Is there a need for publication funds at Swedish universities?

By: Helena Stjernberg, Open Access librarian at Malmö University

This blog post has been updated thanks to valuable comments from Randi Tyse Eriksen and Jan Erik Frantsvåg. Thank you!
Helena StjernbergIn January 2015, the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet), delivered a proposal for national guidelines for open access to scientific information (Förslag till nationella riktlinjer för öppen tillgång till vetenskaplig information). This report suggests how open access
to research publications and data should be implemented. The financing will be dealt with later on.

A benefit for researchers who don’t have external funding

In the report the Swedish Research Council’s dialogue with stakeholders suggested that money for open access publishing could be set aside as a part of the implementation (publication funds). Researchers at Swedish universities with no external funding would benefit from this. One option could be that the Swedish Ministry of Education and Research then supports the transition to open access with an additional contribution of money, as was the case in the 1990’s when the transition from print to electronic journals was financially supported.

A couple of Swedish university libraries have tried to support researchers with the help of publication funds. The money has either been an extra contribution from the university or has been taken from the existing library budget.

Pilot project of a publication fund at Malmö University

Malmö University Library has recently evaluated a pilot project of a publication fund at the university. In this pilot project, the library got the opportunity to administer a sum of 200 000 SEK.

The money was distributed over the period October 2014 – December 2014 (50 000 SEK) and January 2015 – October 2015 (150 000 SEK). To be eligible to apply for money from the fund, the researcher was afforded to meet a number of criteria:

  • The researcher had to be affiliated to Malmö University
  • Financial support was given to open access journals, not to hybrid journals
  • The open access journals should meet the quality requirements stated in the OASPA Code of Conduct
  • If the researcher’s funder already provided support for open access publication charges, then the researcher should apply via the funder instead of via the library publication fund
  • A first come, first served-principle was used for selection

The researcher could apply for money via a form at the library web page. Some efforts were spent on informing researchers about the fund, but these efforts could have been greater. In spite of this, the money was spent evenly throughout the ongoing application period.

Exchange between librarians working with open access and researchers

Apart from the obvious positive effects of making more of the university’s research publications freely available, and thus supporting the open access policy at the University, we saw another benefit: The library staff came into contact with the researchers at an early stage of the publishing process and could discuss the choice of publication.
At a number of instances important issues surrounding so called ‘predatory publishers’ came up. The knowledge exchange between librarians working with open access and researchers was very valuable.

Payment models for open access journals

Open access journals usually use a payment model that is different from the traditional subscription model. This financial model is sometimes a membership, e.g. where a university library pays a yearly amount of money and receives a discount on the publishing fee in a number of journals.

Often, the open access journals make use of a model with article processing charges, APC:s. The cost for publishing is directly paid by the author upon acceptance of the publication.

Publication funds administered by University Libraries in Sweden

Looking at publication funds in Sweden, we see that the Chalmers Library and Lund University Library also have administered funds for some time. The Chalmers Library fund is similar to the one in the Malmö pilot.

The Lund University Library fund has a larger budget and also a different administrative procedure: the library pays the whole publication charge, but then sends an invoice of 50% of the cost to the researcher’s institution. This makes it possible to fund a larger number of publications. The funds in Sweden all have similar criteria and none of them support funding in hybrid journals.

Publication funds in Norway

In Norway, 17 higher education institutions (HEI)s have publication funds. If a HEI has a fund, an application to the Norwegian Research Council´s STIM-OA scheme covers 50 % of the cost of publishing articles in “gold” open access journals. The research council distributes 8 million NOK per year during the period 2014-2018 to finance publication charges. No hybrids are funded.

Publication funds in Germany

In Germany, over 20 universities have publication funds, and the money comes from the research council DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft). No hybrids are funded.

Publication funds in the Netherlands

We are following the development in the Netherlands with great interest. The national open access policy makes clear that publications from publicly funded research should be made available open access without embargo.

The Netherlands Organization for scientific research (NWO) has a publication fund, where a maximum budget of 6000 euros per research project is available. It is allowed to choose hybrid journals for publication, but no funding will support this.

A possible national open access policy – with funding?

As we have understood it, a hearing is planned to take place late this autumn at the Swedish Ministry of Education and Research. The hearing will provide more information on a possible national open access policy. Right now, it is difficult to say if or when there will be funding at a national level to support open access publishing.

Our experience at Malmö University tells us that a publication fund, in the meantime, can be a valuable tool for communicating with the researchers about choice of publication at an early stage of the publishing process. And at the same time, let us not forget the green road to open access. Making author versions of research publications available in our repositories is also a way to open access.

2 thoughts on “Is there a need for publication funds at Swedish universities?

  1. Interesting observations from Sweden!
    The publication dialogue with researchers resulting from having a fund is a very important effect! Interesting to see how different things are in different countries, e.g. there are no funds in Denmark yet – one is being established now, as far as I know – compared to our (Norway) 17 covering most HEI-based authors.
    Using OASPA as a criterion seems a bit cumbersome, we use DOAJ listing as a criterion for true OA and listing in the Norwegian accreditation system (“Norska listan”) – soon also to be the list for South Africa – as a sign of quality. See
    Easy to find, easy to assess, also for authors.
    Our Tromsø experience is that it takes 4 years to “saturate” the market, i.e. prospective users being aware of the possibilities. Use has increased from NOK 157 000 in 2011 to 1 477 000 as of today in 2015.

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