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    Double dipping in hybrid open access – chimera or reality?


    ScienceOpen Research – Section: SOR-SOCSCI


    Social & Behavioral Sciences, Hybrid open access, Double dipping, Journals, Survey

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        The pros and cons of hybrid open access are heavily disputed. A main point of discussion is whether ‘double dipping’ takes place, i.e. paying twice to publish and read the same article. To prove publishers’ assertions that they do not double dip, a survey was conducted of 24 publishers with detailed questions about their pricing policy using concrete examples. The outcome is quite sobering: the results range from partial double dipping to full double dipping, and in no instance did a ‘no double-dipping’ policy mean that no double dipping takes place.

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        Most cited references 9

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        A study of open access journals using article processing charges

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          The hybrid model for open access publication of scholarly articles: A failed experiment?

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            The open access citation advantage: Studies and results to date

             A SWAN,  A. Swan,  Alma Swan (2010)

              Author and article information

              [1]Forschungszentrum Jülich, Central Library, D-52425 Jülich, Germany.
              Author notes
              [*]Corresponding author’s e-mail address:

              A longer version of this article was first published in the German journal informationspraxis, The differences to this publication are as follows:

              • German language
              • Focus on the situation in Germany in the introduction, rather than UK
              • Consideration of additional publishers with journals in German in the survey
              • Discussion of the whole survey (two additional scenarios and three additional questions which are not considered in this publication)

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              ScienceOpen Research
              25 May 2015
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              © 2015 B. Mittermaier.

              This work has been published open access under Creative Commons Attribution License CC BY 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Conditions, terms of use and publishing policy can be found at

              Figures: 0, Tables: 2, References: 10, Pages: 12
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              Unfortunately, the notion of "double-dipping" is a red herring and ignores the metaphorical 'elephant in the room'. How so? The accusation or suspicion of double-dipping assumes that subscription fees are established objectively, on the basis of costs. They are not. They are based on expectations – of number of subscribers (mostly under-estimated, of course) – and desires – of profit levels. And for an established journal portfolio or a 'BigDeal', on the basis of an annual increase on historical prices. Very much a question of "what can we get away with". That means, in practice, that the number of articles published per year only has a limited influence on the price.

              What's the link of this to double-dipping? Assume a subscription journal has for years published 100 articles per annum and the price has increased by 4% every year. Then its publisher starts offering an open access option, and so the journal becomes a hybrid one. The next year, it publishes 110 articles. Ten of which are open access, and APCs are paid for those, but there are still 100 articles published in the old subscription paradigm. So ca. 9% of articles is open. Should the publisher reduce the price by 9%? That would mean receiving less per article for the 100 traditionally published articles. Of course he won't do that.

              In another scenario, let's assume there are again ten articles with open access and paid for by APCs, but the total hasn't increased, so there are just 90 traditional articles. Should the publisher reduce the price by 10%? But what if the number of subscriptions has reduced by 10%? (Reductions of subscription numbers have been one of the most prominent causes of above-inflation price increases, together with increased profit expectations; cost increases have played a minor role, if any at all.)

              Hybrid journals may well deserve criticism, for the cost of APCs, or the difficulties in finding the open access articles, et cetera, but criticism of 'double-dipping' is best redirected to the arbitrariness of subscription pricing instead.

              2015-06-12 09:03 UTC
              One person recommends this

              Publishers claim that they do not double dip and use this as a justification for hybrid open access fees far beyond processing costs. I tried to figure out wheter this is a false allegation which in turn would proof that the APCs are not justified by costs.
              Obviously, one can generally question wheter any fees in the publishing industry are calculated on the basis of costs and therefore justified by costs. Anyway, publishers do exactly that, see for example

              2015-06-13 09:07 UTC

              After publication, a discussion with one publisher arose about the second part of the abstract, which originally read “The outcome is quite sobering: the results range from partial double dipping to full double dipping, and in no instance did a ‘no double-dipping’ policy mean that no double dipping takes place.
              This publisher felt very uncomfortable, especially about the last part of this sentence (“in no instance …”). The publisher rightfully claimed that the results of the survey – at least in his case – do not support this statement. I consent and furthermore have to admit that this conclusion cannot be drawn in each case where a publisher did not provide answers. In such cases, it can only be said that the publishers failed to prove that they were not double dipping, but it cannot be said that double dipping has been conclusively proven. Subsequently, the second part of the abstract was revised as follows: “The outcome is quite sobering: while a small number of publishers appear to be fully offsetting their hybrid open access income, or making no additional charge for hybrid open access at all, for the rest of those surveyed no clear evidence could be gathered that double dipping does not take place, and many appeared to be double dipping to some extent.” Nothing was changed in the article itself.

              2015-06-08 08:22 UTC
              2 people recommend this

              An excellent up-to-date work about a severe problem in open access publishing. Are publishers playing their game fair when asking both authors and libraries to pay for the same content in the same journal? Amazingly, I raised that same question ten years ago when I was publishing director at one of the major international publishing companies. The answer was clear: publishers didn't expect that more than a few authors will opt-in for payed open access of theit article. However, the message was quite nice: publishers support open access because they do offer that choice for almost all of their journals... Nevertheless, it was pure "cosmetics" as a former colleague emphazised. Having this in mind it has become more and more important to find out what the current policies against double dipping are. The autor of this work is head of a central library at a major research center in Germany. The outcome is quite amazing: the results range from partial double dipping to full double dipping, and in no instance did a ‘no double-dipping’ policy mean that no double dipping takes place.

              2015-05-25 12:35 UTC

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