Public Access to Federally Funded Research
C O N T I N U E D
DECEMBER 2010 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A BIMONTHLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC
Application of ROI Models to the University Environment
This more open model of research is consistent with the research mission of the university to create
and disseminate knowledge—and appears to lead to both broader and deeper research while increasing
the pace of innovation.*
While the major focus of the series of studies recently carried out by Australian economist John Houghton
and his colleagues has been on modeling the potential costs and benefits of open access to national funding
agencies, the economics of open access is also of deep interest to the higher education community.
Consequently, Houghton, joined by UK researcher Alma Swan, conducted a follow-up study examining
the likely economic outcomes of open access at an institutional level. Houghton and Swan look at the three
most common routes by which open access is currently implemented:
• First, through the collection of copies of published articles in repositories while the articles continue to be
published in journals and the journals sold on subscription to libraries (“green” open access).
• Second, through open access journals that charge an article-processing fee for each article published
(“gold” open access).
• Third, through repositories collecting unpublished articles and using quality-control services to manage
the articles through peer review and to apply editorial procedures on the articles before they are opened
up from the university repository (“green” open access with overlay services).
Houghton and Swan examined the effects of each potential route on higher education institutions of
varying size and research intensity. In their initial findings, the authors find that open access would result in
savings for most institutions regardless of the routes that is taken. However, for larger research universities,
the level of article processing fee is a key variable—if the charge per article reaches too high a point, “gold”
open access may prove more expensive for those institutions.
To encourage individual institutions to examine the potential economic impacts of open access under
the circumstances specific to their campuses, Houghton and Swan have also provided a working model for
open use by the community, available at http://www.cfses.com/EI-ASPM/Institutional EI-ASPM Cost Model
* Digital Connections Council, Committee for Economic Development, Harnessing Openness to Improve
Research, Teaching, and Learning in Higher Education (Washington, DC: Committee for Economic
Development, November 2009), 3, http://www.ced.org/images/library/reports/digital_