The split between availability and selection. Business models for scientific information, and the scientific process?

Katarzyna Zalewska-Kurek, Petrus A.T.M. Geurts, Hans E. Roosendaal

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The Berlin declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities has resulted in a strong impetus in the discussion on business models, and in particular the model of open access. A business model is defined as just the organisation of property. Consequently, business models for scientific information are discussed on the premise that any such business model should primarily produce added value for the scientific process next to commercial value for the research institution or intermediary acting as publisher. Furthermore, any business model should be sustainable. Scientific information is thus considered an integral part of the scientific process. It is not an end product but an intermediary product subject to scientific scrutiny. The final goal is to integrate the information into the scientific process. To this end, scientific information should be widely available for selection by the user as common property. Two basic business models emerge: one with the focus on added value as selection by the user known as the ‘subscription model’; and another one with the focus on wide availability known as the ‘open access’ model. Both in the subscription model as in the open access model it is the scientific community that invests. In the subscription model scientific information is more considered as external to the scientific process in a consumer type model, while in the open access model scientific information is more seen as internal, as necessary acquisition costs for the scientific process. In the subscription model there is less incentive for broad availability of information whereas in the open access model there is less incentive to develop and maintain added value services to facilitate the selection by the reader. The organisation of property is a condition sine qua non. Although common property, the information is owned by the author claiming this property by the act of publication. Core to this claim of property is peer review being therefore core to any business model. The author is interested in protecting his moral rights against plagiarism; the publisher is interested in protecting the added value against commercial abuse. It is suggested that open access repositories could boost if repository management would guarantee protection of the moral rights of the author. In this way, the protection to the two main infringements could be split over different stakeholders. This would also allow separating the responsibility for availability coupled with peer review as a basic service from added value services coupled to selection at an optional charge. In the end, any business model has to fulfill the basic idea that scientific information is not there just for the record as a commodity, but is there to be used in research and teaching: scientific information has no value in itself.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)271-282
Number of pages12
JournalInformation services & use
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • METIS-246909
  • IR-58569


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