Open Access Journals for Scholarly Societies

A few months ago Stuart Sheiber, the primary architect of Harvard’s open access policies, wrote about why open access is better for scholarly societies.

As he notes, many societies (as well as universities like Virginia Tech) use the word “disseminate” in their mission statement, yet it’s only recently that some are taking a closer look at how dissemination is carried out. It’s been an afterthought, though it should be an integral part of the research process. Obviously, it is far more effective to disseminate knowledge openly than behind a paywall. But removing the paywall leaves the question of a society’s sustainability.

More recently Heather Piwowar has posted a very helpful guide to some of the open access options for journals that her society has been looking into, and Eric Kansa has a great post that takes a wide-ranging look at sustainability for archaeological societies.

Sheiber argues strongly for author-side charges (sometimes called author processing charges or APCs) rather than reader-side charges (subscriptions). I agree that this should provide a more competitive market, largely due to increased transparency. And though author-side charges are working well for a number of journals, I have mixed feelings about them. Some fields don’t get much grant support, so charges can’t be written into them. Though Virginia Tech has an open access publishing fund to support these charges, most universities don’t. Those who do have grants may want to use the money for things other than publishing. Some funders may not allow charges to be covered, instead requiring article archiving.

Support for the costs of publishing is not limited to subscriptions or author-side fees, though. There are many possible funding models. One option is subsidized publishing from the university. Virginia Tech’s University Libraries is now promoting its journal publishing services. The library hosts the journal, and the Open Journal Systems (OJS) software allows editors to manage submissions and peer review (OJS also allows societies to charge author-side fees if desired).

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About Philip Young

Philip Young is the repository manager of VTechWorks, which provides global access to Virginia Tech scholarship. He also provides outreach to the university on open access, ORCiD, and Perma.cc.
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2 Responses to Open Access Journals for Scholarly Societies

  1. Richard Karpinski says:

    Let’s use a wildly different model. Start with the paper that has been written, revised, reviewed, accepted and published as the starting point for a discussion where readers can post questions. Each question can have things attached: answers, new questions including better versions of the same question, footnotes, and links to existing information. Answers can also have those plus pro and con arguments supporting or refuting that answer. And of course the footnotes and links can also acquire footnotes and links and new questions. The form is called IBIS and is supported by the Compendium Institute in free software. Better would be to provide such support within the new “federated wikis”.

    With federated wikis, each author copies the part she wishes to modify or extend to their own server and leaves the link to the original in her version. Thus the extensions are supported by their authors and available to all for further extension.

    Editors can extract and sign any parts they approve of and readers can follow their chosen editors easily.

    • Philip Young says:

      This sounds a bit like open peer review, which I haven’t posted about (yet), or more specifically post-peer review. From what I’ve read this kind of system depends heavily on having a committed community of contributors. Even then, your suggestion sounds overly complex. Kathleen Fitzpatrick has written a white paper that has an appendix listing many of the systems used or potentially of use in open peer review.

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