue target is reached.
Selective journals such as those in this pilot are expensive to produce due to their high rejection rates and, in the case of PLOS, are currently subsidised with revenues from other journals. A separate policy change for the other five PLOS journals also now allows institutions to pay a single annual fee to publish papers by their authors, regardless of whether they are listed as a corresponding or contributing author.
Sara Rouhi, Director of Strategic Partnerships at PLOS, said that the days of researchers directly paying journals for open access may be numbered, especially with the increasing demand from many European institutions for open access agreements with subscription publishers.
As surmised in a recent Scholarly Kitchen article, this new model will come with many challenges, but its basis in community cooperation rather than market demand makes this as much a social experiment as a business model or publishing service. Indeed, the authors speculate whether this move could lead to wider changes away from traditional publishing models.
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