Preprint Servers, Resource Allocation Conditions and Market Shocks

Whereas opinions can diverge on whether the Covid-19 pandemic represents a watershed moment for the publishing market on a macro level, it is as likely that local publishing markets act as decisive environments for micro-level decisions of its constitutive players.

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In a recent opinion piece, Kazuhiro Hayashi (2020, p. 2) argues that the spectacular rise in the contribution and use levels of preprint archives, such as arXiv and SSRN, represents a decisive transition from the previously dominant publish-or-perish logic of the publishing market, centered on journal article publishing, paper citation analytics and publication peer-review procedures, toward the share-or-perish one that favors research output sharing, content dissemination networks and global scholarly communities. In effect, Hayashi (2020, pp. 2-3) proposes that the advent of Open Access and Open Science represents a phase transition for the publishing market toward a new steady state, which is qualitatively different from the one revolving around closed-access models.

In macro-economic terms, this amounts to the macro-economic argument that the continuous rise of Open Access publishing amounts to an exogenous shock to the traditional publishing market. In this respect, the increasing prioritization of preprint publishing, Open Access to empirical data and transparent review procedures, such as in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, can be interpreted as leading to a macro-level re-equilibration of supply and demand relations between multiple market players, which corresponds to Hayashi’s (2020, p. 2) position. Yet, to the extent that economics describes situations in which scarce resources are allocated, one can argue that the endogenous and exogenous supply and demand conditions that scholars, universities and publishers confront are dissimilar.

Whereas in the short term, for scholarly authors, the greater prominence of preprint depositories is not likely to significantly alter their labor time quantity or remuneration rates, changing norms in their academic communities, such as favoring Open Science, and the barrier-free availability of latest research results can, however, change their database use and publication patterns. Assuming that, in the local and global publishing markets, the terms of their equilibrium conditions are set between university or research libraries and scholarly publishers, falling rates of closed-access collection use and rising reputational returns on Open Access publishing are likely to lead to changing budget allocation decisions away from long-term paywall-based models toward Open Access agreements that allow for a close approximation of organization level publishing patterns on a short or medium term basis. In other words, if a significant portion of scholarly supply and demand migrates to Open Access platforms, such as preprint servers, the latter can be expected to have a strong case for claiming a share of funding that universities allocate toward supporting the scholarly publishing ecosystem.

For publishing houses, this is likely to translate into a reduced remand for closed-access-based products and services and a growing demand, e.g., from university libraries, for Open Access offerings, while amounting to a macro-economic change in their exogenous market conditions. The dynamic effects of that change also likely entail the increased volatility of library demand, as the projected reallocation of subscription funding toward Open Access read-and-publish agreements might be stronger pronounced among larger universities acting as both significant consumers and producers of scholarly content than among smaller academic institutions. For the latter, the on-demand funding of article, or book, processing charges for knowledge producers on the background of decreasing utilization of closed-access collections can likely lead to dissimilar budgeting implications, especially if the share of preprint- or Open-Access-format scholarly output continues at its present levels or grows.

By Pablo Markin


Hayashi, Kazuhiro. "How Could COVID-19 Change Scholarly Communication to a New Normal in the Open Science Paradigm?." Patterns 2, no. 1 (2020): 100191, 1-4.


Featured Image Credits: Looking South from John Hancock Center Observatory, Chicago, Illinois, USA, November 22, 2013 | © Courtesy of Ken Lund/Flickr.



Pablo Markin

Community Manager, Open Research Community

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