by Catherine J. Frieman, EJA Deputy Editor (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Open Access (OA) is becoming a more and more significant topic within academic publishing due to many factors, including changing institutional ethical frameworks for the dissemination of data, technological developments and attendant social changes facilitating the easy and widespread sharing of electronic files online, the recognition that economic inequality and publisher paywalls effectively limit access to cutting edge research to wealthy institutions in developed countries and an increasingly vocal movement to undercut the ability of commercial publishers to benefit financially from research largely carried out with public funding and to no material gain for the authors in question. Many academics feel that scientists and researchers have an ethical duty to disseminate their results as openly as possible, a perspective which led to and gains strength from numerous high profile, public and international statements in favour of OA publishing (e.g. Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities, 2003).
Everyone currently in the business of publishing and disseminating original academic texts, whether commercial or non-profit publishers, university presses, book publishing houses or journals is currently grappling with the implications of OA and the ease of sharing digital files even without OA permissions.
During the EAA AGM in Glasgow, objections were raised to continuing to publish the European Journal of Archaeology with a publisher which was not OA by default. In response, bids for the EJA’s publishing contract were sought from a wholly OA university press, in addition to those from more traditional commercial and non-profit presses. Further, the impact and importance of the OA publishing model was discussed at the October 2015 meeting of the EAA ExB. Although the decision was ultimately and unanimously made to move the EJA to CUP rather than to an OA press, it was decided that the topic deserved further discussion; and this task was allocated to the EJA Deputy Editor.
In this report, I will briefly discuss the nature of OA publishing, how ‘pirated’ academic material is an intentional threat to the non-OA publishing model, how the EJA currently utilises and promotes OA to our authors, some benefits of OA publishing as well as the perils with which traditional publishers and the editors of journals are grappling. Finally, I will include some comments about future directions or routes we might travel with the EJA in light of the major social, economic and technological changes affecting the publishing industry.
What is Open Access publishing?
There is not one single form of OA publishing, in fact there are several different scales of OA which are widely recognised and used by publishers and journals. Following the PLOS, OASPA and SPARC guide to OA publishing models (How Open Is it? 2014, 1).
Open Access is a means of disseminating scholarly research that breaks from the traditional subscription model of academic publishing.... Open Access shifts the costs of publishing so that readers, practitioners and researchers obtain content at no cost. However, Open Access is not as simple as “articles are free to all readers.” Open Access encompasses a range of components such as readership, reuse, copyright, posting and machine readability. Within these areas, publishers and funding agencies have adopted many different policies, some of which are more open and some less open. In general, the more a journal’s policies codify immediate availability and reuse with as few restrictions as possible, the more open it is.
They identify six parameters against which the level of OA can be judged: reader rights, reuse rights, copyrights, author posting rights, automatic posting and machine readability (ibid., 2) (Table 1).
Fig. 1: Levels of OA publishing (How open is it? 2014,2).
Numerous licenses have been developed to distinguish levels of openness for published material—academic work, music, art, video games, other computer programs, etc., which are widely used by online creators, major digital platforms (e.g. Wikipedia) and OA publishers, including PlOS. Chief among these are Creative Commons licenses (https://creativecommons.org/) which has developed a variety of licenses for digital creators which allow them to define how limited or accessible they want to make their OA products (https://creativecommons.org/share-your-work/).
Open Access vs. free online distribution
While papers published under some OA models are legally permitted to be freely distributed online via personal webpages, academic social networking sites (e.g. Academia.edu, ResearchGate), facebook or other platforms, many papers without this legal permission are currently being shared widely online by their authors (including, for the sake of clarity and honesty, me), but also by intentional academic pirates.
Papers published before OA was an option or papers published in journals which charge (sometimes quite large) Article Processing Charges (ACPs) for OA are frequently made available for downloading by authors who may not know that their articles’ copyright legally rests with the publisher, who choose to ignore copyright ownership in order to make their research more widely available, who have published in small journals with limited circulations or in journals which have since become defunct and which may not be part of large digital libraries (ie, JSTOR). Based on my own observations, on conversations with colleagues on anecdotal information gleaned from informal discussions and browsing the main download sites, it seems clear that authors are far more likely to post journal articles to Academia, ResearchGate, etc. than they are to post the scanned texts of whole monographs or academic books. It is unclear to me why this distinction exists, though it likely reflects in part the longer embargo period to which monographs are subjected by publishers compared to journal articles. However, I would also speculate based on my own experiences that authors perhaps feel a greater identification with longer texts and might believe they personally benefit more from legal sales of these works than they do from legal sales of journal issues or articles about which they receive no information and from which they receive no tangible benefit. Book sales, like citations, are counted towards one’s productivity, while the sales of individual articles are invisible and do not accrue to the author in the same way.
The ethically motivated piracy of academic work has been in the media recently due to the lawsuit Elsevier press is currently pursuing against the very large, Russia-based Sci-Hub website (https://sci-hub.ac/) (Waddell 2016). Sci-Hub’s self-declared raison d’être is to make scientific research freely available to scientists living and working around the world, their homepage describes their mission as being “to remove any barrier which impeding the widest possible distribution of knowledge in human society!” and they advocate against intellectual property and copyright laws for academic research and for OA publishing. Although the primary beneficiaries of Sci-Hub’s piracy are intended to be scientists in developing counties, data released by Sci-Hub makes clear that this database is also heavily used by scholars in the US, Europe and other developed countries and regions (Bohannon 2016). Sci-Hub is far from the first or the only effort to freely disseminate scientific research online. Sister site Library Genesis or LibGen (also based in Russia) focuses on the free distribution of academic books, sometimes with the aid of Sci-Hub. Based on the rapidity with which the online ecosystem evolves, it seems likely that even if these sites (and their peers) are eventually shut down, they will be replaced with others serving a similar function almost immediately.
The existence of online clearing houses for research and peer-to-peer file sharing of academic documents appears to threaten the traditional publishing model, and both commercial publishers such as Elsevier and non-profit university presses, who tend to be more OA friendly, have expressed concerns for the impact of this file sharing on the publishing industry (Blumenstyk 2016).
Open Access as a preferred publishing model for grant funding bodies
In the last five years, there has been a clear shift from numerous institutions and government agencies towards Open Access as a preferred publishing model. In part, this likely reflects a growing backlash against commercial journal publishers. Publishers like Elsevier, Taylor and Francis, Springer, etc. are funded by the sale of subscriptions to individual journals or to bundles of tens, hundreds or even thousands of academic journals which are subscribed to by large institutions, including university libraries, government agencies, etc. This model allows less popular journals and fields to have a wider distribution as they are bundled with more mainstream topics or higher profile journals. However, there is increasingly a perception that the profits these publishers are making (ca. 35%) based on freely created content (with authorship, editorial activities and peer review being unremunerated) which is then sold at commercial rates to the institutions which supported its production is exploitative (Larivière et al. 2015). High profile statements by major universities—including Harvard (Sample 2012), probably the wealthiest university in the world—about the excessive and increasing costs of subscription bundles has led to boycotts (e.g. Gowers’ “cost of knowledge” campaign: http://thecostofknowledge.com/) and a much greater awareness among researchers of how the publishing ecosystem operates (see also http://www.bib.umontreal.ca/communiques/20160506-DC-annulation-springer-va.htm). Furthermore, the adoption of hybrid OA publishing by commercial publishers, that is situations where journal subscriptions are still marketed to individuals and institutions, but some articles can be made fully OA for an Author Publishing Charge (APC), has not been without controversy as OA APCs for these journals tend to be quite high and publishers have actively resisted lowering them or allowing for the creation of fee waivers. By contrast, fully OA journals tend to have lower OA APCs, if they charge them, and often also include waivers for authors without the means or funding to pay (Larivière et al 2015; Hu 2016). Some universities also have private deals with publishers which can further reduce the costs of OA publication.
Between a growing revulsion with what is often described as commercial publishers’ predatory business models and an increasing interest in promoting academic research across economic and national boundaries many funding bodies are throwing their support behind OA publishing models, and mandating that the research they fund be published OA. This is a global movement with major funding bodies and accreditation boards in the UK and Europe (through ERC, RCUK, HEFCE, Horizons 2020 and the Wellcome Trust), the USA (A memo from the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the FASTR Act) and Australia (ARC, NMHRC), among others, mandating or strongly advising OA publication of all funded research. In some cases, this means that funding has been made available to supplement or cover OA APCs, although this is less true for the humanities. The ERC, at least, recognises that disciplinary differences between the humanties/social sciences and STEM fields exist and has suggested that for the former a delay of 12 months—the typical embargo period for a journal article—is acceptable prior to the submission of published material in an OA repository (European research council, 2016).
How does Open Access currently operate for the EJA?
The European Journal of Archaeology is a hybrid OA journal in that it publishes both OA and non-OA articles side by side. Once papers are accepted for publication by the editors of the EJA, authors are provided with options for OA or traditional publishing. Under Taylor and Francis we have made OA publishing available to our authors via their OpenSelect process (http://www.tandfonline.com/action/authorSubmission?show=instructions&journalCode=yEJA20#Open_access)
. Under this system authors can pay to publish their accepted articles as ‘gold’ OA or self-archive it as ‘green’ OA. Gold OA papers are permanently available online free for anyone to access with few to no reuse restrictions. Green OA is the freely available option for authors to deposit unfinished/pre-proof versions of papers into research archives. In 2017, the EJA will be moving to CUP who support Green OA models and will continue to provide a Gold OA option for a fee.
The T&F EJA website includes a search feature for Open Access articles in the EJA which returns only four articles:
- Pitts 2010. Rethinking the southern British Oppida [Google scholar citation count: 12]
Kohring 2014. Materiality, technology and reconstructing social knowledge through bodily representation [Google scholar citation count: 2]
Chapman et al. 2014. The Second Phase of the Trypillia Mega-Site Methodological Revolution [Google scholar citation count: 13]
Van Oosten 2016 The Dutch Great Stink
Clearly, EJA authors are not widely taking up the Gold OA option available to them, despite their interest in OA publishing models. In the absence of survey data, we cannot identify the reasons behind their choice not to publish Gold OA, but anecdotally the fee charged by publishers dissuades authors who lack the sort of rich grant funding more common in the sciences.
Libraria and the EJA
Beyond the question of OA articles in the EJA, the EAA is a partner in the recently launched Libraria project (http://libraria.cc/).Libraria is a cooperative group of learned societies, journals and public interest organisations which have joined together “to research viable and sustainable open access alternatives to the existing ecology of scholarly publishing dominated and controlled by commercial presses” (http://libraria.cc/about) with a focus on economically sustainable models of OA publishing. The primary output of Libraria to date is the suggestion that there are more than enough resources within the academic publishing ecosystem to support a publishing cooperative of journals and libraries, with additional funding coming from government, universities and private philanthropy (Jiménez et al. 2015). The Libraria project is currently soliciting journals to join together in a Subscription-Equivalent Transition Co-operative (SET co-op) which would function similar to a shared publisher supported by academic institutions/university libraries. In other words, Libraria will offer a bundle of OA journals (the SET co-op) to participating university libraries and institutions who agree to pay to support their ongoing publication and the co-op will divide these payments among the various journals which make it up to pay their publication costs.
The EAA has agreed to share data about the EJA with Libraria to support this ongoing research project, but is not currently joining the initial SET co-op.
Benefits of Open Access publishing
The primary benefit of OA publishing for authors is the potentially much wider dissemination of any given piece of research than. This wider dissemination serves to benefit authors in two separate ways: research indicates that OA papers see higher readership, especially by people working in the professional or non-academic sector (Hardisty and Haaga 2008), thus increasing their scientific relevance, and citation rates (Lawrence 2001; Eysenbach 2006; Gargouri et al 2010), thus increasing the figures of their scientific excellence which are important in some disciplines and universities. Furthermore, with the introduction of Altmetrics as a new measure of impact, online dissemination and discussion of research can be measured and included in the metric analysis of a given author’s work. A further note is that some authors find their retention of copyright under the OA model preferable to traditional models where the journal or publisher retains copyright to their intellectual work (Weller 2011, 149).
It is perhaps valuable here to look at the successful and extremely high impact publication of the recently discovered H. naledi fossils. To much controversy and debate, this find was published in the fully OA journal eLife along with research quality 3D scans of the fossils and data files to allow them to be 3D printed by anyone with access to a 3D printer (Berger et al 2015). Arguably, the find of a new hominid species would be big news no matter what, but in a discipline where access to hominid remains is carefully (perhaps excessively) guarded, there is no question that giving access to the remains (albeit in 3D printed form) not just to other scientists but also to the public has kickstarted debate around this new find and captured the popular interest in a way less tangible and accessible reports of fossil finds simply cannot (Callaway 2015; Hawkes 2015).
The benefits of OA to journals are less obvious than they are to authors. First among them is probably the ethical question of who is benefitting from the scholarly labour which editorial boards and peer reviewers give to journals (often free or barely remunerated). Different journals have different missions, but if the mission statement is to reach the widest audience, to expand access to research beyond elite western universities and institutions and to produce papers which can be read and appreciated by professionals and other members of the public without access to or affiliation with a university library, then OA is an obvious benefit. Certainly a high citation count for OA articles, suggests that more eyes land on the journal itself as well. In a purely practical sense, there is some evidence that OA publishing can increase the profile of journals through increased dissemination, though this only seems to apply to journals publishing higher quality research—lower tier journals are actually damaged by OA and see lowered citation rates (McCabe and Snyder 2013).
For publishers and learned societies
Aside from increased awareness and perhaps a higher profile in the case of learned societies, there are few tangible benefits of OA publishing to publishers and learned societies for whom journal subscriptions form a major part of their income. Certainly, OA papers with their ease of accessibility and higher citation/download rates increase the exposure of publishers and journals, and temporary periods of OA are a common strategy used by publishers to drum up attention to the material they are publishing, but temporary is the key word. Perhaps, lowered cost and complexity as distribution moves online and away from physical journals might be counted as a further benefit of OA, but as this is already a trend within the publishing industry, any benefits are more likely due to correlation rather than causation. One (perhaps overly cynical) possible benefit of promoting the Gold OA model in particular is that it “reinforces the power of commercial publishers simply maintains a status quo and keeps the peer- reviewed article as the primary focus of research that must be attained” (Weller 2014, 59) rather than challenging traditional publishing models which would undermine the primacy of commercial publishers in particular.
Problems with Open Access publishing
The major flaw in the OA model for authors is the pay-to-play nature of OA publishing. Costs of publication and dissemination which are covered by publishers and subscription fees in traditional publishing models fall on authors in the OA model, with ACPs of anywhere from $500 to $3000 being required to publish Gold OA. This penalty falls hardest on junior scholars, many of whom currently find themselves in precarious employment, on people engaging in research from outside academia with its publication subsidies and (admittedly competitive) access to grant funding and on researchers working in poorer countries and universities (Weller 2014, 58). That said, fully OA journals tend to be aware of these inequalities and have developed ACP waivers or sliding scales of payment depending on the country and institution of origin of the author in question.
The major stumbling block for a journal in embracing OA publishing models is one of expense. Although many of the editorial functions of academic journals are carried out by volunteers or only marginally remunerated, the costs of copyediting, online support, typesetting, etc. can be considerable, and marketing costs, such as travel to conferences, printing fees, etc. are also necessary. If a journal is not online-only, then the costs of printing and postage must also be covered. Even fully OA journals founded with OA principles at their heart struggle to make ends meet, with an expectation of no financial profit and a heavy reliance on major philanthropic support (Wexler 2015).
In addition, due to the financial model under which OA has, to date, been put into place, there is a perception that quality control at OA journals suffers as there is a pressure to publish more papers to cover costs. Moreover, a number of online OA journals of dubious quality and provenience have emerged in recent years, advertising themselves as genuine peer-reviewed journals, but appearing more like pay-to-play scams than academic journals (Weller 2014, 61). These concerns were flagged by a recent ‘sting’ carried out where an obviously flawed paper was submitted to numerous OA journals (including some of the so-called ‘predatory online journals’) and accepted by over 150 of them (Bohannon 2013).
For publishers and learned societies
Clearly OA furnishes a major challenge to the traditional funding model, especially for commercial publishers who exist to return a profit to their shareholders. Similarly, many learned societies use their subscription income to fund their organisations and its various undertakings, such as conferences, scholarships, student prizes, etc. This is the case with Associations, including EAA, that offer the journal as a benefit to members, thus encouraging membership and sustaining the association through fees. Moreover, in pushing content distribution primarily or wholly online, OA might inadvertently limit access to scholarly material by older subscribers who have less fluency with online media and materials.
Thinking about the future of Open Access and journal publishing
There is no question in my mind that the OA model will increase in profile and significance as time goes on, if only because the widespread sharing of digital media seems unlikely to be curtailed whether or not the media is question is legally available for sharing. The trend to OA is simply another dimension of the huge transformation that the whole publishing sector is experiencing in the digital era. It is not distribution that is is changing; it is the entire system of publishing, reading and quoting that is being transformed, as well, perhaps, as major elements of knowledge production itself.
As we have seen in other industries, notably the music industry, the impact of digital file sharing is profound and long-lasting (Alexander 2009, 199-202). While the commercial music industry has, at long last, adapted to online piracy through changing sales models (e.g. the introduction of the Apple Store and other digital music stores selling individual tracks and mp3 files at low costs as well as changing contracts with artists which emphasise tour and merchandising revenues over record sales; ibid., 191), there is no question that it has suffered financial harm from the process, with revenues never recovering from the introduction of peer-to-peer file sharing, not to mention from the widespread use of recording software which eliminated other revenue streams in the music recording process. However, research into the actual financial impact of file sharing on the sales of CDs has, so-far, not supported the industry’s position that digital sharing is the only or key factor underlying their shrinking revenues, with some studies even suggesting that file sharing tends to increase the sales of specific albums rather than harm them (e.g. Oberholzer-Gee & Strumpf 2007). One of the major lessons which has emerged from the plunging fortunes of the music industry and the soaring rate of digitally shared music is that, in taking an immediate reactionary stance against digital music sharing, rather than recognising that technological and economic frameworks were inevitably changing due to greater and more widespread online access, no effort was expended early to adapt to a newly networked world, and financial and reputational losses were potentially considerably greater than they might have been (Knopper 2009).
Commercial publishers appear to have learned this lesson from the music industry’s decline, and their rapid adoption of the Gold OA model with its high ACPs seems to be the result. Nevertheless, it is worth considering the extent to which openness as a principle, and the piracy and digital sharing of academic work have the potential to undermine publishers, journals and perhaps also learned societies, such as the EAA.
As long as commercial publishers are profiting from academic research and the high citation of peer-reviewed publications in elite journals are the currency with which academics purchase their reputations, an antagonistic relationship between publishers and academics, between openness and traditional publishing styles, will likely continue to develop. Weller (2014) argues strongly that grafting OA principles onto existing systems is a recipe for failure—both for the principles of openness and for the existing systems which are imperfectly able to benefit from them. Instead, he suggests that we should be thinking about fundamental changes to education and publishing models in which openness is a central principle rather than a stumbling block. He suggests that scholarly research which embraces the digital environment and the principles of openness will look different: it might be less formal, relying more heavily on blog posts or mediated written debates; it might include multi-media outputs, such as videos or podcasts; and new forms of scholarly writing, such as more granular and targeted shorter texts, might take primacy over the traditional article (Weller 2011; 2014). Similarly the whole model of publishing will likely have to change in order to make OA publishing financially viable and worthwhile, especially to learned societies for whom journals can be a major income stream. Corsín-Jiménez et al.’s (2015) model of a publishing cooperative organised between coalitions of journals and university libraries is one potentially viable way of structuring an alternative to the current system; but this is currently still a tentative model built partially on speculative data.
One key debate in this discussion of shifting publication practices relates to peer reviewPeer review is a time consuming part of the traditional publication model, but one which is widely perceived as the major source of value added to research by journals and learned societies (Weller 2011, 151). Some scientific journals and repositories dedicated to the rapid dissemination of new data and analyses are experimenting with post-publication peer review, in which an article is posted and experts are invited to publically comment on its methods and results. Sometimes this takes the form of online comments or forums, such as those hosted by PubPeer (http://blog.pubpeer.com/) or the PloS ONE website, although these systems are susceptible to abuse by anonymous commenters (e.g. Stirling 2015). PLoS is, in fact, better thought of as operating under a hybrid pre-publication and post-publication peer review system where traditional peer review is carried out, more or less successfully, but post-publication comments are welcomed and might results in alterations (listed and dated) to the published paper. Pre-publication subject repositories such as those hosted on ArXiv are also fundamentally changing publishing in the sciences, allowing for public debate on research prior to submission for publication. While the Social Science Research Network is a somewhat lower profile equivalent, there is no clear parallel in the humanities for ArXiv. Developing a pre-publication open repository for uploading and discussing breaking research in the humanities is one area in which openness and scholarliness could be seen to viably and productively improve the current publishing model. Other suggestions relating to peer-review remove the publisher entirely. For example, Satlow (2016) recently outlined a new model in which peer review is divorced from publication, that is authors could submit their work to scientific and learned societies for peer review and the societies would offer recognition of work of which approved (thus giving kudos) at which point the author could decide how to disseminate. A key element of this proposal is the idea that authors could rack up peer-reviewed kudos or badges from multiple societies for a given paper and that those badges rather than the exclusivity of the journal would be the mark of prestige. The benefits to learned societies in this model are not entirely clear, and no suggestion is made for how to incentivise learned societies to organise time consuming peer reviews processes for articles from which they see no clear direct benefit.
As should be abundantly clear, OA seems to function best and most productively when it is part of the foundational layer of design for a given publication or publishing outcome. Certainly the experience of the Society for Cultural Anthropology in transitioning its journal Cultural Anthropology to an OA format supports this observation. As Kenner (2014) makes clear, ‘going OA’ meant more than leaving their previous publishers and making articles freely available, instead a whole new OA infrastructure had to be developed to support the journal’s publication from submission to distribution. Libraria’s initiatives in this space might prove to be the necessary developments for more scholarly societies to move towards OA journal publishing. However, OA methods of research dissemination can be much wider than traditional journal articles or monographs. Open podcasts are excellent venues for staging debates, tools for presenting complex ideas in formats which engage the public and resources for bringing cutting edge and controversial ideas into the classroom. Pre-publication repositories are another area which is underdeveloped in the humanities and social sciences and which might be a valuable venue for expansion. Certainly the success of the Archaeology Data Service (ADS) in archiving and making accessible grey literature might indicate directions for future development.
As we move into this new digital publishing future, I think we must first clarify our own ethical principles regarding the dissemination of scholarly data and its accessibility by economically and geographically marginalised colleagues as well as peers and scholars not based at universities or other major institutions. We must decide what level of OA we are aiming to embrace and how openness as a principle can and should be built into different future EAA projects. It is also probably worthwhile that, as we do so, we keep in mind the words attributed to the great American scholar and diplomat Ben Franklin: “We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
- OA publishing models are growing in profile and becoming more mainstream with many journals and publishers looking to expand options for OA publishing to authors.
- Traditional publishing is being increasingly affected by illegal peer-to-peer sharing of scholarly outputs designed to avoid paywalls and open access to cutting edge research to scholars who are economically or geographically disadvantaged.
- Funding bodies, including private funders and governmental granting organisations, are increasingly requiring OA publishing of funded research.
- Numerous forms of OA exist. These include a variety of creative commons licenses which publishers and authors can apply freely to their creative work; Green OA models, providing for the free self-archiving of pre-proof publications; and fee-charging Gold OA models.
- Some journals and publishers are transitioning to full OA status. In other cases, non-OA or hybrid OA journals are launching fully OA online-only supplements or sister journals.
- EJA will be published by CUP from 2017, and this publisher supports Gold OA publishing models which include an ACP.
- The majority of the benefits of Gold/Green OA publishing flow to the authors of OA papers who see increased citation and access to their work and to the public for whom research is more easily available.
- Journals and publishers benefit from OA publishing primarily on a reputational level as articles gain publicity and are widely accessed, however there is some indication that the Gold/Green OA model might benefit publishers by entrenching the current publication system more deeply.
- The drawbacks to OA publishing largely revolve around the financial models in which it currently operates, with authors squeezed by variable ACPs and journals, publishers and learned societies forced to give up a profit-making endeavour.
- Green/Gold OA, while the dominant model of OA at the moment, is best understood as a hybrid of traditional and open publishing models rather than a disruption to them.
- OA publishing works best and most effectively when OA principles are foundational to the endeavour and older models are not forcibly adhered to.
- The transition to OA publishing models will cost money.
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