As Open access (OA) is often perceived as the end goal of scholarly publishing, much research has focused on flipping subscription journals to an OA model. Focusing on what can happen after the presumed finish line, this study identifies journals that have converted from OA to a subscription model, and places these “reverse flips” within the greater context of scholarly publishing. In particular, we examine specific journal descriptors, such as access mode, publisher, subject area, society affiliation, article volume, and citation metrics, to deepen our understanding of reverse flips. Our results show that at least 152 actively publishing journals have reverse-flipped since 2005, suggesting that this phenomenon does not constitute merely a few marginal outliers, but instead a common pattern within scholarly publishing. Notably, we found that 62% of reverse flips (N = 95) had not been born-OA journals, but had been founded as subscription journals, and hence have experienced a three-stage transformation from closed to open to closed. We argue that reverse flips present a unique perspective on OA, and that further research would greatly benefit from enhanced data and tools for identifying such cases.
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