Income models for Open Access: External Subsidies

Twitter icon
Facebook icon
Google icon
LinkedIn icon
e-mail icon

2.5.1 Foundation Grants & Corporate Funding

Grants from foundations and other philanthropic organizations can cover one-time costs that may attend the transformation of a subscription-based journal to Open Access. Grants typically support development projects and specify a finite grant amount for a set period of time. Although less common, some foundations will also fund ongoing journal operating costs. Depending on the grantor, a publisher might seek a grant to mitigate the financial risk that a journal might incur during conversion to a new business model capable of supporting Open Access. The financial risk of such a conversion can be quantified and limited to a specific time period, and the social return on the granting agency’s investment can be clearly articulated.

Possible grant sources include:

  • Private foundations: Private foundations are nonprofit, non-governmental organizations with an endowment (typically donated from a single source) and grant-giving program managed by trustees or directors. Such foundations are established to aid educational, social, religious, or other charitable activities. Obviously, the most important criterion is that a foundation has a philanthropic mission that supports scholarly communications initiatives in the same subject area as the journal.

  • Corporate funders: Corporate funding can come from corporate foundations or from corporate giving programs. A corporate foundation is a private, company-sponsored foundation that obtains its assets from a for-profit enterprise. While a corporate foundation is an independent entity, with its own endowment and organization, it may maintain close ties with the company that created it. Corporate giving programs are grant-making programs administered from within a for-profit business. Some companies make charitable contributions through both types of programs. When dealing with corporate foundations or corporate giving programs, a publication should develop and apply underwriting policies (such as those described above for sponsorships) to ensure that it avoids any real or perceived conflict of interest between the journal’s editorial integrity and the granting corporation.

Two other types of grant-making organizations—public charities (non-governmental charitable organizations that support grants programs) and community foundations (charitable organizations that serve a specific community or region)—often have philanthropic missions that support social relief and other special programs. Where a journal’s editorial focus aligns with a charity’s mission and giving programs, the journal may be able to secure full or partial operating support. For example, foundations with giving programs in international health provide operating support for several open-access journals. A variety of sources can help a publisher identify private or corporate foundations with subject domain interests similar to its journal’s (see Appendix E: Resources for Grant Seeking & Fundraising).

Identifying an appropriate foundation and applying for a grant can be a time-consuming task. University-based publishers might seek assistance from their institution’s development office. These offices may have existing relationships with corporate or private foundations that might meet a journal’s funding profile. Further, these offices have experience that can help a publisher position its journal project to appeal to various grant-making organizations. Tapping into such a resource can also bring additional skills and visibility to both the grant request and the journal business case itself, and it makes sense to contact and/or coordinate grant-seeking efforts with this office. The resources that a development office might have available to provide such support will often depend on the university’s own development campaign schedule; more assistance may be forthcoming between such campaigns.

2.5.2 Foundation Grant Examples

  • The Ecology of Games, published by MIT Press and subsidized by the MacArthur Foundation (

  • Journal of Neglected Tropical Diseases, published by PLoS and funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (

  •, funded by the U.K. Department for International Development, GlaxoSmithKline, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (

  • Krisis, a Dutch philosophy journal subsidized, in part, by the Prins Bernard Cultuurfonds ()

Corporate Subsidy Examples

2.5.3 Institutional Grants & Subsidies

If a journal’s publisher, or a key sponsor, is affiliated with an academic or research institution, formal and informal subsidies from the institution can defray operating expenses. The journal may be able to make a case for such an institutional subsidy based on the prestige and increased visibility that the publication brings to the host institution, research center, or academic department.

While an institution might provide a cash subsidy, such support will often take the form of non-cash in-kind contributions. For campus-based publications, the college or university library will sometimes allocate library staff resources to assist in the design and implementation of indexing, metadata tagging, and/or digital formatting, as well as providing technology services, such as online hosting.

2.5.4 Institutional Subsidy Examples

  • Electronic Transactions on Numerical Analysis, Kent State University (

  • Journal of Insect Science, University of Wisconsin (

  • Journal of Physical Studies (

  • The eScholarship program of the California Digital Library supports several open-access journals sponsored by UC departments and research programs, including: Berkeley Scientific Journal, California Agriculture, Electronic Green Journal, InterActions: UCLA Journal of Education and Information Studies, Learning through the Arts: A Research Journal on Arts Integration in Schools and Communities, San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Science, Technology Innovations in Statistics Education, The Western Journal of Emergency Medicine, and World Cultures eJournal. (

  • Philosophers’ Imprint, University of Michigan (

  • Purdue University Press publishes five open-access journals with support from the university library, which hosts the journals online as part of its digital repository: CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and CultureFirst Opinions—Second ReactionsThe Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based LearningThe Journal of Problem Solving, and The Journal of Terrestrial Observation (

2.5.5 Government Funding

For the most part, government agencies tend to fund the conduct of project- and subject-specific research, not its dissemination. However, grants from government funding agencies may—depending on the country in which a publisher operates—provide a source of funds to develop and/or sustain an open-access journal. Several large-scale, long-term projects sponsor online journals that publish research results related to the project. Similar projects might negotiate terms in a government research grant that extends beyond research support to provide a venue to disseminate the project’s research results.

2.5.6 Government Funding Examples

The journals below provide examples of direct government subsidies for open-access journals. Indirect government subsidies for open-access journals—for example, grant funds directed to paying article processing fees, or support for open-access journals published via government-funded servers—are described elsewhere (see Article Processing Fees and Appendix A).

Open-access journals published by government agencies include:

Open-access journal publishing programs supported by government grants include:

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.