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UC Pay It Forward Project

Findings and other News from the Pay-It-Forward Project

June 30, 2016: The UC Pay-It-Forward Project has concluded and the final report is now available. The project’s bibliography is also available. Data files are available from the Dryad data repository..

The previous version of the final report is here.

July 22, 2016: The UC Pay-It-Forward Model is an excel-based for estimating an institution’s article processing charges under various conditions. A guide to the tool is also available.

July 11, 2015: We have completed the author survey from phase one of the project. We will post the survey results soon.

Pay It Forward: UC Davis and CDL Investigation of the Institutional Costs of Gold Open Access

The University of California, under the leadership of UC Davis and the California Digital Library (CDL) and with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is undertaking a major new project called “Pay It Forward: Investigating a Sustainable Model of Open Access Article Processing Charges for Large North American Research Institutions“. 

The project will be conducted during 2015 and early 2016, and includes partnerships with three major research libraries (Harvard University, Ohio State University and the University of British Columbia) as well as the ten University of California campus libraries. We are also working with experts in Scholarly Communications: Greg Tananbaum (Consultant, ScholarNext), Professor David Solomon (Michigan State University), Professor Bo-Christer Björk (Hanken School of Economics, Helsinki, Finland), and Professor Mark McCabe (University of Michigan and Boston University). We are additionally joined by Dr. Carol Tenopir, University of Tennessee, Knoxville for an in-depth qualitative analysis of authors’ attitudes towards Open Access. Finally, we are collaborating with Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers to engage their member publishers, and the the information companies Thomson Reuters (Web of Science) and Elsevier (Scopus) for their bibliographic database coverage of authorship patterns across the academic disciplines.

In 2014, with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the UC Davis University Library and the California Digital Library collaborated to develop a major project proposal to investigate the institutional costs of converting scholarly communications, particularly scholarly journals, to an entirely Article Processing Charge (APC) business model, often referred to as “Gold Open Access”. In the APC model, researchers pay-to-publish in advance and readers can access published articles for free from the publishers’ web site or other scholarly repository.

Researchers at the University of California author a huge proportion of the scholarly literature and are strong supporters of Open Access, e.g., the UC faculty Senate’s 2013 Open Access policy but the implications of converting the cost of scholarly communications to an “author pays” (or more probably an “institution pays”) model have huge implications for large research institutions that generate a disproportionate amount of the literature. Finding the right financial model to pay for scholarly communication while making it more accessible requires significantly more evaluation before it becomes the new default.

Here is the Final Report for the planning process, that includes the proposed methodology for a large-scale investigation into this topic during 2015-16.

University of California, Davis contacts:
MacKenzie Smith, University Librarian (macsmith  at

California Digital Library contacts:
Ivy Anderson (Ivy.Anderson at

Project manager: Greg Tananbaum (greg at

Project partners:
David Solomon, Michigan State University and Bo-Christer Bjork, Hanken School of Economics, Helsinki, Finland
Mark McCabe, University of Michigan and Boston University
Carol Tenopir, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Harvard University Library
Ohio State University Libraries
University of British Columbia Library
University of California Libraries

Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers
Thomson Reuters

About the UC Davis Library
UC Davis is a global community of individuals united to better humanity and our natural world while seeking solutions to some of our most pressing challenges. Located near the California state capital, UC Davis has more than 34,000 students in four colleges and six professional school schools. The campus has an annual research budget of over $750 million, a comprehensive health system and about two dozen specialized research centers that lead nationally and internationally recognized research projects studying issues effecting academic and research libraries around the world. The UC Davis University Library is among the top 100 research libraries in North America, and belongs to the Association of Research Libraries, the Digital Library Federation, and other organizations that position it to collaborate with other top organizations.

About the California Digital Library
The California Digital Library (CDL) was founded by the University of California in 1997 to take advantage of emerging technologies that transform the way digital information is published and accessed. Since then, in collaboration with the UC libraries and other partners, the CDL has assembled one of the world’s largest digital research libraries and changed the ways that faculty, students, and researchers discover and access information.
For more information, go to

About the UC Libraries
Individually and collectively, the University of California libraries provide access to the world’s knowledge for the UC campuses and the communities they serve. They directly support UC’s missions of teaching, research, and public service. The University of California libraries, which include some of the world’s most distinctive collections and innovative services, comprise the largest university research library in the world. The UC Libraries include the libraries of UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UCLA, UC Irvine, UC Merced, UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz, UC San Diego, and UCSF.

About the Harvard University Library
The University’s traditional holdings of nearly 17 million volumes are rooted in the 1638 bequest of 400 books from John Harvard. Today, Harvard has more than 70 libraries gathered into a single system that constitutes the largest academic library in the world.

About the Ohio State University Libraries
The OSU Libraries serves the Ohio State University and includes 13 locations on central campus, 9 special collections and libraries on the university’s regional campuses.

About the University of British Columbia Library
The University of British Columbia Library is a leading institution in North America, ranked 14th by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL). The Library has 15 branches and divisions, including on- and off-campus locations and its Okanagan campus location.

About the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers
The Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP) is the international membership body which works to support and represent not-for-profit organizations and institutions that publish scholarly and professional content. ALPSP’s has over 330 members in 40 countries, who publish journals as well as books, databases and other products. Its membership also includes those that work with non-profit publishers.

About Elsevier
Elsevier is a world-leading publisher of scientific, technical and medical information products and services. Working in partnership with the global science and health communities, Elsevier’s 7,000 employees in over 70 offices worldwide publish more than 2,000 journals and 1,900 new books per year, in addition to offering a suite of innovative electronic products, such as ScienceDirect, MD Consult, Scopus, bibliographic databases, and online reference works. For more information, go to

About Thomson Reuters
Thomson Reuters is the world’s leading source of intelligent information for businesses and professionals. We combine industry expertise with innovative technology to deliver critical information to leading decision makers in the financial and risk, legal, tax and accounting, intellectual property and science and media markets, powered by the world’s most trusted news organization. For more information, go to