- Special Issue on Open Access
The co-editors of the Journal of Scholarly Publishing introduce the second special issue of their tenure. This issue on open access publishing was undertaken with the assistance of guest co-editor Marguerite Avery.
Welcome to the open access special issue of the Journal of Scholarly Publishing. Its publication coincides with the fifteenth anniversary of the 2002 Budapest Open Access Initiative, which many would identify as the origin of a coalesced philosophy of sharing research for the greater good and as the launch of a social movement. Open access was born from a technological utopian vision to make traditional research output available to everyone, at least to those with a broadband Internet connection.
Since then, scholarly communication has endured considerable upheaval to its previous 350-plus years of traditional publishing. Academic publishers had always been defined by print products, books and journals, produced under conditions of peer review that formalized over time. Of equal importance was the publisher’s imprimatur, which bestowed authority on the publication and its author. This system served as a credentialing mechanism for gradually accreted knowledge. Authority reigned supreme over scholars and scholarship, until new technologies supported attribution (and thus citation statistics) and access as well.
Over the past fifteen years, we’ve witnessed a number of shifts in the ethos and standard practices that define scholarly communication. The most notable is the emphasis on unfettered circulation of published scholarship. The mantra ‘publish or perish’ no longer captures the academic zeitgeist; circulation of the published work is arguably just as important. Scholarship that exists only as a printed book faces dispiriting odds of ever leaving the library shelf. For a growing number of scholars, publication alone is no longer enough; content needs to be demonstrably accessed and cited as well. Access becomes the key to scholarly impact. [End Page 1] In addition to the publisher’s authority, the new scholarly communication ecosystem trades in access and attribution.
This shuffling of priorities, media formats, and scholarly consumption behaviours has muddied the waters regarding the roles and obligations of all parties. And the traditional flow of expenditures and revenues has been disrupted by stopgap measures to provide financial support to publishers for producing open content. Libraries and publishers are rethinking their mission and purpose and are grappling with new models of support (to flip to gold or not, for one) within the university and the market-place. Researchers are grabbing the reins, creating new journals online with mixed results. Large-scale platforms that support mega-journals aim to reduce barriers to publication, while predatory publishers exploit gold open access for profit without providing quality control or editorial service. What is more, although the number of publishing outfits has increased exponentially, the pool of free labour supplying peer review has not increased in kind. Attempts to place a dollar value on a publication have been more successful than attempts to quantify the value of the authority bestowed by an imprimatur; offsetting the erosion of print sales with a spike in published citations proves to be a calculation even harder to compute. While authority, alongside access and attribution, weighs most heavily on the minds of scholars, the question of sustainability preoccupies most everyone else. But fifteen years in, there has been time for experimentation, analysis, regrouping, and reflection on open access in scholarly publishing.
We hope that the scholarship featured in this special issue will nudge us toward valuing all contributions to the scholarly communication ecosystem.
In the opening article of the issue, Julia Frankland and Margaret A. Ray contrast the market structure of subscription journal publishing with that of open access journal publishing, and they conclude with several recommendations for maximizing the net benefits of an open access market. Next, Martin Paul Eve argues, also from an economic perspective, that open access promises infinity without adequately accounting for the finite human labour it requires. Eve illustrates his discussion of labour in publishing with the example of contemporary XML typesetting.
The third and fourth contributions describe the early returns of two open access programs. Alison Mudditt reports on Luminos, a digital monograph program at the...