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Business Models and Market Structure within the Scholarly Communications Sector

  • Gatti, John Rupert James
Publication Date
Sep 07, 2020
Apollo - University of Cambridge Repository
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The scholarly communications sector is undergoing a period of profound transformation. The emergence of digital publishing technologies, wide-spread demands for open access to research outputs, calls for more rapid dissemination of research findings and underlying data - especially in emergencies such as global pandemics, and the expansion of publishers operations into all aspects of the research cycle are requiring and inspiring innovative new process and practices. At the same time there is growing awareness and concern in scientific and scholarly communities about the business models and operating practices being adopted by publishers, particularly commercial publishers. The International Science Council Discussion Paper “Opening the Record of Science” (Boulton et al. (2020)) highlights many of these concerns and identifies some fundamental principles for scholarship and scholarly communications to frame developments in the sector. This paper is designed to complement that paper, and similar discussions, by assessing the economic implications of current business models for scientific publishing, evaluating their advantages and disadvantages in relation to the fundamental principles advocated, and proposing a range of models that would be compatible with those principles.2 The paper proceeds by first positioning the situation within the broader setting of how to effectively regulate digital markets. The dominant business model and industrial structure within scholarly communications at the end of the last century is then discussed, as a springboard from which to consider new business models that have arisen over the past twenty years and their likely implications for the sector. The paper concludes that there would be considerable benefit to the establishment of a permanent digital markets unit to monitor and assess ongoing developments in the scholarly communications sector and to coordinate and encourage “good behaviour” across all actors in the sector.

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