Editors of Informetrics resign at Elsevier and start new journal

Open science principles at the core of dispute

News | door Sicco de Knecht
14 januari 2019 | As more and more editorial boards come into conflict over the open science policies of their journal, one decides to resign and take their expertise elsewhere. Today the entire editorial board of the Journal of Informetrics, a major publication in the field of Scientometrics and Informetrics, has unanimously resigned their position. In the future they will dedicate their time to a new full open access journal: Quantitative Science Studies. Robert-Jan Smits: "I hope that this example will inspire many more to follow suit.“

The move has been in the making for over a year tells Johan Rooryck (Leiden University), an expert in the field of flipping journals. He was involved in the transition on behalf of the Fair Open Access Alliance and explains the origin of the move. “It basically comes down to a conflict between the editorial board and Elsevier over the openness of the journal. In this case the availability of citation data was a major issue.”

In their response to a shifting landscape major publishing houses are preparing for a future where citation data and other metrics are expected to become much more important aspect of their business. It is therefore not unexpected that publishers want to retain ownership over this type of valuable data. Last year the European Commission was openly criticised for the involvement of Elsevier in the Open Science Monitor leading to a formal complaint to the European Ombudsman.

Fair open access principles

The main focus of the journal of Informetrics is on topics in bibliometrics, scientometrics, webometrics, and altmetrics. Editor in Chief at the journal is professor of Quantitative Science Studies Ludo Waltman (Leiden University) and its editorial board includes prominent players in the field such as Paul Wouters (Leiden University) and Loet Leydesdorff (University of Amsterdam). In an announcement on the journals’ website Elsevier states that the board is “currently undergoing an Editorial Board transition.”

In a press release the International Society for Scientometrics and Informetrics (ISSI), the primary scholarly and professional society for scientometrics and informetrics, announces to be pleased by the move. Although the Journal of Informetrics is commonly associated with the ISSI there is no formal relation between the ISSI and Elsevier. The new journal Quantitative Science Studies however, is owned by ISSI, and will be published jointly with the MIT Press in compliance with fair open access principles.

In their press release the editorial board members emphasise that they believe that scholarly journals should be owned by the scholarly community rather than by commercial publishers. Also journals should be open access under fair principles, and publishers should make their citation data freely available. These conditions were not accepted by Elsevier, prompting the termination of the relationship with the publisher.

Financial and ideological support

To ensure access for authors to the new journal, the MIT Press will charge a comparatively low charge per article tells Rooryck. “We are currently aiming for a price of about €800 per article.” The costs will initially be fully covered by the Technische Informationsbibliothek (TIB) – Leibniz Information Centre for Science and Technology for the first three years of operation with support of the Communication, Information, Media Centre (KIM) of the University of Konstanz. “All of this will amount to a grand total of €180.000 to cover the article processing costs.”

Rooryck previously led the ‘flip’ of the editorial board of Lingua – an Elsevier title where he used to be editor in chief – and three other journals to their full OA counterparts. He is confident that the financial and ideological support provided to QSS will suffice. “At that time we received a €500.000 subsidy from the Dutch science council NWO to cover the transition period over the first five years.”

Flipping a journal, even under these circumstances isn’t altogether easy Rooryck adds. “I can tell you out of my own experience that Elsevier’s contracts are very strict and often prevent editors from moving to a journal that is in direct competition with their interest.” The fact that the entire editorial board of 27 supports the move will certainly help, he thinks.

Plan S as a driving force behind flip

With Plan S scheduled to come into effect in less then a year, European funders are feverishly hashing out the details of its implementation. At the same time editorial boards are reconsidering their role in the world of academic publishing. According to Rooryck the impending open access policies definitely was an important drive behind the flip. “Plan S was the final push needed to turn dissatisfaction into action.”

In his first public response the man behind Plan S, special envoy open access to the European Commision Robert-Jan Smits hails the initiative. “This is great news for the Open Access movement!” he tells ScienceGuide. “I want to congratulate both the ISSI and the editorial board with this courageous step and hope that this example will inspire many more to follow suit “.

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