Scholarly journal publishing in transition – from restricted to open access

Authors : Bo-Christer Björk

While the business models used in most segments of the media industry have been profoundly changed by the Internet surprisingly little has changed in the publishing of scholarly peer reviewed journals. Electronic delivery has become the norm, but the same publishers as before are still dominating the market, selling content to subscribers.

This article asks the question why Open Access (OA) to the output of mainly publicly funded research hasn’t yet become the mainstream business model. OA implies a reversal of revenue logic from readers paying for content to authors paying for dissemination via universal free access.

The current situation is analyzed using Porter’s five forces model. The analysis demonstrates a lack of competitive pressure in this industry, leading to so high profit levels of the leading publishers that they have not yet felt a strong need to change the way they operate.

OA funded by article publishing charges (APCs) might nevertheless start rapidly becoming more common. The driving force currently consists of the public research funders and administrations in Europe, which are pushing for OA by starting dedicated funds for paying the APCs of authors from the respective countries.

This has in turn lead to a situation in which publishers have introduced “big deals” involving the bundling of (a) subscription to all their  journals, (b) APCs for their hybrid journals and (c) in the future also APCs to their full OA journals.

This appears to be a relatively risk free strategy for the publishers in question to retain their dominance of the market and high profit levels also in the future.


Laying Tracks as the Train Approaches: Innovative Open Access Book Publishing at Heidelberg University from the Editors’ Point of View

Authors : Andrea Hacker, Elizabeth Corrao

In April 2016, Heidelberg University’s newly founded open access publisher heiUP launched the first volume of the new book series Heidelberg Studies in Transculturality.

This article reports on the challenges, accomplishments, and setbacks that informed the entire editorial production process, not only of the first volume but also of the series and the publishing enterprise overall.

The authors offer insights on crucial issues that any new open access publishing endeavour at an institution might face, namely acquiring manuscripts, designing and building workflows, and collaborating with partners to build an outlet for hosting the finished product.

This article also illustrates how the goal of providing a new digital reading experience through an innovative HTML format, in addition to print-on-demand and PDF versions of each manuscript, affected the progress of the entire project. Finally, we report on what it took to deliver results.


Open access articles receive more citations in hybrid marine ecology journals

Author : Jeff C. Clements

The accumulation of evidence that open access publishing can increase citation rates highlights one benefit of universal accessibility to scholarly works. However, studies investigating the effect of open access publishing on citations are typically conducted across a wide variety of journals and disciplines, introducing a number of potential issues and limiting their utility for specific disciplines.

Here, I used three primary marine ecology journals with an open access option as a “microcosm” of scientific publishing to determine whether or not open access articles received more citations than non-open access articles during the same time frame, controlling for self-citations, article type, and journal impact factor.

I also tested for the effects of time since publication and the number of authors. Citations were positively correlated with time since publication and differed across the three journals. In addition, open access articles received significantly more citations than non-open access articles.

Self-citations increased with author number and were affected by a complex interaction between open access, journal, and time since publication. This study demonstrates that open access articles receive more citations in hybrid marine ecology journals, although the causal factors driving this trend are unknown.

URL : Open access articles receive more citations in hybrid marine ecology journals


Open-Access Mega-Journals: A Bibliometric Profile

Authors : Simon Wakeling, Peter Willett, Claire Creaser, Jenny Fry, Stephen Pinfield, Valérie Spezi

In this paper we present the first comprehensive bibliometric analysis of eleven open-access mega-journals (OAMJs).

OAMJs are a relatively recent phenomenon, and have been characterised as having four key characteristics: large size; broad disciplinary scope; a Gold-OA business model; and a peer-review policy that seeks to determine only the scientific soundness of the research rather than evaluate the novelty or significance of the work. Our investigation focuses on four key modes of analysis: journal outputs (the number of articles published and changes in output over time); OAMJ author characteristics (nationalities and institutional affiliations); subject areas (the disciplinary scope of OAMJs, and variations in sub-disciplinary output); and citation profiles (the citation distributions of each OAMJ, and the impact of citing journals).

We found that while the total output of the eleven mega-journals grew by 14.9% between 2014 and 2015, this growth is largely attributable to the increased output of Scientific Reports and Medicine.

We also found substantial variation in the geographical distribution of authors. Several journals have a relatively high proportion of Chinese authors, and we suggest this may be linked to these journals’ high Journal Impact Factors (JIFs).

The mega-journals were also found to vary in subject scope, with several journals publishing disproportionately high numbers of articles in certain sub-disciplines.

Our citation analsysis offers support for Björk & Catani’s suggestion that OAMJs’s citation distributions can be similar to those of traditional journals, while noting considerable variation in citation rates across the eleven titles.

We conclude that while the OAMJ term is useful as a means of grouping journals which share a set of key characteristics, there is no such thing as a “typical” mega-journal, and we suggest several areas for additional research that might help us better understand the current and future role of OAMJs in scholarly communication.

URL : Open-Access Mega-Journals: A Bibliometric Profile


Should Indian researchers pay to get their work published?

Authors : Muthu Madhan, Siva Shankar Kimidi, Subbiah Gunasekaran, Subbiah Arunachalam

We raise the financial and ethical issue of paying for getting papers published in professional journals. Indian researchers have published more than 37,000 papers in over 880 open access journals from 61 countries in the five years 2010-14 as seen from Science Citation Index Expanded.

This accounts for about 14.4% of India’s overall publication output, considerably higher than the 11.6% from the world. Indian authors have used 488 OA journals levying article processing charge (APC), ranging from INR 500 to US$5,000, in the five years to publish about 15,400 papers.

More than half of these papers were published in just 13 journals. PLoS One and Current Science are the OA journals Indian researchers use most often. Most leading Indian journals are open access and they do not charge APC. Use of OA journals levying APC has increased over the four years from 242 journls and 2557 papers in 2010 to 328 journals and 3,634 papers in 2014.

There has been an increase in the use of non-APC journals as well, but at a lower pace. About 27% of all Indian papers in OA journals are in ‘Clinical Medicine,’ and 11.7% in ‘Chemistry.’ Indian researchers have used nine mega journals to publish 3,100 papers.

We estimate that India is potentially spending about US$2.4 million annually on APCs and suggest that it would be prudent for Indian authors to make their work freely available through interoperable repositories, a trend that is growing significantly in Latin America and China, especially when research is facing a funding crunch.

We further suggest bringing all Indian OA journals on to a single platform similar to SciELO, and all repositories be harvested by CSIR-URDIP which is already managing the OA repositories of the laboratories of CSIR, DBT and DST.

Such resource sharing will not only result in enhanced efficiency and reduced overall costs but also facilitate use of standard metadata among repositories.


Cost hurdles to open access publishing: A citizen scientist perspective

 Author : Wenfa Ng

Besides offering fun activities for non-scientists to explore the natural world through experiments, simulations or games, the evolving concept of citizen science is increasingly allowing some serious publication quality science to be published by the practitioners (citizen scientists) themselves.

The latter is in contrast to the common perception of citizen science, where most citizen science projects such as Foldit are distribution of piecemeal segments of complex projects suitable for solution by individuals, and where the results are pooled together, or used to inform the design and direction of more complex research initiatives.

Usually novices in science publishing but nonetheless aware of the importance of journal articles as the primary medium for communicating new research to the wider community (scientific and general public), citizen scientists do encounter significant challenges in science publication.

One challenge is in navigating the lengthy and time-consuming peer review process of most journals. But, as benefactors of open access publishing where most journal articles are within pay walls inaccessible to citizen scientists without any research funding, open access publishing is one platform sought after or exist as an option for citizen scientists.

Is the option open? Yes, at the preprint level where figshare, and PeerJ Preprints help provide an avenue for citizen scientists to have a published non peer reviewed article online, but no at the higher end “journal article” level where the manuscript needs to be peer reviewed. Even the biological sciences preprint server, bioRxiv, is closed to citizen scientists as publication on the server requires an institution affiliation with either a university or research institute. Most open access publishers (except eLife) charge a publication fee (in the thousands of dollars per article) to defray the cost of maintaining an online presence for a peer reviewed manuscript as well as those for copyediting during final stages of journal publication.

This is a significant barrier to cost constrained citizen scientists who want to contribute to the scientific discourse. For the scientific enterprise, this represent a loss, whose magnitude or severity cannot be quantified since ideas help seed new research or entirely new fields.

Thus, can we as a community provide citizen scientists worldwide a chance to publish open access peer reviewed articles without significant cost through a competitive publication fee subsidy scheme where each application is reviewed by the national science funding agency?

If the above is possible, it would open up another area where ideas from citizen scientists could percolate into the scientific mainstream, where, as always, vibrancy and diversity of ideas power science forward.

URL : Cost hurdles to open access publishing: A citizen scientist perspective


Hybrid open access—A longitudinal study

Authors : Mikael Laakso, Bo-Christer Björk

This study estimates the development of hybrid open access (OA), i.e. articles published openly on the web within subscription-access journals. Included in the study are the five largest publishers of scholarly journals; Elsevier, Springer, Wiley-Blackwell, Taylor & Francis, and Sage.

Since no central indexing or standardized metadata exists for identifying hybrid OA an explorative bottom-up methodological approach was developed. The individual search and filtering features of each publisher website and a-priori availability of data were leveraged to the extent possible.

The results indicate a strong sustained growth in the volume of articles published as hybrid OA during 2007 (666 articles) to 2013 (13 994 articles). The share of hybrid articles was at 3.8% of total published articles for the period of 2011–2013 for journals with at least one identified hybrid OA article.

Journals within the Scopus discipline categorization of Health and Life Sciences, in particular the field of Medicine, were found to be among the most frequent publishers of hybrid OA content.

The study surfaces the many methodological challenges involved in obtaining metrics regarding hybrid OA, a growing business for journal publishers as science policy pressures for reduced access barriers to research publications.

URL : Hybrid open access—A longitudinal study