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Swets launches APC management service

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Swets has launched a service to help institutions manage their article-processing charges (APCs) for gold open-access articles. The move, according to Swets CEO David Main, comes as a result of requests from customers.

‘There’s a lot of noise in open access at the moment and it’s clearly a high-growth market. For a while now we’ve had customers and publishers coming to us asking what we are doing and how we can help them,’ he explained.

He said that Swets will work closely with customers to help them with the processes involved in managing APCs. ‘Customers are coming up with slightly different views on this and most of them have not yet figured out what they want to do. Some have allocated dedicated funds while some are still analysing the situation,’ he observed.

He explained that, in subscription deals, the payment chain is quite simple, with large sums of money going from institutions to publishers. With APCs, there are many more, smaller payments and more parties are potentially involved – authors and funders as well as institutions and publishers. ‘The payment may need to link to four different places. Institutions need to be able to track all those things,’ said Main. ‘Eventually institutions will also have to track grants and ensure that mandate conditions are met. Because these are basically small payments it’s not efficient to go through legacy systems.’

‘All payments will also clearly have to link to specific journals,’ he added, noting also the concern about ensuring libraries aren’t paying twice for resources – the so-called ‘double dipping’. And this is a challenge for publishers too. ‘Often open access is handled in a separate department from subscription charges within a publisher,’ he explained. ‘It’s a lot more complex than people think. People are trying to figure out how it all works. The devil’s in the detail.’

These are challenges that Research Information has heard echoed in private conversations with university librarians.

Swets’ APC management service will manage APC invoicing and payment processes for institutions. It promises to provide APC fund management options to keep track of spending; a single point of contact to handle all publisher relationships; a clear, concise way to handle all micro-transactions; a means to reduce the number of invoices that need processing; and detailed, real-time reporting on the status of all transactions.

‘As an intermediary, with things that are new and complex, we want to take on the complexity for institutions. Because a lot of these issues are managed at library level they also link with many services that we have already been offering,’ he continued. ‘This is a natural place for our core role as an intermediary. We should be able to do much more efficiently than libraries could do it themselves. The demand is really there for this type of service.’

The service is initially launching with just a few customers and these are in the UK due to the particular gold open-access requirements of UK funders. ‘The UK is really the most advanced on this issue, driven by the Finch report and funding bodies,’ Main explained.

Following this, the company will work on developing the service and Main anticipates a full international launch early in 2014. ‘We’re having requests from customers in a range of countries.’

‘I think a lot of people, especially publishers, were hoping that open access wouldn’t become a big part of business but with the movements in Europe and the US there is definitely momentum towards open access,’ said Main.

‘I think the actual model of what open access is will evolve and what it will actually be will be different in five years’ time. However, whatever the model is, it will involve economics and we intend to be at the heart of it.’