Thursday, December 31, 2009

Dramatic Growth of Open Access: Dec. 31, 2009 New Year's Eve Edition

The theme for this issue of Dramatic Growth of Open Access is a celebration of successes in 2009, areas with room for improvement, and, in keeping with the times, suggested New Year's Resolutions. We'll begin with an OA status report, followed by "leaps and bounds" growth in 2009. For other editions of this series, see: Open data - download data. View full data. View full data with 2009 growth. Dramatic Growth of Open Access Series.

OA Status Report 2009

Open Access Journals
DOAJ: 4,535 titles
Net growth 2009: 723 titles
Growth rate: 2 titles per day

Open Access Archives
OpenDOAR # archives: 1,558
New growth 2009 (ROAR): 318
Growth rate: 1 archive per day
BASE # documents: 22,007,367
Scientific Commons # documents: 32,265,678
Net growth 2009: 7.9 million documents (Scientific Commons)
Growth rate: 22,000 documents per day

Open Access Mandate Policies (from ROARMAP):
Institutional: 79 (growth 52, more than doubled); growth rate 1-2 per week
Funder: 42 (growth 12, 40% increase, growth rate one per month)
Departmental: 18 (growth 14, more than tripled); growth rate one per month
Thesis: 39
Proposed mandates: 15 (growth 5, 45% increase); growth rate one per month

Leaps and Bounds: impressive growth by percentage, in decreasing order of percentage growth

More than doubled
  • departmental open access mandates, 350% growth from 4 to 18 (ROARMAP)
  • institutional open access mandates, 208% growth from 27 to 79 (ROARMAP)

Over 40% growth
Total open access mandates: 198% (ROARMAP)
# items in CARL metadata harvester search: 74%
Proposed Open Access Mandates: 45%
# archives in CARL metadata harvester: 44%
Funder Open Access mandates: 40% (ROARMAP)
Peer-reviewed journals in Open J-Gate: 40%

Over 30% growth
DOAJ - # articles searchable at article level: 38%
PubMedCentral - # journals in PMC with all articles open access: 36%
Scientific Commons - # publications: 33%
DOAJ - # of journals searchable at article level: 32%
# journals in Open J-Gate: 31%

Over 20% growth
# repositories listed in ROAR: 26%
free fulltext in rePEC: 26%
# repositories listed in Scientific Commons: 20%

Welcome and good luck to BASE, aiming to be the world's best and most comprehensive search engine for Open Access Archives.

Free back issues

Highwire Free: while the # of free articles actually decreased by 6% in 2009, it may be worth noting that about a third of the articles hosted on Highwire Free - mainly representing society publishers - are freely available online.

Electronic Journals Library lists over 23,000 titles that are freely available online.

PubMed: individual journal free fulltext performance

This is a continuation of a somewhat random exploration of why free full-text availability for citations in PMC covered by the NIH Public Access policy are less than what they should be. As with the Dec. 11 issue, my findings reveal a wide range of performance by journal.

Kudos!!! to the following journals with outstanding free fulltext track records:
Biomicrofluids: 100% of the articles in PubMed in this journal published by the American Institute of Physics are available as free fulltext - even though none of these articles fall under the NIH policy!
Journal of Postgraduate Medicine: while very few of the articles in this India-based open access journal by Medknow Publications are NIH-funded, 100% of those that are, are available as free full-text, and over 76% of all of the articles indexed in PubMed are free fulltext.
Journal of Oncology by Hindawi Publications: 60 of 67 articles listed in PubMed are available as free fulltext, even though none are NIH-funded
Vulnerable Children and Youth Studies: only 3 of the articles in this Taylor & Francis journal are listed in PubMed, none NIH funded, but all are free full-text

Room for improvement

This section touches on a few journals with remarkably poor performance in taking advantage of the dissemination potential of the internet - particularly given the obvious public interest in the topics covered. Update January 18, 2010: please note that calculations of compliance with the NIH Public Access Policy reflect articles with a publication date from Jan. 1, 2005 up to the permitted 12-month embargo period. This reflects both the original policy which requested public access, and the newer policy which requires open access which took effect April 7, 2008. Compliance rates under the new required policy have not been calculated at this time, but may be added to a future DGOA. For my search method, see the DGOA Full Data edition (see the 3rd sheet), or this explanatory post. My apologies for any confusion.

Update January 19: according to Peter Suber, "In the period since the NIH policy became mandatory, HSCC has had two submissions based on NIH funding. In the first case it deposited the manuscript in PMC within six days of receipt. The second paper was received very recently and is still in process. (Thanks to Cliff Morgan for the correction.)". As of this morning, I am not able to find any articles from this journal indexed in PubMed using the original search. This could mean nothing; it might be a glitch at PubMed, or persistent operator error, i.e. I do not wish to draw any firm conclusions until I retry the search at another time. I re-ran the Dec. 31, 2009 search yesterday evening, and once again found the result of 6 NIH-externally funded articles from 2005-2008 with no fulltext available for any of the articles.

Wiley and Blackwell's Health and Social Care in the Community authors show a 0% compliance rate with the NIH Public Access Policy. According to the journal website, the journal's policy is to comply, with the expectation that Wiley will undertake the deposit. Perhaps the editor might like to get in touch with Wiley? Either that, or have a discussion with the editorial board about the future of the journal. There are a great many free or low cost journal hosting options these days; the selection is likely much richer than when the decision was made to go with Wiley-Blackwell. [Hint: if the purpose of your research is to improve health and social care in the community, why not make the research available to the community - and the many professionals, often working in agencies or volunteer organizations with minimal funding - who serve the community?]

The compliance rates are under 20% for authors of Wiley-Blackwell's Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, Taylor and Francis' AIDS Care and American Journal of Bioethics. While my selection technique is somewhat random, I selected these titles looking for topics with a high public interest, hoping to see more impressive results.

Comments: as mentioned in the December 11, 2009 early year-end edition, 2009 was the year of the open access mandate, with highly significant growth in this area. Something else that is worth noting is the dramatic growth both in open access archives and in documents available through open access archives. To some extent, this reflects early success of the open access mandate policies, but clearly, there is more to it than that. The CARL metadata harvester statistics, for example, show significant growth even though institutional open access policies in Canada are still quite rare. To me, this is an early sign that we are collectively beginning to get over the learning curve (of understanding what an open access archive is, and what it can do for us), which bodes very well indeed for future growth of open access. RePEC's "leaps and bounds" growth is especially impressive for a mature repository - kudos to RePEC and the international economics community!

Suggested New Year's Resolutions
Are you interested in contributing to further dramatic growth of open access - or perhaps looking to make sure your journal thrives in the emerging open access environment? Here are some suggested New Year's Resolutions:

For libraries:
Join the Compact on Open Access Publishing Equity
Continue with all the great work you are already doing to advance and support open access and transformative change in scholarly communication!

For researchers:
Retain your copyright!
Publish in an open access journal if you can.
Self-archive a copy of your work for open access, no matter where you publish.

For journal people:
  • If you're open access - hurray! Join OASPA.
  • If you're not open access - why not? If a commercial publisher is hosting your journal, this might be a good time to review your options. Odds are that the scant options of a few years ago have evolved with a wealth of interesting opportunities.
  • If you'd really like to be open access but are concerned about economic support: have a frank discussion with your academic communities and your libraries. The more people realize that we can have a fully open access scholarly publishing system - assuming reasonable journal costs, as is the case with almost all independent society journals - at much less than current expenditures - the sooner we can all transition to open access.

Universities and funding agencies:
Open access mandate policies - depending on local circumstances, start discussions, commit to a policy, implement, evaluate, or strengthen existing policy.

This post is part of the Dramatic Growth of Open Access Series. For more on 2010 predictions, see my Dec. 11, 2009 early year-end edition.

This post is part of the Dramatic Growth of Open Access Series.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Policy Forum on Public Access to Federally Funded Research: Features and Technology

Following is my comment on the U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy's Policy Forum on Public Access to Federally Funded Research: Features and Technology (second phase). Reader note: this post is more technical than the average IJPE post.

Q: In what format should published papers be submitted in order to make them easy to find, retrieve, and search and to make it easy for others to link to them?

A: XML is the best format. It is important to also take into account how the researchers work; the process of submission should ideally fit into their workflow. Microsoft has been working on an automated upload feature for repositories. Ideally, researchers should be able to cross-deposit to as many open access archives as are desirable for their work (I already have 3 archives myself, and there are good reason to deposit in all of them).

Q: Are there existing digital standards for archiving and interoperability to maximize public benefit?

- The Open Archives Initiative – Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH) is key to harvesting and cross-searching metadata from all open access archives.
- Stable URLs, preferably ones that meet the standards for OpenURL (and possibly DOI), are essential.
- The SWORD protocol allows for cross-deposit into multiple archives.
- Creative Commons licensing, to facilitate both human and machine reading of licensing terms.
- For archiving (preservation): LOCKS, CLOCKSS, and Portico. For preservation purposes as well as ensured ongoing access, multiple mirror sites is recommended.
- Open standards are recommended. For example, video materials should use a format like MPEG-4. Open standards will allow the most possible people to access the materials, and will facilitate the task of preservation.

Q: How are these anticipated to change?
A: OAI-PMH is quite stable. SWORD is new; the ability to cross-deposit is very important to researchers, so watch for growth.

Q: What are the best examples of usability in the private sector (both domestic and international) and what makes them exceptional?
- E-LIS, the Open Archive for Library and Information Studies, has exceptional tools for searching, including a custom-designed subject classification scheme – not surprising for a tool developed by and for librarians:
- Google provides a very effective search engine to materials in repositories, particularly for known items. Google strikes me as more effective in this instance than Google Scholar.
- BASE, the Bielefeld Academic Search Engine, aims to be the world’s most comprehensive search service for open archives, using OAI-PMH:
- It is worthwhile looking at initiatives that are using the same standards for journals, conferences, and archives, providing a foundation for cross-searching materials in all these venues. For example, the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) features an article-level search, based on OAI-PMH. Open Journal Systems (OJS), a free open source software, also supports OAI-PMH and there is a PKP harvester. OJS is part of the Public Knowledge Project, which also includes Open Conference Systems and Open Monograph Systems (in development, to be released this February).

Q: Should those who access papers be given the opportunity to comment or provide feedback?

A: Of course; the only questions are the best venues for providing comments or feedback. My perspective is that opening up access to these papers has tremendous potential to inform public debates and commenting on a wide variety of issues; this potential will come to fruition over a period of time, as there will need to be time for learning and exploration. The most fruitful discussions, in my opinion, will be when people take ideas from the papers and bring them to their communities for discussion.

For example, it makes sense to me that a patient advocacy group might lead a discussion on research in their advocacy area, perhaps on their own website, including references to articles of interest. Researchers in this area might well wish to participate in special events with such a group from time to time; this would provide them with feedback in a focused way, and could also be a way for researchers to connect with people who might be good candidates for clinical trials.

Another example: a variety of businesspeople, scientists, and the environmentally minded public might well be interested in research that has the potential to uncover new green technologies.

What would be most helpful to facilitate this kind of discussion would be to ensure that papers have stable URLs so that these communities can reference them, ideally an easy way to export a proper citation, and creative commons licensing to ensure that rights issues are clear (and also to encourage broadest re-use rights; for example, allowing a portion of an article to be posted, with appropriate attribution, to the website of a not-for-profit discussion group).

There can be roles for journalists and media here to act as intermediaries in setting up such discussions, and also for government staff to conduct groups on public policy issues, much like this one.

Q: By what metrics (e.g. number of articles or visitors) should the Federal government measure success of its public access collections?

A: The first important metric is the number of articles that are freely available. This can involve a simple count of articles, percentage of articles covered under policies that are actually freely accessible, percentage of all scholarly articles published anywhere are freely accessible (an indirect measure of extended policy influence; as an example, hundreds of scholarly journals voluntarily participate fully in PubMedCentral in a way that goes far beyond what is required by the NIH Public Access Policy), and (a little harder) levels of inability to access materials; this may require developing a reporting system.

As for use, number of visitors, abstract views, or article downloads would be useful. It is important to focus on this kind of usage in the aggregate, and not at the individual paper level. There are potentially serious issues with using metrics to evaluate scholarly work, as I have touched on in my book chapter, The Implications of Usage Statistics as an Economic Factor in Scholarly Communication:

Friday, December 18, 2009

U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy Forum on Public Access to Federally Funded Research: Implementation

Following is my comment to the first phase of the U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy Forum on Public Access to Federally Funded Research: Implementation.

First of all, let me extend my congratulations to the U.S. government and people for pioneering in the areas of openness, with the NIH Public Access policy, and more recently, the open government initiative. This should be an inspiration to governments everywhere, including mine (Canada). I speak as a professional librarian, scholarly editor, and scholar in the area of scholarly communication.

Who should enact public access policies?

If public funding is accepted, then any published results of research should be made freely available to the public as soon as possible. Stipulating published results of research eliminates problem areas; classified research, for example, will not be published. ALL publicly funded research that is not classified should be publicly available; otherwise, it should not be publicly funded. The current version of FRPAA which limits public access to agencies with significant funding portfolios is a good practical approach.

How should a public access policy be designed?

1. Timing

The 12-month embargo period set by the early innovator in open access policy, NIH, was a very generous time period. More recently, an international standard is emerging around a maximum 6-month embargo, for example this is the period specified by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. A fairly comprehensive list of policies can be found at ROARMAP. This embargo should be viewed as a temporary measure, to allow scholarly publishers time to adjust to an open access online environment. The remainder of this section explains why.

The international publishing community has had lots of time to adjust to an environment where free online access is optimal. Discussion about open access can be found in Learned Publishing, the journal of the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP), dating back for about a decade. This vehicle of the scholarly society publishers (Learned Publishing), has been freely available after a one-year embargo at the voluntary discretion of the society, for many years, and is still flourishing. ALPSP has been a good role model for member publishers, with a leading-edge author’s agreement allowing authors to self-archive without restriction. Academic publishing is very different from many other businesses, in that the suppliers and customers are basically the same people (scholars and the librarians who serve the needs of scholars). A recent report by Mark Ware published by the International Association of Scientific, Medical and Technical Publishers (STM), quotes the proportion of revenue received by this group for scholarly journals from academic libraries at 68-75% (this does not account for non-academic libraries and revenue streams such as advertising which could actually benefit from public access. Combining advertising with free online access seems to work well for Google).

The scholarly publishing industry is indeed adjusting to the new environment, albeit in a somewhat uneven fashion. The number of fully open access, peer-reviewed scholarly journals in the world is currently over 4,000 (about 15% of the world’s scholarly journals) according to the vetted Directory of Open Access Journals, which is consistently showing a net growth rate of 2 titles per day (Morrison, 2009).

In addition to these fully open access journals, many journals voluntarily make all their content freely available after a delay period. While I don’t have exact numbers for the latter, the difference between the 4,000 titles in DOAJ and the over 23,000 freely accessible journals listed in the Electronic Journals Library gives a rough indication, i.e. at least 19,000 journals with free back access.

A brief review of the SHERPA RoMEO Publisher Copyright Policies and Self-Archiving website can illustrate both how publishers are adapting to the environment, and the environment that they are adapting to. In the search box, pull down the menu for funders, and you’ll quickly see that the publishing community has a very great many open access mandate policies, of research funding agencies, and, increasingly, universities and departments as well, around the world. Search for a few journals or publishers, and have a look both at the self-archiving policies of most journals and publishers (providing for self-archiving is currently the norm), and the many green check marks indicating compliance with a variety of funders.

Libraries are very actively involved in assisting scholars and publishers with the transition to open access. In Canada, the Synergies project (libraries and publishers working together, with government funding) is helping scholarly journals in the humanities and social sciences to move online. Open access is not required, but is actively encouraged, as this is best for the dissemination of work of Canadian scholars.

Libraries around the world are working cooperatively with the physics scholars and publishers to transition the whole field of high energy physics to open access publishing through SCOAP3. Many libraries provide funding and/or other forms of support for open access publishing, and libraries are most willing to talk with publishers and journals about means of combining subscriptions and open access. Academic libraries work with and for the scholars, who need these journals both for reading and for career advancement; ensuring that scholars have the support that they need for scholarly communication is the essence of what we do.

2. Version. The author’s final version after peer review should be specified in the policy. This is one area where different agencies might have good reasons for slightly different policies. The NIH, for example, has a mandate to preserve as well as make accessible the scholarly literature, and so has very specific requirements.

There are two advantages to requiring the author’s final version: 1) this allows publishers a bit more leeway to make money through subscriptions to their final version, which is the version that reflects most of the work actually done by the publisher, and 2) an author’s version may overcome some limitations of a publisher’s PDF. For example, if the publisher uses locked-down or image-based PDFs, these works are not accessible to the print disabled, but the author’s version may be both more accessible for the disabled, and more searchable for everyone.

3. Mandatory v. Voluntary. Public access policies should be mandatory. As illustrated by SHERPA RoMEO, when publishers must comply with public access policies to accommodate authors, they adjust.

4. Other. While the NIH provides a great role model with fair use after a delay period, the best service to scholarship is full libre open access (Morrison 2009A). That is, open access with no delay period and minimal or no restrictions on re-use. For example, when as a scholar I freely share my articles and charts with everyone, another author is free to re-use my charts, with appropriate attribution. For me, this is a gain (of a citation, exposure, mention at a conference), not at all a loss. The NIH was and is wise not to REQUIRE full open access, however it is beneficial to mention this as an ideal and encourage voluntary movement in this direction. To illustrate the appreciation the scholarly community has for this approach, consider that the U.S.-based PLoS ONE, a fully open access journal, although a very new journal, is already among the world’s largest scholarly journals and on track to becoming THE largest in 2010. Advising scholarly publishers, whether commercial or not-for-profit organizations, to move to full open access (i.e., meet the needs of the constituency served) is not only good for the public interest, it is just plain good practical business advice too.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

Heather Morrison, MLIS

Associate Editor, Scholarly and Research Communication

The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics


Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Policy on Access to Research Outputs


Electronic Journals Library

Learned Publishing

Morrison, Heather. (2009) The Dramatic Growth of Open Access: December 11, 2009 edition

Morrison, Heather. 2009A. Open Access Chapter: Scholarly Communication for Librarians: Chandos Publishing. Freely available online at



SHERPA RoMEO Publisher Copyright Policies and Self-Archiving

Ware, M. (2009).The stm report: an overview of scientific and scholarly journalsclass="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;"> publishing. International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers (STM).Retrieved from, October 14, 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

Dramatic Growth of Open Access: December 11, 2009 early year-end edition

chart showing strong growth of open access mandates from 2008 to 20092009: a great year for OA!
While dramatic growth continues in all aspects of open access, the story of the year and especially of the last quarter is a dramatic leap in open access mandate policies, particularly institutional and departmental policies. In the past year, institutional mandates (as recorded on ROARMAP) more than tripled, from 25 to 79. Nearly half that growth has come in the past week, from just one country - Finland, with its recent announcement of open access mandate policies at all 26 of Finland's applied sciences universities, as reported by Peter Suber on Open Access News. Update Dec. 13: Alma Swan has updated her chart on OA mandate growth. Note that our numbers are slightly different, as I include thesis mandates in the total, and Alma doesn't.

chart showing strong growth of titles in DOAJ from 2005 to 2009

Strong growth continues in open access journals. The Directory of Open Access Journals, currently at 4,400 titles, added more than 700 titles in the past year, or about 2 titles per day.

chart showing strong growth in publications in scientific commons from 2007 to 2009There is plenty of holiday reading in all of those more than 1,500 repositories as recorded by OpenDOAR. Scientific Commons, now over 32 million publications, grew by more than 8 million items in 2009; that's more than 20 thousand publications per day.

Update December 15: BASE may now be the largest search engine in terms of repositories; see this chart for BASE numbers (thanks to Dirk Pieper).

E-LIS, the Open Archive for Library and Information Studies, recently surpassed an important milestone of over 10,000 items.

chart showing percent of articles under Public Access in PMC by journal
The percentage of NIH-funded research that is freely available after 2 years is 41% for external researchers and 50% for internal researchers. This is definitely growing; but the figure should be 100% at 1 year, should it not? This issue of Dramatic Growth illustrates, in a small way, how we can begin to figure out who has been naughty and who has been nice, to help authors meet this simple requirement of our generous research funders.

Here are some quick figures for OA compliance rates with the Public Access Policy for a few journals. Note that this is not a representative sampling, rather just a few titles selected at random from the publishers' websites:
  • PLoS Medicine: 100%
  • BMC Cancer: 100%
  • American Journal of Epidemiology: 95%
  • Addictive Behaviors (Elsevier): 37%
  • American Heart Journal (Elsevier): 22%
  • Annals of Surgical Oncology (Springer): 12%
  • Breast Cancer Research and Treatment (Springer): 9%
Speaking of nice, with this issue the more than 1.6 million books provided under OCA principles or the public domain by the Open Content Alliance is recorded.

One thing to look forward to in 2010 is a very strong probably that the world's largest scholarly journal will be an open access journal, the award-winning PLoS One. OA mandate mania is sure to continue ~ not only are discussions underway at many a university and department, but now that we have a substantial and growing set of role models the benefits of an OA mandate ~ such as increased impact and web presence ~ will become that much more obvious, inspiring yet more mandates. FRPAA is on the list for a U.S. rapidly moving towards open government on many fronts.

There is no need to wait for New Year's to make your resolutions; why not join the Compact for Open Access Publishing Equity today?

To everyone who has worked hard for open access all year long ~ those with visible achievements to show, and those with quieter progress alike ~ kudos, thanks for all that you do, and best wishes for a wonderful holiday.

Open Data editions of Dramatic Growth of Open Access:
DGOA Dataverse (courtesy of Harvard)

Google docs for viewing (thanks, Google!)
Google docs full data version
Google Docs Show Growth Edition

This post is part of the Dramatic Growth of Open Access series.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Open Access to the public domain

Thanks to the Open Content Alliance, we all have ready access to a great many works that are in the public domain. From a scholars's perspective, this makes it a lot easier to put our research papers into a more complete historical context.

Two examples:

Québec environmentalists now have access to a history of birds in Québec, thanks to the American Museum of Natural History Library. Charles Eus Dionne's 1906 work, Les oiseaux de la province le Québec, is just one example of an emerging and important field: the environmental history that we will need as we work towards repairing the environmental damage of the past century and restoring ecosystems to the extent that we can.

With the eyes of the world about to land on my home city of Vancouver as the 2010 Winter Olympics approaches, how lovely that we all now have access to the exquisite and prophetic early history of our city, Legends of Vancouver by poetess Pauline Johnson, thanks to the University of Toronto Library (among others).

What an enlightened approach; the public domain books are in the public domain; even though search engine Yahoo is a partner in the Open Content Alliance, these public domain works are equally available regardless of the reader's preferred search engine; I am in no way disadvantaged by my personal preference for google for most of my current searching needs.

To illustrate how easy it now is for scholars to ground their work in historical context, go to the Internet Archive and search the Open Content Alliance texts for creators like Plato, Aristotle, Ranganathan, or Dewey.

What next? Heather's wish list

Multilingual content and interfaces

Current contributors to the Open Content Alliance are primarily English language organizations. It is good to see at least a little bit of content in French, from Québec, but what would be really awesome would be full participation by the libraries and other memory organizations of Québec, so that the substantial literature of this province that is in the public domain would be freely available to all; and, of course, a French language interface. Multiply this by all of the languages of the world, and this is what I would love to see for the Open Content Alliance. OCA per se does not need to take the lead; it would make sense for each language to have a lead organization that works in its own language.

Full searching of texts and linkages

Full text searching would facilitate the scholar's task. Because many concepts overlap, and terminology for concepts changes over time and in different contexts, it would be very helpful to be able to search the links that other scholars have made between different works. This could mean a gradual integration of the scholarship of today and tomorrow into this public domain works. How useful is it, for example, for scholar after scholar to undertake the detective work to state that the idea that knowledge is, of necessity, at least to some degree always partially socially constructed, is not a new idea but rather one that extends back into antiquity? Why not make the linkages obvious and easy to find for anyone, so that scholars can focus on more timely questions, such as the implications of this concept for us today?

Google Books: please join the Open Content Alliance

Nothing would please me more than to see Google drop the most problematic aspects of Google Books, such as limiting access to public domain works and a permanent monopoly on orphan works as per the current settlement, adopt the principles of the Open Content Alliance which include broadest possible access (not always open access), and join OCA.

This post is inspired by research for the coursework I am doing towards my PhD program through the Simon Fraser University School of Communication.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

University of Ottawa among North American leaders in open access

Kudos to the University of Ottawa for this welcome announcement about OA leadership, including a commitment to make University of Ottawa research openly accessible, joining the Compact for Open Access Publishing Equity, providing funding for authors to wish to publish in open access journals that charge article processing fees, and a research grant to further study open access.

This post is part of the Canadian leadership in the open access movement series. Canadian open access advocate Michael Geist is at the University of Ottawa.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Open Access and Open Education for Development

This slideshow is a brief presentation for a class that I am auditing this semester at SFU, Communication in Development, co-taught by Bob Anderson and James Busumtwi-Sam.

In brief, there are tremendous resources available to scholars and educators in the developing world, including more than 4,000 fully open access, peer-reviewed scholarly journals, over 32 million free publications, and major YouTube courseware suites produced by prestigious universities such as the Indian Institutes of Technology and the Indian Institute of Science and MIT.

Developing countries are leaders as well as beneficiaries in the open access and open education movements. The Latin American countries are leaders in the open access journals movement with the Scielo project. Africa has a pan-continental journals portal called African Journals Online. South Africa is a leader in the open educational movement, India in national open access policy development.

Resources and supports for developing countries are discussed. Two approaches to sharing knowledge are presented. One is described as a charity model, involving northern countries sharing access to journals in a limited way. The other model, open access, involves sharing by all; OA is seen as a superior model as the means to equity on a global scale.

Students with an interest in open access: this is a wonderful and fun way to introduce classmates and faculty alike to open access. As a bonus, it is easy to find creative commons licensed content to include in your presentation.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Virginia Libraries: review of Scholarly Communication for Librarians

Thanks to Cy Dillon for this review of my book, Scholarly Communication for Librarians. The review is scheduled to be published in the January issue of Virginia Libraries.


In the summary of her chapter on the economics of scholarly communication, Heather Morrison says, “It is timely to look beyond the continuing serials crisis towards a future of scholarly communication online that can do vastly more for scholars than was ever possible in print, and begin to plan and prioritize accordingly.” In order to respond to this completely worthwhile call to action, it is essential that librarians—especially academic librarians—understand the current complex state of scholarly publishing and its transitional nature. Reading Morrison’s book is the most efficient way for most of us to acquire that understanding.

Admitting a significant bias toward the open access movement, Morrison, a Project Coordinator at the British Columbia Electronic Library Network and an adjunct professor at University of British Columbia's School of Library, Archival and Information Studies, constructs a careful and complete description of the current scholarly publication environment including everything from the reason researchers publish, to the workings of the traditional publishing market, and finally to the overwhelming change in information access that is driven by the internet.

One of the book’s strongest chapters examines the economics of scholarly journals using the concept of the cost per article of producing articles in various types of journals, which can vary thirty or even a hundred-fold, to make it clear that commercial publishing is all too often focused strictly on making money for the stockholders of three or four large corporations. She also describes the business model of these corporations and emphasizes that their profit margins are in the range of 30 percent. Most of us who work in academic are aware that there are science and technology journals that cost as much annually as a good small car, and we are looking forward to the day that researchers and the people who vote on their tenure realize that rigorous peer review is not limited to commercially published journals. Obviously professional society publishers and the various types of open access publishers are presented as alternatives that should attract more interest from authors as publishing changes in the digital environment.

Some readers will recognize Morrison as the author of the blog The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics, a site followed by advocates of the open access movement, and, as might be expected, her chapter on open access is a clear introduction to the various approaches to making peer reviewed research literature available free online. In fact, if you are not perfectly clear on the differences between green and gold access or libre versus gratis access, this chapter is available free as a PDF file at

Perhaps the most satisfying aspect of Scholarly Communication for Librarians is Morrison’s evaluation of the roles librarians can play as scholars writing, archivists managing repositories, acquisitions experts purchasing, authorities on publishing advising faculty, reference librarians answering research questions, and advocates of open access pushing for publishing models that support availability of information over profit for private investors. It is both gratifying and sobering to imagine the impact our profession can have in the next few years as new models of publishing evolve. Morrison’s discussion of strategies for libraries and her examination of emerging trends are rich with examples of resources and concepts librarians should know if they are to serve their community well. Readers will find themselves turning to their computer frequently, so the experience of reading the book is much more involved and productive that the length of the volume would suggest.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

In the works as of November 2009

Here are a few of the things I'm up to at present and in the near future:

Major conferences (open access and scholarly communication):

OCULA Spotlight Speaker: February 25, 2010, Toronto Ontario at the Ontario Library Association Superconference

Keynote, LIBER conference, June 29, 2010, Aarhus, Denmark

Program Committee, ELPUB 2010, June 16-18, 2010, Helsinki, Finland

Webinar Series

Co-coordinating ACRL ARL Scholarly Communication Institute Webinar series, tentatively scheduled January - May 2010 (details to come soon)


Wrapping up another LIBR 559L, Scholarly Communication. Another great class, I'll miss them!


Open Access Journals Support research project - pan-Canadian survey of academic libraries and university presses, with team members Don Taylor & Brian Owen (SFU), Kumiko Vezina (Concordia), and Andrew Waller (University of Calgary)


Co-editing special issue of the Canadian Library Association's Feliciter, on Information Policy, with Kirsti Nilsen, for publication next April

Writing & co-writing

articles on open access policy & OA research project for special issue of Canadian Journal of Higher Education


PhD coursework, SFU School of Communication

Plus the usual - see right hand side of blog.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Will Google survive Google books? reflections from a friend

In all of the discussion around the Google books settlement, I'm not hearing anything about the implications of this fundamental change in direction on the basic business of Google.

Google's motto is "don't be evil". Ethically, this would be a good model for any of us; for a search engine, this is also the basis of, and reason for, the trust that most of us continue to have in Google.

What will the impact of licensing books be on this trust? Based on my experience, it would be very difficult indeed for any company to maintain the kind of trust that Google has built, with a licensing approach. Aside from the trust barrier that the toll barrier per se raises, there will inevitably be times when access is inappropriately denied. For example, the imperfections of any authentication system mean that at times, toll access will be denied even to those who have paid the tolls.

More importantly, by getting involved with Google Books, no doubt with the very best of intentions, Google has accidentally walked into a situation that creates many an unintended evil. There are many aspects of analysis, which I do not have time to write about in full, so perhaps an example will suffice for now.

With the current settlement, Canadian books are covered as our copyright laws are similar to those of the U.S.; however, this settlement does not extend beyond the U.S., so these books will only be accessible to Americans, not Canadians. A U.S. citizen will have access to a book where even the family of the author, or the group that the Canadian author wrote about, has no access.

If my own recently-published book, Scholarly Communication for Librarians, had been published just a few months earlier, it would be included in Google Books. This means that it would be readily available to U.S. citizens, but not to the people of my country whose taxes paid the lion's share of my public education, nor to the library school at the University of British Columbia that gave me the opportunity to teach scholarly communication, the course that was the basis for this book.

One obvious remedy is to remove all foreign-published books from Google Books; indeed, with the current settlement, most foreign books have already been eliminated. This may help to advance Google Books from a purely legalistic standpoint - but what does this do to the likelihood of Americans developing a more inclusive, global view? The easily accessible and usable digital library is very likely to replace the print collections for a great many students; if foreign books are removed, this means that the chances that American students will be exposed to ideas from outside the U.S. will greatly diminish. This short term advantage for the U.S. will likely create much greater disadvantages in the medium term. Americans will be less able to compete in global markets, for example, and less prepared to diagnose, address, and prevent security problems - including developing the broad-based cross-cultural perspective that all of us need to live in harmony in our globalized world.

To borrow a phrase from Freire: what to do? Here is some advice to Google, from a friend:

Plan to get out of the Google Books business at the soonest possible opportunity. How?

Put the books back where they belong. If they are from the public domain, put the electronic versions into the public domain, equally available to all - including competitors. "Scanned and made available by Google" on the book is appropriate. Print on demand would be a useful and not-evil service. If they are in copyright, give them back to the copyright owners - the publishers and author. By all means, negotiate compensation such as a share of profits to recoup the monies spent on digitization. But the sooner Google is out of the licensing business, the better for trust in Google. If the works are orphan works, leave this matter with the legislators; join with the Open Contact Alliance to find a solution that will work for everyone.

As a PhD student, I see the benefits of this approach and would love to have access to this great electronic library. What an advance this would be, over our current situation where every copy of an important book owned by any library that could provide a copy in reasonable time, may be on loan, and the chances that the book is available through a bookstore slim to none. Not to mention the research advantages of being able to search the texts of books, even the books that we own in print. Thank you to Google, and to the libraries involved, for pushing the envelope and showing all of us what can be achieved.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Research Brief: Library savings from full flip to open access via article processing fees: about two-thirds savings

Correction August 1, 2010: the figure of 8 billion from the Ware report, copied from the RIN report, is Great Britain Pounds, not U.S. dollars as I had assumed after reading the Ware report. What this means for my calcuations is that I have underestimated the current STM revenue - by quite a bit. £8 billion, by today's currency conversion, is 12.6 billion USD. The costs of the open access options, however, are accurate. What this means is that I have seriously underestimated the savings for libraries from a full flip to open access. I will recalculate the numbers and prepare a new post in the near future.

Update February 16, 2010: using a more conservative estimate of the PLoS average article processing fee for the last few months, global library cost savings for a full flip to OA at the PLoS average APF for all articles would be $3.1 billion or 56% savings (total cost less than half of current library journal expenditures) (data can be found here). The significance of this more conservative figure is that it factors in the high-end and more expensive PLoS journals, 4 of which are at the top of their fields in impact factor. This illustrates that significant cost savings is compatible with top quality publishing. Since the vast majority of OA journals do not use APFs, actual cost savings from a full flip to OA would likely be much greater.

Based on data supplied by Mark Ware in the recently released report for the Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers Association (STM) An overview of scientific and scholarly journals publishing, I calculate that library savings from a full flip from subscriptions to open access via article processing fees, at the PLoS One rate of $1,350 would be at least 64%. For the avoidance of doubt, that's about a two-thirds discount. This is presented as an illustration that open access is a wise choice economically, and not just from an access perspective; it is not meant as an endorsement of PLoS One or the article processing fee approach. The majority of OA journals do not charge article processing fees.

In brief, Ware estimates annual STM revenue at $8 billion per year, and quotes Bjork et al on an estimated total peer-reviewed journal article production of 1.5 million articles per year. This is an average of $5,333 revenue for STM for each scholarly article produced in a year. Compare this with the PLoS One article processing fee of $1,350 per article. Factoring in about 70% of STM revenues coming from library sources, the resulting global savings for libraries are 64%. See here for figures.

Other ways of expressing this: PLoS One costs about a fourth of the average revenue per article for STM, or PLoS One is four times as efficient as the average traditional STM journal.

There are many limitations to this brief study. Most of these limitations are reasons why library savings would be greater than 64%. Examples of variables not taken into account:

STM revenue does not take into account non-STM revenue, for journals in the humanities and social sciences and smaller publishers that are not part of STM. The article count, however, is for all disciplines. A higher total revenue would result in a higher average per-article revenue with the current subscription system, which in turn would mean higher library savings with a flip to open access via article processing fees.

This scenario does not take into account non-library revenue for article processing fees, such as authors who can tap into research grant funds for this purpose.

This scenario assumes an average article processing fee of about $1,350 U.S. With an average of $1,535 (BMC standard article processing charge), library savings are still at least 60%. See here for figures.

These figures do not take into account publishers who would like to receive more revenue than standard PLoS One or BMC rates on a routine basis. While libraries would still see savings at article processing fee rates of $3,000 as some publishers are charging - the two-thirds savings scenario comes from supporting high-quality but affordable open access publishers - not just any article processing fee that any publisher might like to charge.

This post is an early sharing of data to be developed for a fuller study in the near future, and part of the Transitioning to Open Access series. Thanks to Andrew Waller for checking some of the math.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Dramatic Growth of Open Access: September 30, 2009

This issue of The Dramatic Growth of Open Access features a few key quotable numbers to illustrate the growth and current extent of open access: more than 4,000 fully open access, peer reviewed journals in DOAJ, growing by 2 titles per day; close to 1,500 open access repositories listed in OpenDOAR, adding a new repository every business day; over 30 million free publications through Scientific Commons, growing by more than 20 thousands items per day; more than 20% of the world's medical literature is freely available 2 years after publication, and close to 10% is freely available immediately on publication; 1 more journal decides to submit all or most content to PMC every business day, and growth of open access journals in PMC is one new journal every other business day. The number of open access mandate policies is well over a hundred, and growing rapidly - but also likely understated. If you have a policy, please be sure to register with ROARMAP. This quarter saw some minor setbacks. Most notable (but still small) is a decrease in free content through Highwire Press.

Dramatic Growth quotables

Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)
  • Over 4,000 fully open access, peer reviewed scholarly journals
  • Adding 2 titles per day

OpenDOAR (Directory of Open Access Repositories)
  • About 1,500 open access repositories worldwide
  • Adding 1 new repository every business day

Scientific Commons
  • 30 million scientific publications free online
  • Added 8 million publications in the last year
  • Growing by more than 20,000 publications per day

  • 20% of world's medical literature freely available 2 years after publication
  • Close to 10% of world's medical literature freely available immediately on publication
  • 1 new journal chooses to submit all or most content to PMC every business day
  • 1 more medical journal becomes fully open access in PMC every other business day

PLoS ONE may soon become the world's largest scholarly journal. As reported this quarter on IJPE, based on Peter Binfield's presentation at ELPUB 2009, PLoS ONE is already among the very largest of the world's academic journals, and, if current trends continue, will become THE world's largest journal sometime in 2010. PLoS ONE is one of the journals published by the high prestige, not-for-profit publisherPublic Library of Science.

Milestones this quarter
  • PubMedCentral internal researchers' self-archiving rates now exceed 50% (for publications within past 3 years, and overall)
Thanks, PMC Staff! Also thanks for the neat "Free full text" tab, no doubt very handy for searchers, which also makes it much easier to collect data for the dramatic growth of open access.

Selected Details

Directory of Open Access Journals
  • 4,361 journals
  • Strong year (added 693 journals), slow quarter (109 titles). Note that additions to DOAJ are not the same as the total number of open access journals, but rather likely to reflect staffing / workflow issues. For example, this quarter covers summer months and the first OASPA conference, which Lund University, home of DOAJ, helped to host. Slow growth this quarterly is very likely to reflect such variables as vacation schedules and possibly staff secondments to help with the conference.
  • Strong growth in number of journals searchable at article level (32% annual increase, now 1,664 titles)
  • Strong growth in articles searchable at article level (59% increase, now at 315,407)

  • # journals actively participating in PMC 671
  • # journals in PMC with immediate free access 517
  • # journals in PMC with all articles open access 396

Open Access Mandate Policies (from ROARMAP)
  • Departmental 14
  • Funder 41
  • Institutional 43
  • Thesis 33
  • Total 131
  • Proposed Mandates 15

IF YOU HAVE AN OPEN ACCESS POLICY, please register with ROARMAP. The ROARMAP numbers are likely understated, for example many people have pointed out that the number of thesis deposit policies is likely much higher than what is reported in ROARMAP. Registering helps with the numbers, but more importantly, a link to your policy can be most helpful for others still developing their own policies.

Minor setbacks this quarter
PubMedCentral fully open access journals: despite strong annual growth, the number of fully OA journals participating in PMC dropped by 2 this quarter.
Highwire Free: the number of free articles has dropped since last year by over 4,000.
CARL Metadata Harvester: strong annual growth is offset by a loss of about 600 items this quarter (weeding project, perhaps?).

The Dramatic Growth of Open Access Dataverse (spreadsheets for download - thanks to Harvard)

Google docs for viewing (full)
Google docs for viewing (show growth)

Day = calendar day (total / 365 days per year)
Business day = calendar days - 104 (weekends), total / 261

This post is part of the Dramatic Growth of Open Access series.

Monday, September 28, 2009

PLoS article-level metrics: substantial value add for authors

Update July 25, 2016

This update is prompted by a welcome update on the PLOS webpage for article-level metrics. PLOS has a new page for article-level metrics (thanks to PLOS' Katie Hickling):

A lot has transpired since 2016. In particular, my perspective has shifted from welcoming these new tools to serious concern about using these metrics as a new means of evaluating the quality / worth of scholarly work.

Here are highlights of my concerns with altmetrics for evaluation purposes:
  • Neither usage nor impact should be assumed to correlate with quality of the work. My most important (and probably least-read) work on this topic is my book chapter, The implications of usage statistics as an economic factor in scholarly communications. Sometimes we immediately recognize and celebrate important innovations (it is good to see Hawking and Einstein understood for the geniuses they are in their own time), but collectively we seem just as likely to ignore them (Mendel's pioneering work on genetics sat on the shelves for decades; according to Wikipedia, Galileo's pioneering work "was tried by the Inquisition, found "vehemently suspect of heresy", and forced to recant. He spent the rest of his life under house arrest". An article that falsely correlated vaccination with autism could be said to have had exceptional impact. Impact is a quality; like any other quality, it is neither good nor bad in and of itself.
  • I submit that it is a reasonable hypothesis that new metrics involving usage via social media will tend to reflect and likely amplify existing social biases; e.g. works by men will more likely be tweeted than works by women, works by people with caucasian-sounding names will likely be tweeted more than works by people with names suggesting a different ethnicity and so forth. For this reason I think it is unethical to advocate for the use of alternative metrics as means of evaluation. 
  • I submit that it is another reasonable hypothesis to expect altmetrics to impact what gets studied if used as a means of evaluation. Sometimes this could draw attention to important topics; other times it will direct efforts to popular topics (in communication and media studies, if one is evaluated by impact as measured by social media that's a good reason to study popular culture and ignore serious, complex issues arising from current media)

Original 2009 post:

Public Library of Science (PLoS) recently introduced article-level metrics.

The PLoS article-level metrics are a substantial value-add for authors, including a range of download statistics, citations and social bookmarking data, and more. As an author, I would love to see this kind of service!

It is interesting that a publisher with top-ranking journals on traditional metrics (impact factor) is also a publisher innovating in the area of metrics of far greater relevance, which say soon make impact factors irrelevant in the near future.

One service that I, as an author, would like to see for the future, is a means of combining statistics from institutional and disciplinary repositories with the publisher's statistics. This is a development that could be pursed either by publishers or by repositories.

The data available from PLoS (from the PLoS website) includes:
Article usage statistics - HTML pageviews, PDF downloads and XML downloads
Citations from the scholarly literature – currently from PubMed Central, Scopus and CrossRef
Social bookmarks - currently from CiteULike and Connotea
Comments – left by readers of each article
Notes – left by readers of each article
Blog posts – aggregated from Postgenomic, Nature Blogs, and Bloglines
Ratings – left by readers of each article

More information is available at:

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Mass digitization of books: Open Content Alliance is the right approach

With the Google Books lawsuit settlement likely to be decided within days, here is my take on this topic.

Libraries in recent years have been undertaking mass digitization projects, following two different approaches: working with Google to digitize the whole library's collection, including copyrighted works, or working with the Open Content Alliance under OCA principles, which include respecting the rights of content owners, and widest possible access, such as full open access for works in the public domain.

The Open Content Alliance is the right approach. Despite laudable motivations of participating libraries and Google (to expand access to the written word and preserve these books), the Google Books approach of taking works that belong to others (whether content owners or, in the case of public domain works, all of us), is just plain wrong. The impact of the proposed Google Book Settlement would mean basically a monopoly on digital books for one company, and a significant loss to the public domain. Those involved in the class action lawsuit do not represent all authors and publishers, only themselves.

Here is hoping that the Court will reject the Google Book Settlement, and that the libraries involved will abandon this approach and join the Open Content Alliance instead.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Compact for Open Access Publishing Equity: a key step in transition to OA

The Compact for Open Access Publishing Equity (COPE) calls on universities to make a commitment to providing equity to open access journals. This is a key step in the transition to open access. I highly recommend joining COPE to every library, and university. Even if significant (or even any) funding is not immediately available, this is an important philosophical commitment to make, one that makes it possible to raise the question of whether such support should receive equal priority at budget time.

One of the reasons that this is a key step is simply the recognition of the role that universities play (through libraries) as support for scholarly communication. This has never been a standard commercial transaction, where one side produces goods and services that are then purchased by the other side. Rather, university faculty write, peer review, and often edit scholarly articles; much of the work is done on time and in office space provided by universities. This system is currently subsidized through library subscriptions. Shifting support so that open access journals receive equitable treatment is only fair.

My hopes for COPE are growth: I encourage every library and university to join. Also, I would like to see COPE someday move beyond support for article processing fees to include wholesale support for open access journals, hosting and support services, and more.

Congratulations and thanks to all of the initial signatories of COPE: Cornell, Harvard, Dartmouth, MIT, and the University of California at Berkeley.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Taylor and Francis first half results 2009: academic information revenue up 25%, and, are shareholders more interested in OA than T & F?

Informa, the owner of Taylor and Francis, has published their first half results for 2009 - see the Informa Investors Page.

Highlights: academic publishing revenues and profits are up in the first half of 2009. Informa's Peter Rigby sees open access as not a bother for HSS, less relevant to a company like Informa than to a pure STM publisher. At least one shareholder is wondering whether Informa will push harder to move to an OA business model.


From the presentation powerpoint:

Publishing – Academic Information
Resilient performance
• Revenue increase of 25% (organic 4%)
• Adjusted operating profit increase of 45% (organic 4%)

Overall operating profit margin for informa was 23%, reflecting both strong performance in academic publishing and weak performance in events.

Notes from the webcast Q and A session

Interesting question (see the end of the Q and A session) about "pushing harder into an open access business model". According to Informa's Peter Rigby, OA is less relevant to HSS and hence Informa as a mixed HSS/STM publisher; Informa is allowing post-peer-review self-archiving and has an open choice option, so is doing just fine.

Another question related to whether Informa is doing anything about the cost in the area of academic information. No need, says Peter Rigby, as the sector is doing strong. This is an excellent illustration of the inelasticity of this market. Taylor & Francis is growing in profits in spite of a worldwide financial crisis. No reason to look for efficiencies!

This post is part of the transitioning to open access series.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Housekeeping: study leave / email address change 2009-2010

For anyone who is wondering about my e-mail address change: from September 1, 2009 - August 31, 2010, I am on Study Leave from BC ELN, beginning a PhD program at the Simon Fraser University School of Communication , as well as some strategic planning and communication-related projects for BC ELN. To avoid confusion, I'm switching to just using my generic SFU e-mail ID, and recommend using this to get my attention. I do continue to monitor the BC ELN account.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Scholarly Communication class: open educational resources

Course materials for my scholarly communication class (LIBR559L at the University of British Columbia's School of Library, Archival and Information Studies) can be found on the course blog, CC-BY-NC-SA licensed. Posted so far: the course syllabus (including the list of readings, all freely available online), the journal creation exercise, and the Scholar's Biography exercise. I would be interested in hearing from anyone who decides to make use of / rework these materials, although of course this is not required.

The first time I taught this course the material formed the basis of my book, Scholarly Communication for Librarians, apparently published in June although I am still waiting for my copy! Two chapters of this book are open access: the Open Access chapter, and the Summary and Conclusions, featuring the main points of all the other chapters.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Please join me for ALCTS Webinar September 23rd

Please join me on Wednesday, September 23rd, 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. EDT for the ALCTS webinar, Open Access: Key Trends


While content recruitment at the local IR may seem slow and painful, from a global / historical perspective, the growth of open access in all its flavors is nothing short of phenomenal. The benefits of the IR for authors and for institutions will become more and more apparent in the near future. The chicken will emerge from the egg, and the IR will be seen as a great career choice. This session will provide an overview of the latest key trends in open access: why we need green as well as gold, both institutional and disciplinary repositories, and open access policies to fill the repositories. Institutional open access policies will be highlighted, introducing different types of policies, what makes for good policy, and approaches to open access policy development at the university.

For details and registration for this and other programs , see the ALCTS Webinar Series.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Cost per page for HSS journals varies by 15-fold

The production cost per journal in a small sample of 8 humanities and social sciences journals, as reported by Mary Waltham, ranges from $90 to $1,326 U.S. per page (online only, print costs subtracted). This is a price differential of close to 15-fold. That is, the most expensive journal costs 15 times more than the least expensive journal.

The actual variation in price is likely to be higher, as this is a relatively homogenous group of U.S.-based journals that are the flagships of their associations, with costly rejection rates in the range of 90%. Production cots could be significantly higher than average humanities and social sciences journals with more common rejection rates.

For details on the Waltham study, please see my previous post.

Humanities and Social Sciences: thoughts towards transition to OA

Following are some thoughts on how humanities and social sciences publishers can move forward toward open access, inspired by Mary Waltham's brave preliminary foray into research on the economics of these journals, The Future of Scholarly Journals Publishing among Social Science and Humanities Associations, available for download from:

In brief: Humanities and social sciences publishers might wish to consider the marketing advantage of OA in positioning their associations / societies and journals for the future. Members of scholarly societies are scholars. Open access works to the advantage of these scholar-members, who likely have many reasons for belonging to a society, such as fulfilling the service component of expectations for an academic. Why not actively engage members in the transition? This could be helpful not only to transition journals to open access, but also healthy for the association, too.

Institutional subscribers - libraries and consortia - are vocal advocates of open access. Why not engage them in discussion about how to transition? For example, would they consider hybrid site-license / open choice approaches? Since this is a priority for libraries, would moves like this help to protect society publishers from cancellations in these difficult economic times? This post re-analyzes Waltham's data on the feasibility of an article processing fee approach for the 8 journals studied. It is suggested that self-selection of journals may have resulted in high-end rather than average costs. Factoring in advertising revenue, it seems possible that the publication cost for online-only for even these high-end journals with rejection rates in the range of 90%, could be well under $1,000. Assuming that members and institutional subscribers continue to support the journals / associations, needed APFs could be reduced substantially, perhaps to 0. Which is indeed, what most OA journals charge: nothing! Waltham's 8 non-OA journals are contrasted with 716 journals listed in DOAJ under the same general subject areas.

The marketing advantage of open access

As Waltham points out, humanities and social sciences publishers are concerned about: "the publishing support costs of marketing and selling an online version globally to, for example, library consortia and many small society publishers become overwhelmed and decide to partner with a commercial or not-for-profit publisher who can manage and implement much of the complexity associated with the production and sales of the online version".

For the humanities and social sciences journal positioning for the future, marketing to libraries and consortia can be this simple: register with the Directory of Open Access Journals. Libraries around the world are adding the DOAJ list to local serials lists and catalogues; DOAJ subject list links can be added to subject guides in a split second. With this simple step, the small society publisher can compete for impact directly with the large publishers.

Would your members support a move to open access? Why not ask?

The members of scholarly societies and associations are scholars. Open access works in their benefit; many will be authors of the journals supported by the association. Rather than fearing a loss of membership if journals are free, why not educate members about the benefits of OA and ask for their support in the transition?

For the health of the association, it would be wise to carefully frame such research to encourage members to fully consider the full range of value and benefits of the association. People have many reasons for belonging to associations. Membership in a scholarly society per se is likely listed on many a CV. Active participation in association events and volunteer work for associations counts towards the service component of expectations for an academic career - and is a great way to network. It seems reasonable to assume that members generally approve of, and care about, the good work of their societies and associations, such as providing educational opportunities and scholarships. The question of whether members would leave associations in droves without exclusive access to a printed copy of an association journal should be considered within the context of these larger questions.

Would your library and consortial subscribers support a move to open access? Why not ask?

Librarians have been vocal advocates for open access and OA policy. Rather than fearing loss of subscriptions with a move to OA, why not sit down with librarians and figure out how to transition? The University of California and Springer are involved in an innovative site license / open choice for U Cal authors. Would your library customers support a similar move on your part? Perhaps a cooperative transition to OA would help to protect your journals from cancellations in this tough economic climate?

The feasibility of an article processing fee approach

First, I would like to emphasize that the vast majority of OA journals do not use an article processing fee approach. The following comments build on Waltham's data and analysis on the feasibility of an APF approach for the journals studied.

Are Waltham's cost estimates on the high end rather than average?

Waltham found a range of publishing cost / page from $90 - $1,326 (eliminating print costs, not relevant to OA), with an average of $360 / page. With an average of 19 pages / article, this would mean article processing fees would have to be on average $7,000 per article - or $1,710 for the journal with the average cost of $90 / article.

Do Waltham's results reflect the high end of costs / page in humanities and social sciences? Note that this does necessarily reflect the skills of the researcher; it is tricky to do this kind of research, which relies for provision of data supplied by the publishers themselves, who obviously have a vested interest in research which could impact the revenue of their operations.

This research study - which the author points out is very preliminary research - involves only 8 journals in the humanities and social sciences. Each of these journals was self-selected by its association publisher. Looking at the list of titles studied, it appears that each publisher selected its flagship journal. These journals were found to have rejection rates in the range of about 90%. These rejection rates are likely higher than those of the other journals produced by each of these publishers. Since a high rejection rate increases costs (rejected articles require processing, too), the costs of these journals may not be average for the publishers, but rather at the high end.

It is common for OA publishers using the article processing fee business model to have differential fees, reflecting the cost of different journals. Most PLoS journals charge well over $2,000 U.S. per article, while PLoS One charges $1,300 per article, for example.

What about the advertising revenue?

Waltham's research found that up to 45% of a journal's revenue might be coming from advertising revenue. Once this is factored in, the APF for these probably high-end journals to cover remaining costs decreases to a low of $940 for the low-cost journal, or an average of $3,850 per article.

What if memberships and institutional subscriptions continue?

As discussed above, there are many reasons for joining a scholarly society, and it seems reasonable to assume that memberships (and hence membership revenue) will continue with a move to OA. Institutional subscriptions also seem likely to continue for these journals, partially a significant portion of the content is not peer-reviewed. If publishers actively pursue transitional subscription / OA for authors of subscribing institutions models, the odds of ongoing subscriptions seem likely to dramatically increase. If these revenue sources continue,
this changes the scenario for monies needed from APFs to nothing (which is what most OA journals actually charge) to perhaps a small fraction of the publication cost.


While Waltham studied 8 humanities and social sciences non-open-access journals, there are 716 journals listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals in the fields of the 8 journals studied (details below).

Further Research

What is the difference between journals with a relatively low production cost / page (e.g. $90 / page) and those with a relatively high production cost / page (e.g. $1,326 / page). Hypothesis: one factor may be co-producing with a commercial publisher. Small independent association publishers may have less costs.


Here are the associations and journals sampled by Waltham:

American Anthropological Association: American Anthropologist
American Academy of Religion: Journal of the American Academy of Religion
American Economic Association: American Economic Review
American Historical Association: American Historical Review
American Political Science Association: American Political Science Review
American Sociological Association: American Sociological Review
American Statistical Association: Journal of the American Statistical Association
Modern Language Association: Proceedings of the Modern Language Association (PMLA)

DOAJ Anthropology: 56 titles
DOAJ Religion: 58 titles
DOAJ Economics: 88 titles
DOAJ History: 127 titles
DOAJ Political Science: 120 titles
DOAJ Sociology: 76 titles
DOAJ Statistics: 32 titles
DOAJ Languages and Literatures: 159 titles

Total: 716 journals

Waltham on feasibility of APFs, from conclusion, page 31:
"Analysis of the journal costs provided for this study confirm that a shift to an entirely new funding model in the pure form of Open Access (author/producer pays) in which the costs of publishing research articles in journals are paid for by authors or by a funding agency, and readers have access to these publications for free, is not feasible for this group of journals".

This post is part of the Transitioning to Open Access Series. Comments are welcome. Please send me an e-mail, or post to the Open Access Tracking Project, ssp-list, or liblicense.