The Future of Institutional Memberships

For many Open Access (OA) advocates, the progress of OA has been painfully slow – from its origins in the Budapest Open Access Initiative of 2001 – the total number of OA articles published has grown, but still represents a relatively small percentage of total academic output (estimates put it at somewhere between 20-25% for all types of OA, with Gold OA roughly half of that).

However, it does seem that we are getting towards a tipping point, with a number of factors impacting the OA journals space at the moment. Like it or not, large commercial publishers have moved more robustly into the creation of OA offerings as part of their overall portfolio. On top of this, there is an ever increasing tide of funder and government mandates pushing for more research openness. More often than not the burden of compliance with these mandates falls on the institution to solve.

So what does this mean for a pure OA publisher such as Hindawi? How do we compete with the big commercial publishers and be able to differentiate ourselves? How do we help institutions deal with their compliance requirements? We felt that there was one area where we could make a difference and decided to focus on a key scholarly relationship that, for many subscription publishers at least, has become increasingly strained – the library.

One of the unwanted side effects of the transition to OA has been an increase in the institutional administrative burden. The transition from an institutional subscription model to an individual transactional model has created a new set of challenges for institutions, and in most cases these challenges are handed to the library. In order to provide the relevant support to institutions and remove the burden from libraries, we decided to focus on institutional memberships which, for Hindawi at least, had been a slightly neglected area.

Where have existing memberships failed?
Existing memberships have invariably focused purely on Article Processing Charges (APC) payments, either offering researchers discounts, or covering all of the APC’s for authors affiliated to a specific institution. This has had mixed results due to the following reasons:

  • Library budgets have come under increasing pressure in the last few years. Funding for institutional libraries, that could be spent on memberships, has been hard to come by.
  • Librarians do not want to be seen to favour one publisher over another, so the allocation of central funds to just cover one publisher is difficult to justify.
  • It is a struggle to justify the expense of memberships when faced with multiple other issues surrounding OA, such as the addition of staff to help with the administrative oversight of the process.
  • Often, the money available for OA comes from funding bodies on an individual paper basis, which makes it hard for libraries to allocate that money to purchase memberships from specific OA publishers

What can memberships achieve?

Memberships could, and should, offer much more than just APC payment solutions. They should be part of a support service that makes the process of institutional management of OA work smoothly. Key requirements include the provision of visibility into the publishing activities of researchers within the institution, allowing fund allocation control, collecting enough metadata to support required reporting functions, and supporting deposits into the institutional repository. From a Hindawi perspective, what we have tried to do with our memberships is to provide increased value and easier budgeting (including compelling APC discounts), while at the same time, incorporating support for the administrative tasks that OA publishing has imposed on libraries.

Our goal is to support both the author and the institution throughout the publishing process.We have therefore focused our membership support into four areas: Submission, Visibility/central fund control, Reporting and Institutional Deposit.

Submission

Institutional IP’s are loaded into our systems so we can customize the messaging for any user accessing Hindawi.com from that IP range. The message alerts researchers to available discounts and can also carry information such as links to institutional OA resources or internal contacts.

Example of a customized institutional message:

Institutional Custom Messaging | Hindawi Blog

 

Visibility/Central Fund Control

Institutions need visibility over research at all stages of the publishing process to be able to effectively support their researchers. Institutional alerts are available at submission, acceptance and publication, together with a summary overview of all articles at each publication stage from both corresponding and non-corresponding authors. Institutions can set the criteria for financial support from the central OA fund (for Deposit and Unlimited Memberships) and exclude articles that do not meet the requirements for funding support.

Example of a new Account Settings page for institutional members:

Institutional Alert Settings | Hindawi Blog

 

Reporting

Institutions are under more pressure than ever before to be able to report their academic output in a way that can be matched up to expectations from funding bodies. We have enabled a quick and simple way for the administrator to download relevant article publication data for a time period of their choice.

Institutional Deposit

At publication, the final published article and its associated metadata can be pushed automatically into the institutional repository (as we have done with MIT where we are already depositing final article and metadata into their Dspace repository). This removes the deposit burden from researchers, and has now become a key part of all our membership options.

Summary

Open Access offers a unique opportunity for institutions and publishers to work together collaboratively. There are clear shared objectives, namely, the reduction of the administrative overheads of Open Access for both the institution and researchers. Publishers could, and should, illustrate their value by creating a more seamless experience for researchers while providing the visibility, control and information that institutions require.

For Hindawi, this is just the beginning of a longer process, but working with our partner institutions has been hugely rewarding and we look forward to working with more in the future.

You can find out more about our different membership options currently available here.

The text and images in this blog post are by Hindawi and are distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY).