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This is the final report of the JISC EI-ASPM Project, which was commissioned by JISC to explore whether there are new opportunities and new models for scholarly publishing that would better serve researchers and better communicate and disseminate research findings.

Economic implications of alternative scholarly publishing models: Exploring the costs and benefits

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A knowledge economy has been defined as: “…one in which the generation and exploitation of knowledge has come to play the predominant part in the creation of wealth. It is not simply about pushing back the frontiers of knowledge; it is also about the more effective use and exploitation of all types of knowledge in all manner of economic activities” (DTI 1998).

In a knowledge economy, innovation and the capacity of the system to create and disseminate the latest scientific and technical information are important determinants of prosperity (David and Foray 1995; OECD 1997). Scholarly publishing plays a key role, as it is central to the efficiency of research and to the dissemination of research findings and diffusion of scientific and technical knowledge. However, advances in information and communication technologies are disrupting traditional models of scholarly publishing, radically changing our capacity to reproduce, distribute, control, and publish information. One key question is whether there are new opportunities and new models for scholarly publishing that would better serve researchers and better communicate and disseminate research findings (OECD 2005, p14).

Debate on the economics of scholarly publishing and alternative publishing models focuses almost entirely on costs, but from an economic perspective the aim is to have the most cost-effective system, not (necessarily) the cheapest. And however much one studies costs, one cannot know which is the most cost-effective system until one examines both the costs and the benefits. Hence, the aim of this project was to examine costs and benefits, and in so doing to inform policy discussion and help stakeholders understand the institutional, budgetary and wider economic implications of three of the major emerging models for scholarly publishing (i.e. subscription publishing, open access publishing and self-archiving). It seeks to build on and extend recent work on the costs and benefits associated with alternative scholarly communication models (Houghton et al. 2006) and respond to some of the gaps and challenges identified in the UK Scholarly Journals Baseline Report (EPS et al. 2006).

The project involved two major phases

Phase 1 - Identification of costs and benefits

This phase sought to describe the three models of scholarly publishing, identify all the dimensions of cost and benefit for each of these models, and examine which of the main players in the scholarly communication system would be affected, and how they might be affected, by each of the costs and benefits identified; and 

Phase 2 - Quantification of costs and benefits

This phase sought, where possible, to quantify the costs and benefits identified in Phase I; identify, and where possible quantify, the cost and benefit implications for each of the main players in the scholarly communication system; and, where possible, compare the costs and benefits of the three models for the main players in the scholarly communication system.

While wide-ranging in scope, an important focus of the work was the implication of the three models for UK higher education and for journal and scholarly monograph publishing.

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John Houghton, Bruce Rasmussen and Peter Sheehan, Victoria University and Charles Oppenheim, Anne Morris, Claire Creaser, Helen Greenwood, Mark Summers and Adrian Gourlay, Loughborough University
Publication Date
27 January 2009
Publication Type
Strategic Themes