Review of APC Intermediary Services

At the beginning of this pathfinder project I was tasked with examining intermediaries for APC payments, specifically in regards to reducing the administrative burden placed on HEI’s by Open Access, but it quickly became clear there was a problem – the rapidly changing Open Access environment we all deal with everyday had already moved past APC intermediaries.

Off the back of the JISC/OAK Pilot I spoke to CCC, EBSCO, Swets and Turpin Distribution. At first there seemed to be some interest in establishing intermediaries. But after initial positive responses, and some development work, the responses cooled down.

Turpin Distribution had presented at UKSG 2014 and mentioned the possibility of an interface for institutions in 2015. Now this has been delayed until a review in early 2016. EBSCO had plans in place but development has since been shelved. CCC still has potential given the services they supply for publishers, but it seems that any Institutional interface, if it comes at all, will still be a while away.

Instead of focusing on APC Intermediaries to enable administrative savings, these will instead have to come from Good Practice and further “bedding in” of Open Access processes and workflows into the operational life of institutions.

At the same time as the interest in Intermediaries was dwindling, the community had turned towards offsetting deals. When I started working on the project there was already information on offsetting in theory, and IOP had launched their offsetting pilot. We are now well and truly stuck into offsetting in practice, with several other publishers now offering offset deals following the work JISC has done establishing these deals and providing guidance.

The focus on savings has thus shifted. Any savings that we as a community might make now come from lowering, or controlling, the total cost of publication, rather than directly from removing administrative burden as was thought a little over a year ago at the commencement of the project.

My next blog post will examine these offsetting deals, the pros and cons of the different models that have been adopted, and how these deals are being embedded in practice, looking at the main pain points of implementation as well as things we would potentially change.

Finlay Jones
University of Exeter

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