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Open Access Publication in the Spotlight (October 2020) - 'The Financial Impact of Fossil Fuel Divestment'

Date:03 October 2020
Author:Open Access Team
Article in the Spotlight October 2020
Article in the Spotlight October 2020

Each month, the open access team of the University of Groningen Library (UB) puts a recent open access article by UG authors in the spotlight. This publication is highlighted via social media and the library’s newsletter and website.

The article in the spotlight for the month of October 2020 is titled The financial impact of fossil fuel divestment , co-authored by Auke Plantinga and Bert Scholtens (Faculty of Economics and Business).


The fossil fuel divestment movement tries to increase awareness about the need for climate action and heralds divestment from fossil fuel producers as a means to combat climate change. Financial investors are increasingly showing interest in the non-financial impact of companies they invest in, i.e. responsible investing. However, they also want to be assured of sufficient returns and limited risks to support the living costs of their ultimate beneficiaries. In this context, we investigate the impact of divestment and the transition of the energy system on investment performance. We rely on an international sample of almost seven thousand companies and study a period of forty years. Further, we investigate scenarios with very different pathways to the transition of the energy system. We find that the investment performance of portfolios that exclude fossil fuel production companies does not significantly differ in terms of risk and return from unrestricted portfolios. This finding holds even under market conditions that would benefit the fossil fuel industry. We conclude that divesting from fossil fuel production does not result in financial harm to investors, even when fossil fuels continue to play a dominant role in the energy mix for some time.

We asked Auke and Bert a few questions about their publication:

This article was published open access, was open access a deliberate choice?

We are very happy with the option of doing so, as we think our work should be accessible by each and everyone. It allows researchers who are employed with institutions who don't subscribe to the journal to get access and to keep up with the academic debate. More importantly, policy makers and interest groups – who typically don’t have access to academic journals – can also read our paper. As such, a much wider audience than previously had access can inform themselves about the ongoing debate, new findings, etc. We had some funds from previous projects that allowed us to pay the open access fee.

According to Altmetrics , which traces metrics and qualitative data that are complementary to traditional, citation-based metrics, this article got a lot of attention on social media. For example, at least 94 different Twitter-users mentioned this article. In your experience, is there a difference in the amount (and maybe also the type) of attention and feedback that an article receives between open access and closed access publications? 

Ha, we were not aware. But we noticed that it received loads of reactions on LinkedIn, which is not a place where we ourselves look for what is going on in our field. Thus, it shows that others might prefer other sources to get informed. It is hard to compare and to assess. As academics, we of course are primarily engaged in the academic debate and hope others will progress with our methods and research design. We really like to discuss with our colleagues about how to improve our models and techniques. Most responses on social media were 'thumbs up'. That is encouraging, but we really prefer a dialogue and then these media and not very practical it seems. We think it mainly is content that is important and that high-quality research will end up where it should. The medium as such is, well, the medium.

Could you reflect on your experiences with open access and open science in general?

We are not that seasoned in open access publishing. We felt confused though about the university and faculty policy in this regard. These policies suggest we should publish our work open access, but don't provide the required funding. Our faculty does provide partial funding (but not infinite). So, if you want to publish open access, you require your own funds to do so. With this publication, we felt it was worth it.

You used your own funds to pay for the article processing charge (APC) to make your article open access. Were you aware that the university has open access deals with academic publishers that provide UG-authors discounts on the APC? In many cases the discount is 100%, so you can publish open access for free. For Climate Policy, a journal from publisher Taylor & Francis, a 100% discount on the APC is available .    

Yes, such deals exist on paper. When I (Bert) tried to follow the instructions that Taylor & Francis provided, I got stuck. I was sent to the VSNU website, then to the UG, and then Taylor & Francis indicated my credentials were not good. We ended up paying the APC from our own funds. Maybe the library can help in streamlining this process? I am afraid I was not the only one who ran into trouble here. 

The open access team of the library is indeed talking to Taylor & Francis about their workflow. Recently it was discovered that there is an annoying error in the T&F workflow: In the drop down menu where the author has to select his or her affiliation, there are two mentions of ‘University of Groningen’. Unfortunately, the first mention (which most authors are likely to select) contains an error: the APC discount option does not appear, which probably leads to a lot of confusion. We have urged T&F to fix this quickly. 

If you as a UG-author run into complications like this, or in general have questions regarding open access, don’t hesitate to contact the library’s open access team at . We urge you not to pay any APC yourself when a full discount is available. 

Useful links:

Journal browser: search engine that can be used to check if an APC discount is available for a specific journal provides an overview of the open access deals and gives details about the workflow that the publishers use. 

openaccess ask all your open access-related questions to the library’s open access team

Altmetrics: traces metrics and qualitative data that are complementary to traditional, citation-based metrics. UG staff can register to get access to the Altmetrics Explorer. LinkedIn data used to be included in Altmetrics, but recently LinkedIn has blocked access for Altmetrics.


Plantinga, A., & Scholtens, B. (2020). The financial impact of fossil fuel divestment. Climate Policy, 1–13. doi:10.1080/14693062.2020.1806020

If you would like us to highlight your open access publication here, please get in touch with us.

About the author

Open Access Team
The Open Access team of the University of Groningen Library

Link: /openaccess
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