Income models for Open Access: In-kind Support

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Some nonprofit publishers enjoy in-kind contributions (whether explicit and implicit) from academic institutions, sponsors, and other organizations. Most in-kind contributions come from the institutions, societies, and other organizations with which a publication or project is affiliated. Well over one-half of open-access journals receive some level of in-kind university support and almost one-fifth receive some support from one or more learned or professional societies.

In-kind support can assume many forms, including office space and facilities, administrative support, student labor, development/fundraising support, and/or the provision of faculty time (from a host institution); voluntary labor (from the social network for the journal’s discipline); digital conversion, formatting, and metadata tagging (from an institution’s library); free or discounted computers, equipment, and software licenses (from a host institution or corporate sponsor); digital archiving (from national libraries and nonprofit initiatives); and online publishing technology and hosting services (from a host institution or publishing partner). These in-kind contributions effectively offset costs that would otherwise be incurred by the publisher, lowering the cost hurdle that must be cleared to sustain a journal financially.

As with other forms of subsidies, a journal’s business model should explicitly account for in-kind contributions. This is necessary to:

  • provide a basis for demonstrating the return that the journal delivers to the contributor (often measured in terms of reputation-building or social value), in order to help ensure the continuity of the contribution; and

  • allow an accurate understanding of potential replacement costs in the event the in-kind support is withdrawn.

The detail and sophistication of this accounting will depend on the type and scale of the in-kind contribution(s) that the journal receives, and on the nature of the publisher’s relationship with the contributor.

In-kind subsidies require resources to administer and maintain, just as self-generated income models do. Ideally, the terms of significant in-kind arrangements should be explicitly articulated and agreed to by the journal and the contributing entity. A publisher should recognize implicit in-kind arrangements, even those of long-standing, as financial risks and should develop contingency plans in the event of their discontinuation. Sustaining a journal over time requires that the publisher continues to demonstrate the value being delivered to in-kind contributors, even though this value may be self-evident to the publisher.

When commenting on this page, please detail your experience with the model in question. The comment area is moderated and reserved for evidence- or experience-based discussion and requests for support in experimenting with different approaches.