Journal Access as Part of the ROI Calculation

A recent news article from Science Insider described the results of a study showing that by making access to journal articles from publically funded research (eg, NSF, NIH, etc), the return on investment for the funding agencies would increase substantially.

A proposal in Congress would extend the policy to 11 more research agencies and shorten NIH’s 12-month delay to 6 months. Supporters say taxpayers should have free access to the results of research they paid for; publishers worry that they will be put out of business.

I am of two minds on this. As a medical writer, having access to journal articles for my own research purposes would be invaluable and highly appreciated. But as a freelance copy editor for journal publishers, I also wonder what the economic impact of this policy on the journal publishers would actually be. How much revenue is generated from library subscriptions? How often is an article downloaded within the first 6 or 12 months of publication? The New England Journal of Medicine, Circulation, Endocrinology, and several other journals already make their content freely available after 12 months. What impact has that policy had on their bottom line?

Of course, the journal publishers are in an uproar, but I think I’m leaning toward open access after a set time point. With news breaking as quickly as it does, those who need or want the article as soon as it comes out will pay for it, simply because they must cite the most recent data.

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One response to “Journal Access as Part of the ROI Calculation

  1. It depends what kind of journal you work for. Open access after 6 months will eventually kill off all the journals that provide little added value to their authors/readers. Nobody needs to read them that fast. Journals that add value will do fine with a 6-month delay. On the whole I think killing off archival journals is a good thing, although I wince when I read a paper (e.g. in PLoS One) that needed the attention of a good sub-editor and didn’t get it. We are heading into a future where typos in scientific papers are the rule, not the exception. We’ll see whether the community misses editing when it’s gone.

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