The entire editorial board of the US Journal of Library Administration 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, writes Sunanda Creagh of The Conversation.
The brawl marks the latest chapter in the Open Access debate, which centres on the rights of academics who have their works 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.
Too restrictive licencing terms
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.
Grantees must open up research results
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 $US 2995 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.”
A series of resignations
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.
Unusual to quit over Open Access
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 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.
The economics of scholarly communication
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.
Ever higher subscription fees
“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.”
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