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Sustainability Models and Revenue Sources

Financial sustainability is crucial for a journal’s success, and various models exist for journals, whether they are fully open access (with or without Article Processing Charges), partially open access (with embargoes or a hybrid OA / subscription model), or fully subscription-based.

Sustainability models for Diamond / Platinum OA #

Journals that are diamond or platinum open access—meaning they provide full access and reuse rights to all of their content without charging any Article Processing fees—have a number of options for securing financial sustainability.

Journals that are affiliated with a scholarly association or institution may receive revenue from membership fees or other sources of funding (such as grants) through this affiliation.

Volunteer members of the editorial board #

While this can be difficult to sustain, some journals have editorial boards made up partially or entirely of volunteers. These volunteers may do work for the journal through a secondment from their employer (a form of institutional in-kind support for the journal), or through volunteer work completed on their own time. Volunteers benefit from the opportunity to share their editorial board experience on their CVs, and contribute generously to the success of the journal. A journal may take advantage of this option in combination with some of the other sustainability models mentioned here.

Community donations (add a donate button to the site) #

Some journals may seek donations from readers and community members in addition to, or in lieu of, other revenue sources. It is possible to place a Donate button on an OJS site using a combination of a side block and a payment service. For example, PayPal will generate an HTML code for a donation button, which can be added to a custom sidebar.

Subscribe to Open #

Subscribe to Open is a model that relies on traditional journal subscription payments from institutions, but results in publications being made open access to the public, as long as subscription payments are sustained. This is an altruistic model that provides institutions with an opportunity to contribute financially to open access and to the ongoing sustainability of diamond open access journals. This model is only effective for as long as institutions agree to pay the subscription costs that ensure the content can remain open. If subscriptions are cancelled, the content will revert to closed access so that journal operations can continue to be sustained.

Other sustainability models for OA publishing #

Article Processing Charges (APCs) #

Many journals charge Article Processing Charges to authors or their institutions to help generate revenue and sustain open access to the content. APC costs vary widely from one journal to another, and are considered a valid revenue stream for reputable journals. It’s important to remember that APCs do create a financial barrier to many scholars, especially those in the Global South and those from smaller institutions with fewer resources. APCs have been cited as limiting the flow of knowledge from some regions of the world that are already underrepresented in scholarship.

If your journal charges APCs, the costs should be transparent and easy to find on the journal website. In the interest of transparency, it’s a good idea to include a statement about APCs even if your journal does not charge any fees for authors to publish in the journal.

Follow the steps in Learning OJS to set up APCs in OJS.

Subscription models #

Another way for journals to generate revenue is to adopt a subscription model. By adopting a subscription model, readers will be required to pay in order to access some or all published content.

Paywall content (how to set up subscriptions in OJS) #

By setting up a paywall, you can require readers to pay for access to your journal’s content. You may choose to have users pay for subscriptions that last a specified amount of time before requiring renewal, or allow readers to pay for access to specific articles or issues. You may also choose to provide multiple price points, for example, by distinguishing between institutional subscriptions and individual subscriptions.

Similar to the APC model mentioned above, subscription costs present a barrier to users who do not have an institutional affiliation, and institutions who cannot afford access to subscription content.

You can learn about how to set up various types of subscriptions and payments in OJS from the Subscriptions chapter of Learning OJS.

Subscriptions with embargoes (or “delayed open-access”) #

Journals may choose to enforce embargoes with subscriptions, which refers to the practice of keeping content exclusive to paying subscribers during a fixed period of time. Embargo periods allow journals to recoup publishing costs from institutions and researchers who require immediate access to newly published research, while providing no-fee access to other reader groups at a later date. While embargoes are typically either 6 or 12 months, there are journals with embargoes as short as 1 month and as long as 6 years. The length you choose for your embargo will depend on the urgency of the research published and expectations of recency in the journal’s field (for example, medical research may be a better candidate for a shorter embargo period), as well as the expected impact of the embargo on the number of subscriptions and subscription renewals. It may be helpful to research the embargo periods of similar journals in the same field.

You can enable an embargo period in OJS in the Distribution Settings under Access by selecting a timeframe from the Delayed Open Access drop-down menu.

Hybrid model #

The hybrid model refers to a model where some types of content require a subscription to access, while other content is freely available. This is generally accomplished by having authors pay APCs only when they wish to have their content immediately openly available without subscription as soon as it is published, allowing for the revenue lost by making the article openly accessible to be offset by the APCs. This can be a way to generate revenue via subscriptions while still providing the option for authors to publish OA when it is preferred or required by funders.

Typically, authors who opt to pay APCs to publish their work OA will also retain the copyright for that work. It will be important for publishers adopting a hybrid model to be transparent about how APCs and subscription prices are calculated in order for authors and readers to understand how APCs for OA content offset subscription costs.

The hybrid open access model has been cited as an approach for journals to transition from fully subscription-based to fully open access. However, it’s worth noting that open access mandates such as Plan S do not support the hybrid model of open access, since journals benefit twice from researchers (collecting both subscription fees and APCs), and there is evidence that the transition to full OA is not occurring as expected.

To publish a combination of subscription and open access articles in a single issue, follow the steps in Learning OJS > Distribution Settings to set an issue as “subscription” and then mark individual articles as open access.