Friday, June 01, 2012

Society publishers: time to quit whining and make the leap to open access

The Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP) just released a report called: The potential effect of making journals free after a six month embargo.  Conclusions are that: "the impact on all publishers’ revenues would be considerable" and "It is strongly recommended that no mandate is issued on making all or most journal articles available free of charge after a six month embargo until both libraries and publishers have had time to understand the issues better and have together taken steps to explore alternatives to a fully open access publishing model which could be mutually attractive".

Comment - in brief

This post will focus on the second argument, that time is needed to explore alternatives to a fully open access publishing model. In brief, both libraries and publishers have been in discussions about the need to transition to an appropriate publishing system for the World Wide Web for at least a decade and a half - ALPSP itself was talking about this at least as early as 1997. Most of us have moved far beyond the discussions stage. Libraries are actively providing support for open access publishing, including hosting and support services for faculty and society publishing and funds for article processing fees. There are close to 8,000 fully open access journals listed in DOAJ - many in the humanities and social sciences - including commercial journals that are turning a healthy profit, illustrating that open access is a viable business model. There are a great many supports available for publishers wishing to move to open access, including David Solomon's Developing open access journals: a practical guide and the SPARC guide on income models for open access. If publishers have not yet made the switch to open access, this is a clear indication that discussions and support for change is not enough; public policy is needed.


ALPSP itself has been discussing the need for change arising from the World Wide Web, through its journal Learned Publishing, since the journal first began in 1997. In April 1997, ALPSP published an article by R. Charkin called Scholarly communities on the World Wide Web
 in which the author points out that "Whatever happens it is clear that the world of scholarly publishing is going to change beyond recognition in the next decade – and most of that change is for the better". In 2000 - a full two years before the Budapest Open Access Initiative - R.S. Berry published an article in Learned Publishing called Full and open access to scientific information: an academic's view.

  •  SPARC is a coalition of libraries, initiated by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), that seeks to partner with scholarly publishers willing to enter markets where prices are highest and competition is needed. Through its activities, SPARC intends to reduce the risks to publisher-partners of entering the marketplace and to provide faculty with prestigious and responsive alternatives to current publishing vehicles.
Libraries, through SPARC and through other initiatives, have worked hard over the past decade and a half to help publishers transition to an optimal, sustainable approach to scholarly communication, with a primary focus on open access for approximately the last decade.

The majority of academic libraries in North America are now providing services for faculty and society publishing, as noted by Karla Hahn in 2008 and myself and my colleagues in 2010. There are now close to 8,000 fully open access journals listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals. Many libraries now have funds available to pay article processing fees for open access journals.


Scholarly communities on the World Wide Web
Author: Charkin R.
Source: Learned Publishing, Volume 10, Number 2, 1 April 1997 , pp. 109-112(4)


Communities’ has become a buzzword in the strategy departments of publishing companies. It is clear – and becoming clearer – that the Internet is not merely a potential information delivery route but a vehicle for bringing together communities. One of the problems, however, is that much of the scholarly activity on the Web is driven by people with a traditional information delivery role – writers, publishers, booksellers and subscription agents and librarians. Nobody questions the importance of these roles but community creation is different and requires skills which are frequently closer to caterers or advertising agencies or hoteliers. Time will tell how communities will develop. Whatever happens it is clear that the world of scholarly publishing is going to change beyond recognition in the next decade – and most of that change is for the better.

Full and open access' to scientific information: an academic's view
Author: Berry R.S.
Source: Learned Publishing, Volume 13, Number 1, 1 January 2000 , pp. 37-42(6)

Stimulated by the potential of electronic distribution of information, discussions, sometimes rather tense, about the ownership and proprietary rights to scientific publications have generated something of a polarization of the communities that have stakes in this issue. There are some 'middle-grounders', but the intensity of the discourse has made them less visible than the spokesmen for the extremes. In this forum, we examine these positions and then present a case for a specific policy, in light of the views of the parties.

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