For the past several decades the research community has been bedevilled with the so-called serials crisis, the phenomenon by which the cost of scholarly journals continues to rise at an unsustainable rate.


One of the most significant responses to this affordability problem was the open access (OA) movement, which in 2002 coalesced around the Budapest Open Access Initiative. Open access publishing, OA advocates have always argued, will be cheaper, and therefore sustainable.


In 2004, confronted by the growing demands of the OA movement, and faced with competition from open access publishers like BioMed Central and PLOS, traditional subscription publishers responded with hybrid OA, which allows authors to continue publishing in subscription journals but, if they wish, to choose to make a particular paper open access by paying an article-processing charge (APC). The first such initiative was Springer’s Open Choice, which at the time the company’s CEO Derk Haank characterised as a challenge to OA advocates to “put their money where their mouth is”.


Since hybrid OA APCs are more expensive than those of pure open access journals (i.e. generally around $3,000 a paper), take up remained low until research funders like the Wellcome Trust and Research Councils UK agreed to start paying APCs for their funded authors.


It was quickly apparent however that, as things stood, hybrid OA could only worsen the affordability problem, since hybrid OA journals now have not one, but two income streams for the same article — one from the article-processing charge, another from the journal subscription, a phenomenon that OA advocates refer to as “double dipping”.


With the government pushing hard for all the research it funds to be made open access, the issue of double dipping is particularly acute for UK HEIs, and Jisc, the organisation that negotiates licensing agreements with publishers on their behalf, has this year been busy negotiating offsetting agreements with publishers intended to mitigate or extinguish double dipping.


An interview with Jisc’s Licensing Manager Richard Savory can be read here: