Some interesting news has come across my desk today, both as an open access advocate and someone who is based in a library.
The editorial board from the Journal of Library Administration has resigned in protest of the restrictive licensing policy imposed by its publisher Taylor & Francis (T&F). Brian Mathews includes the text of the resignation in his blog here.
They might not be aware of it, but the editorial board are following in the footsteps of other editorial boards. A webpage put together by the Open Access Directory called Journal declarations of independence lists examples of “the resignation of editors from a journal in order to launch a comparable journal with a friendlier publisher”. There are 20 journals listed on the pages, with the timeline running from 1989 to 2008.
What is a licensing policy?
For those people new to open access, a quick explainer. This is referring to the restrictions the publisher is imposing on what an author can do with copies of their published work. T&F say on their author pages that authors who have published work in a T&F journal are limited in what they can do with copies of the work:
- Authors are not allowed to deposit the Publisher’s Version
This is fine – the publisher does manage the peer review process and provide the electronic distribution platform. They also have investment in the layout and design of the page and the manufacture of the downloadable pdf. Most publishers do not allow the Published Version to be made available.
- Authors are allowed to put a copy of the Submitted Version (this is the version sent to the journal for peer review) into their institution’s web-based repository. In some disciplines this is called the pre-print. T&F rather confusingly call this the ‘Author’s Original Manuscript’.
So far so good – it seems quite generous. But in many disciplines, sharing the Submitted Version is inappropriate because it may contain errors which could reflect badly on the author, or even in some instances be dangerous to be made public without correction.
- Authors are allowed to put a copy of the Accepted Version (the author’s post-peer reviewed and corrected version) into the institutional repository. T&F call this the ‘Author’s Accepted Manuscript’.
Again this seems generous. But the author can only do this “twelve (12) months after the publication of the Version of Scholarly Record in science, engineering, behavioral science, and medicine; and eighteen (18) months after first publication for arts, social science, and humanities journals, in digital or print form”.
Bear in mind the peer review and amendment process can take many months and there is often a long delay between an article’s acceptance and publication. This means the work is only able to be made open access two to five (or more) years after the original research was done.
This is what the Journal of Library Administration editors were originally protesting about, and then they took exception to the suggestion by T&F that authors could take up the open access ‘option’ for a fee USD$2995 per article. This amount is far beyond the reach of most H&SS scholars.
The lure of the commercial publisher
Talking to stressed, overworked editors it is easy to see why allowing a commercial publisher to take over the responsibility of publishing their journal is attractive.
But there is a catch. For a start, in the conversations I have had to date with journal editors who have ‘sold’ their title to a commercial publisher, it seems there is no exchange of money for ‘goodwill’ in the way there would be for the sale of any other business.
In addition, when a commercial publisher owns a journal title, it means they impose their own copyright transfer agreements – which determine what the authors are able to do with their work. This is often more restrictive than what the independent editorial team was allowing.
But the most dramatic difference to operations when a previously independent journal is bought by a commercial publisher is the amount they charge for subscriptions. For example, the Journal of Australian Studies has a subscription which comes as part of the membership to the International Australian Studies Association (InASA). Members receive other benefits such as discounts to conferences. It costs AUD105 each year.
But if you consult the journal’s page on the T&F website the online subscription is USD781 and the Print & Online subscription is USD893.
It is not that T&F are the only ones, mind you. The Journal of Religious History is published by Wiley. Members of the Religious History Association can join for AUD45, and receive the print and online version of the journal. But subscriptions through Wiley range from USD593 for an institutional Print & Online subscription, to USD76 for a personal Print & Online subscription.
And when you start looking at Wiley’s permissions they are even more restrictive than T&F. Again the author can archive the Submitted Version, but for the Accepted Version there is an embargo of 0-24 months ‘depending on the journal’ and even then written permission from the publisher is required (good luck with that).
So what can journal editors do?
For a start remember that you are crucial to the success of a journal. Publishers rely on their editors absolutely to produce journals, which means you come into negotiations from a position of strength.
So if you are an editor of an independent journal and are considering ‘selling’ your journal to a commercial publisher the issues worth consideration include:
- What are the restrictions the publisher will place on the re-use of the work published in the journal? Do they align with your current (or intended future) position? Are they prepared to negotiate these with you?
- What will the subscription cost be to the journal? Does that mean some readers will not be able to afford subscriptions?
If you are the editor of a journal that is currently being published by a commercial publisher:
- Check out the restrictions imposed on your authors by looking the journal up in Sherpa/Romeo
- If those restrictions do not meet with the philosophy of the dissemination of your journal, consider contacting the publisher to request a less restrictive permissions policy
There is evidence that this has worked in the past. On 1 November 2011, T&F announced a two year pilot for Library and Information Science Journals, meaning that authors published in 35 library and information science journals have the right to deposit their Accepted Version into their institutional repository.
It seems that library journals have a reasonable track record on this front. In March this year- Emerald Group Publishing Limited announced a ‘special partnership’ with the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA). Under this agreement, papers that have their origins in an IFLA conference or project and are published in one of Emerald’s LIS journals can become open access nine months after publication.
Moving your journal to an online open access platform
If you are the editor of an independent journal and you are considering moving online, some questions to consider include:
- Who is your readership and how do they read the journal? In some cases the journal is read in lunchrooms in hospitals for example, so the printed version is necessary
- Can the journal go exclusively online and assist readers by providing an emailed alert for each issue?
There are many tools to assist journal editors manage the publication process. The Open Journal System (OJS) was developed by the Public Knowledge Project, and is an open source (free to download) program to manage journals.
Australian universities host many open access journals (listed here) with a considerable portion published using OJS. Most of these journals are run with some subsidy from the institution, and do not charge authors article processing charges. From the researcher’s perspective they are ‘free to publish, free to read’.
In addition, the National Library of Australia runs the Open Publish program which hosts many open access journals.
If you have questions about this and want to know more please leave a reply to this post.
Dr Danny Kingsley
Australian Open Access Support Group