Thursday, 19 July 2018

Business Models for Open Access: How can I run a successful Open Access journal?

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In this week's guest blog Martyn Rittman, Ph.D, Publishing Services Manager at MDPI, offers some words of wisdom for developing successful open access journals.

The Directory of Open Access Journals contains over 11,500 journals and more than 3.1 million open access articles. Our indexing database Scilit contains around 20 million freely available articles, mostly open access. Estimates put the amount of open access in the region of 15% to 20% of all published articles. Do these numbers represent a threat to traditional revenue channels, or is it possible to run a healthy business using this model?

MDPI started publishing free online articles in the late 1990s. At first, we were supported by other projects, conferences, grants, and a great deal of voluntary time. In the mid-2000s, along with other publishers, we adopted author-side charges for publication, commonly known as article processing charges (APCs). By separating the journal editors making final acceptance decisions from the publisher, we have been able to maintain a rigorous and objective peer review process alongside gold open access. However, we have spoken to other publishers who have found it difficult to adopt the open access model, don’t feel they have the expertise, or find it difficult to cover their costs. Here, we offer some advice for developing successful open access journals.

Sources of revenue

Assure yourself that revenue streams for open access are available, even in fields with high scepticism towards author-side charges.  An increasing number of national funding agencies and governments have open access mandates, and offer support for the payment of APCs. National agreements with publishers are also emerging. Many non-governmental funding agencies and university libraries have also embraced open access and provide assistance to authors. These include the Wellcome Trust, the European Union, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and many more. A useful resource to see the amounts paid by universities for open access publication is the OpenAPC platform ( Other models include Knowledge Unlatched for humanities and SCOAP3 for high energy physics, where publishers receive a per-article payment out of a central fund collected from funders and libraries. Smaller journals may be able to find a single funding agency, university or society to cover all the costs of the journal, especially in niche fields. In fact, there are increasing opportunities that do not involve directly invoicing authors.

Providing a useful service

Do not assume that open access is enough. Look carefully at the scope of your journal to see whether it offers something unique in the field. This is especially critical for new journals. For many authors, the decision on where to publish is not primarily linked to open access: the scope, editorial board, and reputation of the journal are usually more important. Open access journals should be focused on providing a good service to authors and you can distinguish your journal simply by providing a better alternative to existing journals.


Consider new workflows for your journal. There may be an initial cost to making changes in how you run the journal but it will pay off in the long-term. Authors publishing in open access are often looking for a quick decision and publication. This might mean revisiting how editorial decisions are made, and changing expectations among editors, editorial board members and reviewers about how quickly they provide feedback. On the marketing side, you will need to consider how to better reach your target authors, redirecting efforts from potential subscription customers. If you opt for an APC model, handling a larger volume of small payments may require a new approach to invoicing.

There is no magic formula for running an open access journal and much of the work is the same as for traditional journals. Open access journals now exist in all fields using all kinds of editorial and business models. At MDPI, we continue to see growth in the open access market across many research fields. We are convinced of the benefits of universal access through a large, broad readership, allowing ideas to shape those outside of the academy as well as authors from institutions with small subscription budgets. Open access supports the dissemination and sustainability of knowledge and we encourage all publishers to take advantage.

Head and shoulders photo of Martyn Rittman
Martyn Rittman, Ph.D. is Publishing Services Manager at MDPI, combining a passion for open access publishing with an interest in new models for publishing and open science. He joined MDPI in 2013 following a research career covering physical chemistry, materials science, instrumentation, and mathematical modelling.

MDPI is headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, with branch offices in China, Spain, and Serbia. It runs over 200 fully open access journals, including some in collaboration with scholarly societies, and in 2017 published over 35,000 peer-reviewed articles. MDPI also provides publisher services through its JAMS software ( and offers academic communication tools, including a conference management platform, at

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Friday, 6 July 2018

How to train your author - Is author training a good idea for publishers?

In this week’s guest post, we hear from Dr Gareth Dyke who heads up Charlesworth Knowledge, a new service being launched this year for authors, educational institutions, and publishers.

A huge range of training courses, most often delivered online, are available to help academic researchers improve their writing and publication presentation skills. Ive often wondered, however, if encouraging authors to attend such courses and improve their abilities (albeit incrementally) is actually a good idea for publishers? There is an argument that it is in the interests of the publication house to receive badly written content so that in-house editing and polishing offerings can be recommended, leading to an obvious knock-on increase in revenue, in spite of the editorial headaches involved in reviewing them.

This feedback loop seems self-defeating for publishing houses. Surely once an author has been trained to write better and more effective articles, then that individual is less likely to avail of in-house language editing services?

I disagree. Id argue that the whole author-publisher ecosystem should be viewed pragmatically and is, after all, a question of scale. What does a publisher gain from training authors to write better on their own? In addition to reducing the time spent working over the hundreds of submissions that might come through a system week on week, revenue from providing the training itself is important. Looking longer term: better quality submissions enhance the journal, building its reputation, leading to more citations, raising up the impact factor, and driving subscriptions. In this day and age of quick online publications that are often open access amidst competition for your readers' time (even within your own research field), well written and effective articles that draw readers in and keep them going past just the title and the abstract are a bonus for everybody. It’s also important to build loyalty amongst authors so that they keep submitting their papers to the same journals; this could be because this is where they received their key training, as well as the reputation and quality of the journal playing a role in their decision. This is one good reason why the big academic journal publishing houses offer author training, often as standalone academy’-type model or pay-per-view online workshops and seminars; they want to encourage author submission habits with quality product that all feeds into driving up their sales, including insitutional subscriptions, and publisher/journal reputation. 

So, yes, author training is a very good thing. Perhaps thats why more and more publishing houses are getting into this area and offering these courses either directly or through third-party training providers. Through the many years of providing high-quality language polishing services, Charlesworth Author Services has recognised this growing need to provide high-quality and high-value training to the academic authors who use our services. Author education provided by the unique combination of people with both publishing and reviewing skills at the highest level is the logical next step.

About The Charlesworth Group

With close to 20 years' experience in China, The Charlesworth Group is recognized globally as the trusted partner for sales and marketing representation and consultancy for STM publishers in the Chinese academic market. Charlesworth is also a leading provider of language editing and author services through its Charlesworth Author Services Division.

Dr. Gareth Dyke

Gareth is a prolific scientific author who has published more than 200 articles in peer-reviewed journals over the last 20 years. During Gareth’s experience as an academic, working across multiple Universities,  he has mentored students at all ages and has developed a large range of teaching techniques.

Twitter: @CWGAuthors
Linkedin: Charlesworth Author Services