Reflections on the OAR Conference 2013

The QUT hosted the Open Access and Research Conference 2013 between 31 October – 1 November 2013. The conference was preceded by several half-day Pre-conference workshops on the 30 October.Screen Shot 2013-12-09 at 12.55.16 PM

Overall, the conference worked on the theme of Discovery, Impact and Innovation and aimed to provide an opportunity to reflect on the progress of Open Access and to consider the strategic advantages these developments bring to the research sector more generally. A broad spectrum of policy and research management issues were covered including advocacy, open innovation and alternative metrics.

There was a huge amount covered in the two days, and as always the opportunity to meet colleagues face to face after in some cases years of online collaboration was a highlight. The conference was filmed and the video recordings are linked on this page from presentations from Day One and Day Two below. The full program can be downloaded here.

This blog will summarise some of the key messages that emerged from the discussions. A caveat – these are a tiny sample of the whole event. For a bigger perspective see the Twitter feed: #OAR2013conf

Global and National Open Access Developments

The first day focused on Global and National Open Access Developments. The sessions covered the breadth of recent international initiatives.  Key messages are below

  • The current publishing model is not sustainable.

In the future the dominant model of publishing will have the web as the distribution. Managing and controlling a publishing environment of global publishers will be difficult. The ARC cannot be too prescriptive about open access models because it funds across so many domains. – Prof Aidan Byrne | Australian Research Council

  • The public remain depressingly confused about open access.

The web has been around for 20 years, after 10 years of monitoring the debates about open access it became clear that high profile universities in the USA and Europe were not going to take the lead on the policy front.  QUT then started implementing an open access policy in 2003. It took less than a year before it was endorsed by the University Academic Board. Prof Tom Cochrane | Queensland University of Technology

  • It is extremely important to ensure the definition of open access is consistent and includes detail about reuse of material.

Reuse included machine analysis of information. It is difficult to retrospectively add details into policies. It is also very helpful to tie this policy into existing policy platforms. The NIH policy has been extremely successful and more than 2/3 of the users of the research are outside the academy – Developing a Framework for Open Access Policies in the United States
 Heather Joseph | Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, United States

  • Having good open access requires: good policy development, infrastructure to support the open access system and advocacy of the policy.

Despite the gobsmackingly complex area that is European politics, they have managed to pull off the Horizon2020 policy development. The policy is consistent across the European Union and beyond. Part of the reason it succeeded was a huge campaign of 18,000 signatures from the research community. – Open Access Developments in Europe
 Dr Alma Swan | Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, Europe

  • Australia is building real momentum in the open access area.

Now one quarter of Australian institutions have open access policies, there are several open access monograph presses, and both government funding bodies are mandating open access to funded research outputs – Open Access Developments in Australia 
Dr Danny Kingsley | Australian Open Access Support Group

  • Chinese publishers are increasingly ambitious in the international market.

Publication in China is oriented towards evaluation of academia, and is only undertaken by state owned publishers, many enjoying subsidy from the government. There are about 1000 open access journals in China, many with a higher than average impact factor. The centralised platform of 89 institutional repositories called GRID (Chinese Academy of Science IR) – with over 400,000 full text items. – Open Access Developments in China
 Dr Xiang Ren | University of Southern Queensland

  • India is a net importer of knowledge – so open access helps India.

While India is not playing a significant role in open science and scholarship it is addressing ‘open’ issues elsewhere. There is a National Repository for open education, India has adopted the AustLI model for access to legal Acts, there are also interesting developments in the patent space to allow access to cheaper drugs. – Opening India 
Prof Shamnad Basheer | National University of Juridical Sciences, India

  • A good policy requires deposit immediately on acceptance for publication.

This ensures things are deposited and there are ways to allow researchers to have access to papers even during the embargoes. Waiting until the end of an embargo potentially loses use and application during that period – OA: A Short History of the Problem and Its Solution
 Prof Stevan Harnad | University of Southampton, United Kingdom

  • It is good to reach out to communities in their own language.

Open access advocacy in developing countries uses a range of tools, from high level stakeholders and influential researchers through to radio talk shows and actively engaging the community. Tools like usage statistics and live examples have proved successful. Open Access Advocacy in Developing and Transition Countries
 Iryna Kuchma | Electronic Information for Libraries, Ukraine

  • The open and networked web can be exploited to solve complex scientific problems.

For this to work it is important to have research outcomes that are reproducible or repurposable. It requires communicating research to different audiences who have different needs for support and functionality. Currently we do not have the data or models we need to analyse the system of scholarly outputs. We must not lose control of data into proprietary hands. Network Ready Research: Architectures and Instrumentation for Effective Scholarship
 Dr Cameron Neylon | Public Library of Science, United Kingdom

  • Altmetrics are a researcher’s footprint in the community.

They complement traditional metrics and research evaluation. Researchers thinking about a research impact strategy and funding agencies might want to include an impact statement in their Final Reports. – Altmetrics as Indicators of Public Impact
 Pat Loria | Charles Sturt University

Video of presentations from Day One

Open Data, Open Innovation and Open Access Publishing

The second day featured thematic sessions – focusing on specific areas of research and information management necessary to the advancement of Open Access. Specifically Open Data, Open Innovation and Open Access Publishing. Key messages:

  • Having a mandate alone is not enough.

An empty repository is useless, a partly filled repository is partly useless. It doesn’t work spontaneously – there is a need for an institutional policy that must be enforced. The Liege repository has 60,000+ items with 60% full text available – as only articles are mandated. The average number of downloads for items is 61.73. – Perspectives of a Vice-Chancellor Prof Bernard Rentier | University of Liège, Belgium

  • The patent system is supposed to lubricate the system but is increasingly throwing sand into the gears.

Copyright protects expression and patents protect functionality. Strong patents mean people make investments in order for people to convert ideas into product. However there is increasing concern that actual and potential litigation are not just costly but actually inhibiting innovation. The Economics of Open Innovation
 Prof Adam Jaffe | Motu Economic and Public Policy Research, New Zealand

  • Open stuff is useless unless you can translate it to something that means something.

We are no longer moving physical things, we are now moving information through the knowledge space. Because patents are jurisdictional there are many other countries that can use the patented information. The new facility The Lens is a map of the patent world allowing innovators worldwide to access all of the knowledge held in the patent system. “Solving the Problem of Problem Solving”: How Open Access will Shift the Demographics of Innovation to Create a More Fair Society and More Resilient Global Economy.
 Prof Richard Jefferson | Cambia

  • If monographs are behind paywalls when journals are free there is a problem for monographs.

The systems supporting scholarly communication via the monograph are falling down. Under the Knowledge Unlatched model libraries from around the world collaborate to share the publications. This spreads the costs of OA across many institutions globally. It ensures HSS books are accessible as OA journals. Libraries should avoid double dipping – if they were going to buy the titles on the startup list, sign up for KU instead. Knowledge Unlatched
 Dr Lucy Montgomery | Knowledge Unlatched

  • It is not adequate to ignore the humanities and say ‘we will deal with monographs later’

With monographs IP is not about capitalism but it is recompensation for the professional labour of editorial input that is significant and inherent to the quality of the product. The format is not important in policy setting (pixels or print). Ideally there would be a shared infrastructure that everyone can tap into, but this needs startup assistance. Free as in Love: the Humanities and Creative Arts in Open Access Publishing
 Dr John Byron | Book Industry Collaborative Council

  • We need to be thinking of knowledge as a network and an infrastructure – a common intellectual conversation and a quest for knowledge.

At the core scholarly communication is about communicating new knowledge. The default price on items online. The marginal cost of serving one more copy of an article is zero (more or less). The license is the one thing that does not cost anything – the more people reading doesn’t change the first copy costs. The question is how to charge for what actually costs money. There is a need to protect and retain core business but innovate on the non-core processes. Innovation in the Age of Open Access Publishing 
Dr Caroline Sutton | Co-Action Publishing, Sweden

Video of presentations from Day Two

Assessing research impact: AOASG submission

Measuring the impact of research has been on and off the government’s agenda for many years now. Originally part of the Research Quality Framework, impact was removed from the 5880919002_b92743b247_mExcellence in Research for Australia during its trial in 2009.

Due to its increasing relevance, measuring impact was trialled again in 2012 by the Australian Technology Network and the final report from this study: “Excellence in innovation: Research impacting our nation’s future – assessing the benefits” was released in November 2012.

Plans to assess impact

The Department of Innovation is currently exploring options for the design and development of an impact assessment program. It intends to pilot this in 2014.

As part of this process, the Department released a Discussion Paper in July 2013– “Assessing the wider benefits arising from university-based research

The Paper seeks the “views of interested parties regarding a future assessment of the benefits arising from university-based research”.

Before research administrators throw their hands up at yet another assessment program, the Discussion Paper does recognise the overwhelming compliance burden on universities and the need to simplify this burden. . The Preamble states that plans include “scaling back and streamlining a number of current data collection and analysis exercises”.

Overall, the Government believes that a research benefit assessment will:

  1. demonstrate the public benefits attributable to university-based research;
  2. identify the successful pathways to benefit;
  3. support the development of a culture and practices within universities that encourage and value research collaboration and engagement; and
  4. further develop the evidence base upon which to facilitate future engagement between the research sector and research users, as well as future policy and strategy.

Submission from AOASG

AOASG prepared a submission in response to the discussion paper proposing that open access should be a measurable for assessing impact and that some reward should be associated with making work freely and openly available.

All submissions will be made available to the public on the Dept of Innovation website. In anticipation, the AOASG submission is copied below.

Response to principles from the paper

NOTE: AOASG chose to only respond to Principles 1, 3 and 5.

Principle 1 – Provide useful information to universities

Principle 1 is to be applauded. It is sensible and practical to marry the types of data required with the types of data the Universities are already producing. This will minimise the burden on Universities in aggregating data and producing reports.

Open access repositories in Australian universities are developed in a finite set of software with common underlying code – OAI-PMH. This allows for aggregation and harvesting across multiple platforms. Such repositories usually maintain statistics about individual works, such as the number of downloads and places where these downloads have originated.

Prior to developing or recommending any specific data for reporting on impact, we suggest that a survey be conducted of university libraries to gather information on the type of data collection methods already in place within open access repositories. This also has the benefit of supporting Principle 2 – Minimise administrative burden.

Principle 3 – Encourage research engagement and collaboration, and research that benefits the nation

Principle 3 notes that this assessment should encourage and assist universities to “better recognise and reward (for example in recruitment and promotion exercises) the contribution of academics to engagement and collaborative activities”. A fundamental component of this assessment is an academic’s involvement in open access and their approach to making research freely available.

Many Australian researchers share their work with the broader community by placing a copy of it in their institutional repository, or in a subject-based repository such as PubMed Central, SSRN, arXiv, or RePEc. The ARC & NHMRC open access policies are likely to encourage more researchers to follow this trend. However, currently there is no aggregated data, and little individual data, on the extent to which Australian researchers are making their own work available. In addition, some researchers also widen the accessibility of research outputs by working as editors, publishers and reviewers for open access journals published out of Australian universities. A definitive list is currently being developed of these journals however this list does not indicate the level and extent of open access activity in the country.  The efforts of academics and researchers to share research openly is currently not measured nor rewarded through any promotion or funding incentives.

Principle 5 – Collect and assess at the institution level, with some granularity by discipline

Principle 5 – is a good suggestion given that some types of research will naturally have a wider impact than others. Impact will also vary over time with some research outputs producing impact after a considerable time and others making immediate significant impact. It is more challenging to articulate the benefit to wider society of research in, say, pure inorganic chemistry than, for example, forestry. When considering the need to granulate the information available, the benefit of using data from open access repositories as suggested above, is the metadata for each record contains information about the author, subjects and clearly the institution.

Response to methodological considerations

What considerations should guide the inclusion of metrics within the assessment?

It has become clear that the established measurement systems such as the Journal Impact Factor (JIF) can be affected by those who seek to manipulate the outcomes. A recent clear example this is occurring is the JIF decision to suppress a larger than usual number of titles this year due to “anomalous citation patterns resulting in a significant distortion of the Journal Impact Factor”. Any reliance on metrics as a measure of quality and/or use of research needs to consider attempts to manipulate new measures as a potential outcome. One way of minimising data manipulation is to use a mix of qualitative and quantitative measures.

What information do universities currently collect that might form the basis for research engagement metrics?

As noted above in section 2 all Australian universities and CSIRO have an open access institutional repository. Such repositories usually collect information on the research that is available, how often it has been downloaded and where the interest has originated.

What metrics are currently available (or could be developed) that would help to reveal other pathways to research benefit?

The act of making a work open access creates a pathway to research benefit. Open access increases the potential impact of the work because it ensures the work can be accessed, applied or built upon by other researchers, industry, practitioners and the public. On this basis, we propose that the act of making research publicly available is a fundamental metric of assessing research benefit. This would also support and endorse the open access policies of the ARC & NHMRC. The metric could be twofold – at the individual researcher level (in terms of promotion) and/or at the institutional level.

While in some cases publisher copyright conditions will prevent work being made available, having an appropriate version of the work deposited in a repository with a ‘Request copy’ button facilitating access could be considered ‘making it available’ for this purpose.

Repositories capture article download information at the level of the individual article. This data could also be used as a metric of a pathway to research benefit. There is a proven link between making work open access and citations. The general collection of download statistics would be only one of several measures that can be aggregated to demonstrate interest in an use of research (see the next point).

In addition to ERA, NSRC, GDS, AusPat and HERDC data, are there other existing data collections that may be of relevance?

Recently there has been a move to develop a series of metrics that assess the value of individual articles rather than placing value on the journal or publication in which the article appeared. These article level metrics offer real time feedback about the way a research article is being used.

One example is the metrics page provided for a published article that lists the number of HTML views, PDF downloads, XML downloads as well as the number of citations and where the article has been shared on social media, such as through Twitter. There are however, many other examples of article level metrics already in existence. Examples include: Altmetric, ImpactStory, Plum Analytics & PLOS ALM. Discussion of research on social media sites indicates a level of impact beyond the confines of the scholarly publication system, with the added benefit of being instantly and easily quantifiable. The timeliness and convenience of these metrics addresses the need for “current information on the prospect of benefits from research” as identified in the Discussion Paper.

What are the challenges of using these data collections to assess research engagement?

It will be necessary to determine which sets of article level metrics are the most appropriate for specific purpose. There may be a need for some aggregation to correlate several sets of metrics about the same item.

Response to ‘other comments’ section

We have two suggestions for additions to Appendix A – “Examples of possible metrics”.

An additional Research engagement mechanism could be “Provision of research outputs in a publicly and freely available outlet”. The Measure could be “The percentage of research that is freely and publicly available within 6 months of publication”, and the Source would be “Institutional repositories, subject based repositories or open access publications”.

Currently one of the research engagement mechanisms listed is “Research engagement via online publications”. The measure suggested is “Unique article views per author” and the source is “Websites such as The Conversation”. We are in full support of this suggestion. The Conversation is an opportunity for researchers to discuss their work in accessible language and the author dashboard for The Conversation provides comprehensive metrics about readership.

However we suggest there are other metrics within the classification of ‘online publications’. Open access repositories can provide metrics on unique article views per author. We therefore suggest an additional source being “Institutional repositories, and other article level metrics”.

Four issues restricting widespread green OA in Australia

Australia is a world leader in many aspects of open access. We have institutional repositories in all universities, funding mandates with the two main funding bodies, statements on or mandates for open access at a large number of institutions and a large research output available in many open access avenues. A summary of centrally supported initiatives in this area is here.

However we can do more. This blog outlines four impediments to the widespread uptake of open access in Australia: a lack of data about what Australian research is available, Copyright transfer agreements, the academic reward system and improved national discovery services. We suggest some solutions for each of these issues.

Issue 1 – Lack of data about what Australian research is available OA.

We collect good data in Australia there is good data about the amount of research being created and published annually. Equally, a considerable amount of Australian research is being made available to the wider community through deposit of research in institutional repositories, subject based repositories (PubMed Central, arXiv , SSRN and the like), through publication in open access journals.

However, this information is not compiled in a way to ascertain:
1. What percentage of current Australian research is available open access.
2. Where Australian research is being made available (institutional or subject-based repositories and open access journals).
3. The disciplinary spread of open access materials – an important indicator of areas needing attention.

Without this information it will be difficult to ascertain the level of impact the ARC and NHMRC policies are having on the availability of open access material from current Australian research. There are three actions that could help inform this area.

Solution 1

First it would be enormously helpful to know the percentage of Australian publications that are available open access.

There have been two definitive studies published on worldwide open access availability. Björk et al’s 2010 study concluded that 21% of research published in 2008 was openly accessible in 2009. Gargouri et al’s 2012 study found 24% of research was openly accessible.

But in these studies the method used to determine which work was available was to search for the items manually across several search platforms. This is clearly very time consuming. A study like this in Australia will require funding.

Solution 2

Second we need an easily accessible summary of the number of full text open access items in institutional repositories across the country. In an attempt to address this, the National Library of Australia aggregates research outputs from all Australian university repositories into Trove, and is working with the sector to improve discoverability and metrics around this collection. One challenge is that some repositories do not specify whether records have an open access full text item attached.

This issue was raised during a poll of repository managers in 2012. The poll found that as at June that year there were about 200,000 open access articles, theses and archive material (which includes images) in Australian university institutional repositories. Currently there is no automated way of obtaining an updated figure.

Solution 3

Third, a compliance monitoring tool needs to be developed to assist the ARC and NHMRC manage their open access policies. Currently all institutional repositories in Australia are implementing a standardised field in their repositories to indicate an item results from funding. But to date there is no indication of how this might be harvested and reported on.

Issue 2 – Copyright transfer agreements

As AOASG has already noted, there is a serious challenge keeping up with copyright agreements as they change. In reality, it is extremely difficult for an individual researcher to remain across all of the nuances of the copyright agreements. There have been studies to demonstrate that doing the copyright checking on behalf of the researcher increases deposits into repositories.

But the broader problem is actually two fold. First researchers often have little understanding of the copyright status of their published work. Many do not read the copyright transfer agreements they sign before publication. In addition, most researchers do not keep a copy of these legal documents. While there is currently some advice for researchers about copyright management, such as this page from the University of Sydney, generally awareness of copyright remains poor amongst the research community.

But before we start wagging our fingers at researchers, let’s consider the second, related issue. The copyright transfer agreements presented to researchers by publishers are often many pages long, written in small font and hard to understand. In addition these agreements are not consistent – they differ between publishers and often titles from the same publisher have different agreements.

Generally publishers ask researchers to assign exclusive copyright to them. But in most cases publishers only need the right of first publication of work, and normally do not need to control how research is used and distributed beyond this. There are options for researchers to negotiate different arrangements with their publishers, but the level of uptake of these in Australia is anecdotally very low.

It is highly unlikely there is any specific action that can force publishers to simplify their copyright transfer agreements. But there are a couple of actions the research community can make to improve the current situation.

Solution 4

It would help to have an Australian version of the SPARC Author Addendum tool which can be attached to copyright transfer agreements. This would need to be supported by a concerted education campaign about what rights researchers have, including training materials.

Solution 5

In addition the many researchers in Australia who work as editors for scholarly journals are in a good position to negotiate these arrangements with their publishers on behalf of their authors. An education campaign aimed at journal editors would assist them in this action.

Issue 3 – The academic reward system

The academic reward system supports the current publishing status quo. Widespread uptake of open access will continue to be a challenge while this is the case. A reliance on a numerical analysis of the number of articles published in journals with high Journal Impact Factors as a proxy for quality assessment is a narrow and limiting system.

There are many issues with the Journal Impact Factor. It also causes challenges for open access is it retains emphasis on a small number of specific journals which are in, the vast majority, subscription based. Yet there is evidence to show that open access & subscription journals of the same age have the same impact, indicating that it is time to look at other methods of assessing quality.

Currently the markers used to assess promotion do not differ much from those used for grant allocation. However, the contribution made by researchers to their academic community reaches far beyond simply their publication output. This includes editing journals and the peer review of papers. As there is currently no quantification of this work, the extent of the problem is unknown, although concerns about work overload have been expressed by the academic community. There are serious implications for the sustainability of scholarly publication in terms of human capital.

Solution 6

We need to move to assessment based on article level metrics rather than the organ of publication. It would be helpful if assessments such as ERA and funding allocation were to embrace new, existing alternative metrics. Examples include: Impact Story, Plum Analytics, PLOS ALM, Altmetrics and Google Scholar.

Solution 7

Institutions could consider recognising the hidden work academics undertake supporting the publication process in their promotion rounds. Recognition of peer review and editing roles as well as those researchers who are also publishing journals by running an open access journal using OJS or the like would add value to these activities and make the scholarly publication system more sustainable.

Issue 4 – Improved national discovery services

This last issue is in some ways, related to the first – knowing more about where the research we are producing is ending up. But it has a broader remit, for example incorporating data as a research outcome. Currently researchers can register their data with Research Data Australia which lists over 87,000 collections from over 23,000 contributing research teams.

We need to move beyond simply collecting research, and start working on ways to link data as research outcomes to reports on research publications.

During 2004 and 2008 the Australian Partnership for Sustainable Repositories (APSR) provided assistance and support for the repository community and developed technical solutions relating to interoperability and other repository issues.

APSR was supported by Systemic Infrastructure Initiative (SII) funding [note original post said NCRIS funding – thanks to David Groenewegen for pointing out the error. Amended 16 August]. When this ended, repository manager support was taken over by CAIRSS, financed in 2009-2010 by remainder money from another SII funded project, Australian Research Repositories Online to the World (ARROW) . The university library community through CAUL continued to support this project in 2011-2012 and the work has now been folded into the responsibility of another CAUL committee.

But the work APSR did developing country-wide technical solutions has not continued. Currently repositories around the country are being developed and maintained in isolation from one another.

Solution 8

An investment in current institutional repositories to increase functionality and interoperability will assist compliance with mandates (both Australian and international) and usability into the future. It will also enable a resolution of the metadata issue for country-wide harvesting by Trove.

Solution 9

We suggest revisiting support for country-wide technical development of solutions to common problems facing repositories throughout Australia. An example of a project that could be undertaken is the Funders and Authors Compliance Tool developed in the UK – SHERPA/FACT. This assists researchers to comply with open access mandates.

Dr Danny Kingsley
Executive Officer
Australian Open Access Support Group

Journal editors take note – you have the power

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:

  1. Check out the restrictions imposed on your authors by looking the journal up in Sherpa/Romeo
  2. 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
Executive Officer
Australian Open Access Support Group