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Harvard Library publishes report on converting subscription journals to open access

The Harvard Library Office for Scholarly Communication (OSC) is pleased to announce the release of a comprehensive literature review on strategies for converting subscription journals to open access.

In the spring of 2015, the OSC commissioned the research from David Solomon, Mikael Laakso, and Bo-Christer Björk, who completed it in the spring of 2016. We posted a preliminary draft online for a four month public-comment period, and asked a distinguished panel of 20 colleagues to add their own comments.

The authors identified 15 journal-flipping scenarios: 10 that depend on article processing charges (APCs) and 5 that dispense with APCs. For each one they give examples, evidence, and their assessment of its strengths and weaknesses. The examples come from all scholarly niches by academic field, regions of the world, and economic strata.

This comprehensive review of diverse approaches is the report's strength. Not every flip was a success, and not all the flips that were successful using one scenario would have been successful with a different scenario. But there were successes under every scenario and in every scholarly niche. Journals that picked a scenario that fit their circumstances were able preserve or enhance their readership, submissions, quality, and financial sustainability.

The invited panelists represent a wide range of relevant experience and expertise, including OA and non-OA academic publishing, fee-based and no-fee OA publishing, for-profit and non-profit OA publishing, society and non-society OA publishing, the global north and global south, the sciences and humanities.

The overall questions were: What has already been done? What conversion methods have been tried or proposed? What has been the outcome for submissions, readership, quality, impact, and finances? Which conversion scenarios have good track records, and in which scholarly niches? When journal publishers consider a move to OA, what options and evidence should they take into account?

The research was made possible by a grant to the Harvard Library from the Arcadia Fund. We thank both the Arcadia Fund and the Harvard Library for supporting this research.

Text of the report