Two new three-year agreements between academic publishers and the Big Ten Academic Alliance are piloting new models for sustainable open access publishing.

According to Dean of Libraries James Hilton, they’re also part of a larger trend toward a sturdy open ecosystem for published scholarship across all disciplines.

The Read and Publish agreement with Cambridge University Press allows U-M authors to publish without charge, and without caps, in CUP journals that are fully or hybrid open access. Research papers published under this agreement will be freely accessible to everyone. The CUP contract also provides reading rights to the full CUP journals package. 

The Community Action Publishing agreement with PLOS allows U-M authors to publish without fees in two highly selective journals, PLOS Biology and PLOS Medicine. Because PLOS is an open access publisher, all articles are freely available to the public.

Both contracts took effect Jan. 1.

“These agreements point toward a future where our collection services are increasingly coordinated and are aimed at organizing and promoting open scholarship in a financially sustainable manner,” said Bryan Skib, associate university librarian for collections. “They also expand the reach and impact of U-M-authored research without significant additional investment by the university.”

The agreements cover a variety of disciplines, respect current author workflows, and do not add any significant administrative burden, Skib said.

Hilton said agreements like these align with growing faculty and researcher interest in open access publishing. This growth is most notable in science and social science disciplines. Since 2017, the number of open access scientific articles has exceeded the number of paywall articles, and open access publishing has been accelerating across all disciplines. 

“Open access can present a challenge for libraries, because while the values behind it resonate deeply, the economics don’t always come together — someone has to pay for free-to-read content,” Hilton said.

Partnerships with publishers and peer institutions offer a path forward, as do initiatives like the University of Michigan Press plans — still in the works — to shift to a fund-to-mission, free-to-read online model for scholarly monographs, whose costs can no longer be met entirely via sales revenue. Those interested in subsidized or free publishing opportunities should visit the library’s guide to discounts for U-M authors.

Also available is information to help people find a specialist in their field of study, or to contact the library’s copyright office.

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