Economic and Social Returns on Investment in Open Archiving Publicly Funded Research Outputs

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The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) provided support for a feasibility study, to outline one possible approach to measuring the impacts of the proposed US Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) on returns to public investment in R&D. The aim is to define and scope the data collection requirements and further model developments necessary for a more robust estimate of the likely impacts of the proposed FRPAA open archiving mandate.

The study was authored by John Houghton with Bruce Rasmussen and Peter Sheehan of the Centre for Strategic Economic Studies at Victoria University.

Preliminary modeling suggests that over a transitional period of 30 years from implementation, the potential incremental benefits of the proposed FRPAA archiving mandate might be worth around 8 times the costs. Perhaps two-thirds of these benefits would accrue within the US, with the remainder spilling over to other countries. Hence, the US national benefits arising from the proposed FRPAA archiving mandate might be of the order of 5 times the costs.

Exploring sensitivities in the model we find that the benefits exceed the costs over a wide range of values. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine any plausible values for the input data and model parameters that would lead to a fundamentally different answer.These preliminary estimates are based on the information available to us at the time of writing. They are released in conjunction with an online model, which enables others to explore their own preferred values for the various parameters.

The model and this report can be found at



Background and aims

The model and its operationalization

Preliminary results

  • Modeled impacts on returns to R&D
  • Comparing costs and benefits
  • Potential impacts of an open archiving mandate
  • Sensitivity in the model

Next steps

Annex I: An outline of the model

  • Returns to R&D in a simple Solow-Swan model
  • Contributions to growth and total factor productivity
  • Estimating the rate of return to R&D
  • Incorporating the efficiency of research and accessibility of knowledge
  • Some methodological notes on the model

Annex II: Operationalizing the model

  • Returns to R&D: sources and rationale for the range to be modeled
  • Accessibility: sources and rationale for the range to be modeled
  • Efficiency: sources and rationale for the range to be modeled
  • Other parameters: sources and rationale for the range to be modeled
  • Data: sources and rationale for the base case values