For over 15 years, the University of Minnesota Libraries has advocated for and invested in open access (OA) initiatives in order to expand the reach and impact of our scholars’ research, aid authors in retaining rights to their scholarship, assist researchers in fulfilling the public access requirements of federal funding agencies, and develop independent scholar-led publishing infrastructure.

As the OA environment has evolved, we have reassessed and redirected our investments and seen many positive developments—but the transformation has been slow, and costs remain unsustainable. With many of our national and international peers, we are increasing our investment in open access projects, collaborations, and services, with the aim to accelerate open access transformations. We are committed to investment in models that have the potential to lead to real, lasting change.

Rethinking investments in author fees

When article processing charges (APCs) were first introduced to open access publishing, it was hoped they might be a transitional tool for moving established publications towards open access, and that they might be a useful option for non-profit publications to cover their publication costs. In support of advancing that transition, the University Libraries and the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) collaboratively launched the Open Access Publishing Fund in 2012, to provide direct subsidies for APCs of University-affiliated authors.

Since 2012, perspectives on APCs among open access advocates have evolved. While supporting individual author fees has facilitated some individual authors’ aims for open access, APCs have generally not decreased subscription costs, but rather provided an additional revenue stream to publishers. This model has not shown itself as scaleable or effective for changing the landscape of scholarly publication. So in consultation with representatives of University governance, including faculty and graduate student authors, the University Libraries and OVPR decided to cease providing direct subsidy of individual fees as of June 30, 2019.

Instead, we are focusing on more global, collaborative, and strategic investments that will have greater overall impact, fostering more accessible and sustainable models of scholarly publication. In addition, we are working with scholars to pursue the many ways for authors to make their work open that don’t involve paying an APC.

Additional perspectives on APCs:

  • “Increases in APCs is proceeding at a rate three times that which would be expected if APCs were indexed according to inflation.”
    • Khoo, S. Y.-S. (2019). Article Processing Charge Hyperinflation and Price Insensitivity: An Open Access Sequel to the Serials Crisis. LIBER Quarterly, 29(1), 1–18. DOI: http://doi.org/10.18352/lq.10280
  • From 2013 to 2016, "...subscription expenditure rose by 20%, from £13.4 million to £16.1 million. But expenditure on APCs rose more than fourfold, from £758,000 to £3.4 million." Together, the increased payment was an increased £5.34 million or 38%.

Any further questions? Please contact openaccess@umn.edu

Questions or comments about open access issues at the University of Minnesota, and in general, can be directed to openaccess@umn.edu.