2016) Small scholar-led scholarly journals: can they survive and thrive in an open access future?. Learned Publishing, doi: 10.1002/leap.1015.(
Update March 12, 2016: this article is now available as open access, thanks to Learned Publishing and Wiley Online.
This article presents early results of a research project designed to further our understanding of how to ensure that small scholar-led journals can survive and thrive in a global open-access knowledge commons. This phase of the research focuses on generation of ideas through interviews and focus groups with 15 participants involved in producing small scholar-led journals that either are or would like to become open access. Although a couple of journals reported that they could survive in an open-access future based on existing resources, most were concerned about survival and none expressed confidence that they could thrive in an open-access future. These journals are far more diverse than one might imagine. Comparing the costs of article production from one journal with another might not make sense. A number of avenues for further research are discussed.
History of the article’s slightly delayed open access status follows to retain the explanation of my perspective on the article processing fee which in this case was waived by the publisher, without being requested.
*** Why was this article not immediate open access?
The primary reason for this line of research is to help scholar-led publishers to survive and thrive in an open access future. For this reason, I have chosen to publish in the journal of an association of such publishers, the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP). As explained on the ALPSP website, Learned Publishing “is the journal of the Association of Learned & Professional Society Publishers, published in collaboration with the Society for Scholarly Publishing…Published quarterly in print, Learned Publishing is distributed to all ALPSP members with online access to SSP members. All articles are free to view after 24 months”. Effective Jan. 2016, Learned Publishing is actually published by Wiley on behalf of ALPSP.
The journal itself illustrates the dilemma studied in this article: both societies recognize that open access is optimal for dissemination and are voluntarily providing the best access that they feel they can (free access to everyone after two years), however immediate open access is seen as a threat (perhaps rightly so) to the economic viability both of the journal and of the societies that jointly publish the journal.
There is a for-pay open access option of U.S. $2,102 for ALPSP members or U.S. $2,582 for non-members. As a non-member, the fee for me would be U.S. $2,582. At the Feb. 19 Bank of Canada currency exchange rate, that’s just under $4,000 Canadian.
I refuse to pay this amount on the following grounds:
- I oppose diverting funds intended for research to pay for OA APCs while the existing subscription-based service is still economically supported by universities. Many worthwhile research proposals in Canada are turned down, and many others are accepted but not funded because the money runs out.
- $4,000 is two-thirds of a full semester’s graduate student research assistantship at the University of Ottawa. Students in Canada are expected to pay tuition and deserve as much of this support as we can give them. Also, an RA in the amount of time funded in my experience contributes a great deal more to the research than the coordination of peer review, copyediting and layout work done by the publisher.
- The cost is nearly triple the average cost of an APC in a fully open access journal of under $1,000 U.S.
- The researchers who publish in Learned Publishing include professional publishers and others who are unlikely to have access to funding to pay for OA APCs. It is neither fair nor in the best interests of advancing our collective knowledge to have differences in the accessibility of articles based on the financial circumstances of authors.
Aside from the amount, it is more consistent with the aims of this particular piece of research (to help scholar-led publishers struggling with the transition to open access) to adjust to the circumstances of the community than it is to insist on open access. My advice for those who want open access to everything as soon as possible: let’s figure out how to get economic support to societies like ALPSP and SSP so that the journals and their societies can thrive in an open access environment. In the meantime, if you’d like to read the article and your library does not subscribe to the journal, try interlibrary loan or send me an e-mail request for the article.