The entire editorial board of a US academic journal has resigned in protest over restrictions that would require scholars to wait up to 18 months before making their published research more widely available on open access, or pay a fee of nearly $3000.
The stoush marks the latest chapter in the open access debate, which centres on the rights of academics who have their work published in commercial journals to also share their research findings in open access repositories or to publish instead in free journals with no pay wall.
Under the traditional commercial journal publishing business model, readers and universities must pay hefty subscription fees to read about research that is often publicly funded in the first place. Copyright of the journal article is usually transferred to the publisher.
In the latest development, the editorial board of the Journal of Library Administration, published by Taylor and Francis, quit over licensing terms that editor Damon Jaggars described as “too restrictive and out-of-step with the expectations of authors.”
“Authors find the author agreement unclear and too restrictive and have repeatedly requested some form of Creative Commons license in its place,” Jaggars was quoted as saying.
Many academic institutions have large repositories of published research available open access for anyone to read. Several funding bodies, such as the Australian Research Council and the National Health and Medical Research Council have made receiving a research grant conditional on the academic promising to make their research available in such an institutional repository.
Publisher Taylor and Francis stipulated that academics may put a copy of their edited journal article into an institutional repository but only 12 months after publication for science, engineering, behavioural science, and medicine.
For arts, social science, and humanities journals, the waiting period is 18 months.
“After much discussion, the only alternative presented by Taylor and Francis tied a less restrictive license to a $US2995 per article fee to be paid by the author,” Jaggars said.
“Thus, the Board came to the conclusion that it is not possible to produce a quality journal under the current licensing terms offered by Taylor and Francis and chose to collectively resign.”
Dr Danny Kingsley, Executive Officer for the Australian Open Access Support Group, said the Journal of Library Administration board’s resignation was the latest in a series of resignation by editors and editorial boards in protest over licensing restrictions.
“A webpage put together by the Open Access Directory called Journal declarations of independence lists examples of ‘the resignation of editors from a journal in order to launch a comparable journal with a friendlier publisher’. There are 20 journals listed on the pages, with the timeline running from 1989 to 2008,” Dr Kingsley wrote on her blog.
“This latest case could open the discussion and see journal editors – who have quite a lot of power –- start taking up the question of allowing more permissive conditions with their publishers. We might start getting some leeway,” she said in an interview with The Conversation.
Professor Tom Cochrane, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Technology, Information and Learning Support at the Queensland University of Technology and a Creative Commons expert said it was not the first time but it was unusual for a journal editorial board to quit over open access.
“Significantly, it’s in response to a charging problem which will be around for a while as business models are worked out,” he said.
“The idea of having to pay an article processing charge of $3000 in a journal which is also charging a subscription fee is repugnant. It’s double dipping.”
UNSW art academic Associate Professor Joanna Mendelssohn, who also edits an open access data base of Australian art and design called Design and Art of Australia Online, said it was “about time universities reconsidered their relationship to scholarly academic journals, and in particular the the way they have enabled a small group of publishers to make academics hostage to their commercial interests.”
“We have to resist the archaic notion that unless access to journals are restricted to universities (or those libraries with subscriptions) then it does not count. It is a bit like 15th century scholars assuming knowledge was only valid if it was in Latin,” she said.
Colin Steele, Emeritus Fellow at the Australian National University and an expert in open book publishing welcomed the stand taken by the Journal of Library Administration editorial board.
“It’s a very good stand because, by and large, academics are ‘protected’ from paying for journals directly – their University libraries do – will now start questioning the economics of scholarly communication,” he said but added that the high Australian dollar had cushioned the debate on library subscriptions.
“Nonetheless, many editors and editorial boards are still only too happy for the multinational publishing firms to continue as they are. The publishers charge significantly higher subscriptions to libraries when they take over journals, even though the editors do the bulk of the work in commissioning manuscripts, organising peer review and receive little or no remuneration for that work,” he said.
“There is an obligation, particularly here for the Australian library and information journals, given the place of libraries both historically and currently in disseminating knowledge for the public good, particularly when the creation of that knowledge has been funded by the taxpayer.”
Response from Taylor and Francis
UPDATE: Here’s a response from a spokeswoman for the publisher of the Journal of Library Administration, Taylor and Francis:
“Taylor & Francis is concerned to address the misunderstandings that have arisen in commentaries around the resignation of the Journal of Library Administration (JLA) Board.
JLA authors have the best “Green OA” route option available. As for all other journals in our Library & Information Science (LIS) portfolio, JLA authors do not have to pay an Author Publishing Charge (APC) in order to achieve full OA from the point of publication. Under our LIS pilot program, authors can freely post their (“post-print”) manuscript immediately on publication – ie without any embargo. For a complete explanation of our current LIS Author Rights Policy, please visit the following link:http://journalauthors.tandf.co.uk/preparation/lisrights.asp
There is no requirement for JLA authors to pay an APC in order to publish in the JLA or to get immediate full-text Open Access of their articles. Taylor & Francis’ APC paid OA model, T&F Open Select, has been implemented as an option for authors to comply with the recent RCUK and Wellcome Trust mandate on those journals where there is an embargo period on author accepted version posting in a repository:http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/documents/documents/RCUKOpenAccessPolicyandRevisedguidance.pdf.
The regrettable circumstances around the resignation of the JLA Board have highlighted the complexities of the current arena. This is characterised by a range of Open Access models, alongside a range of licences, in the quest to meet the different requirements being set by various funding bodies around the world.
Taylor & Francis has a range of licences designed to meet author and funder needs. We regularly review author documents, and since late last year we have been working on new versions for release. These versions will provide greater choice and more immediate clarity to our authors about the rights they retain.
We trust this information is helpful.
Sarah Blatchford – Regional Director Routledge/Taylor & Francis Australasia."