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The X Factor: Open Access, New Journals, and Incumbent Competitors

  • W. Benedikt Schmal
Friday 10 November 2023
Willem Einthoven
Kolffpad 1
2333 BN Leiden
CWTS - Common Room
W. Benedikt Schmal


The academic publishing market is considerable in its size, its highly oligopolistic structure, and the profits it extracts from researchers and their institutions. In this paper, I evaluate whether a citation advantage exists for open-access publications and whether new market entrants suffer from less recognition. To do so, I exploit a quasi-causal setting created by Elsevier. In 2019, the publisher launched its ‘X journals:’ Relying on the editorial process of their ‘parent journals,’ X journals were the fully open-access derivatives of established outlets. In parallel, Elsevier continued to offer authors an open-access option for their publications within the established outlets. Exploiting this threefold variation, I cannot detect any impact of open access on citations within the incumbent journals. However, a large and adverse effect exists for the novel journals. This ‘X factor’ represents a nonnegligible entry barrier for potential competitors in the publishing market. One potential way to mitigate this can be strict open-access requirements for publications supported by grants. My findings highlight the challenges on the way to more open access and stronger competition in the academic publishing market.

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Walter Eucken Institute
Düsseldorf Institute for Competition Economics (DICE), Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf
Department for Management, Strategy, and Innovation, KU Leuven

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