A hybrid open-access journal is a subscription journal in which some of the articles are open access. This status typically requires the payment of a publication fee (also called an article processing charge or APC) to the publisher.
The concept was first proposed in 1998 when Thomas Walker suggested that authors could purchase extra visibility at a price. The first journal recognized as using this model was Walker's own Florida Journal of Entomology; it was later extended to the other publications of the Entomological Society of America. The idea was later refined by David Prosser in 2003 in the journal Learned Publishing.
Hybrid journals are low risk for publishers to set up, because they still receive subscription income, but the high price of hybrid APCs has led to low uptake of the hybrid open access option. In 2014 the average APC for hybrid journals was calculated to be almost twice as high as APCs from full open access publishers.
Some universities, research centers, foundations, and government agencies have funds designed to pay publication fees (APCs) of fee-based open access journals. Of these, some will pay publication fees of hybrid open access journals. However, policies about such payments differ. The Open Access Directory provides a list of funds that support open access journals, and provides information about which funds will pay fees of hybrid open access journals. A substantial number of funds (40%) will not reimburse APCs in hybrid journals, including Harvard University, CERN, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Columbia University and the Norwegian Research Council. The European Commission has also announced that the ninth framework program (Horizon Europe) will not cover the cost of APCs in hybrid journals. Science Europe has set up a coalition of European research funders (cOAlition S) who have explicitly ruled out reimbursing APCs in hybrid journals from 2020 with the express aim of driving a more rapid transition towards full open access.
Since one source of funds to pay for open access articles is the library subscription budget, it has been proposed that there needs to be a decrease in the subscription cost to the library in order to avoid 'double dipping' where an article is paid for twice - once through subscription fees, and again through an APC. For example, the Open Access Authors Fund of the University of Calgary Library (2009/09) requires that: "To be eligible for funding in this [hybrid open access] category, the publisher must plan to make (in the next subscription year) reductions to the institutional subscription prices based on the number of open-access articles in those journals." On November 12, 2009, Nature Publishing Group issued a news release on how open access affected its subscription prices.
A report on work carried out by the University of Nottingham since 2006 to introduce and manage an institutional open access fund has been published by Stephen Pinfield in Learned Publishing. In this article, the author comments that: "As publishers' income has increased from OA [open-access] fees in the hybrid model, there has been little or no let-up in journal subscription inflation, and only a small minority of publishers have yet committed to adjusting their subscription prices as they receive increasing levels of income from OA options."
An author who wants to publish in an open-access format is not limited to the relatively small number of "full" open-access journals, but can also choose from the available hybrid open-access journals, which includes journals published by many of the largest academic publishers.
However, the author must still find the money. Many funding agencies are ready to let authors use grant funds, or apply for supplementary funds, to pay publication fees at open-access journals. (Only a minority of open-access journals charge such fees, but nearly all hybrid open access journals do so.) So far, the funding agencies that are willing to pay these fees do not distinguish between full and hybrid open-access journals. On October 19, 2009, one such funding agency, the Wellcome Trust, expressed concerns about hybrid open-access fees being paid twice, through subscriptions and through publication fees.
If an author is unable to pay the fees or chooses not to do so, they often retain the right to share their work online by self-archiving in an open access repository.
The American Society of Plant Biologists has adopted a policy that articles contributed by society members to its journal, Plant Physiology, will be made open access immediately on publication at no additional charge. Non-member authors can receive OA through payment of $1,000, but since membership is only $115/year, it is expected this initiative will boost membership.