:: Digital Libraries Columns


Library Journal "Digital Libraries" Columns 1997-2007, Roy Tennant

Please note: these columns are an archive of my Library Journal column from 1997-2007. They have not been altered in content, so please keep in mind some of this content will be out of date. :: Digital Libraries Columns

Open-Access Journals


   The current system of scholarly communication is in need of major
   changes. Journal price increases have been so dramatic and devastating
   that faculty who typically don't know or care about library
   expenditures are now front and center in the battle to change the
   dominant paradigm. Simply put, this model is: faculty and researchers
   at universities, many of which are public institutions, create most
   scientific and academic journal literature. Faculty typically publish
   articles with commercial publishers for no compensation (in many cases
   they even pay to publish). Once published, the research and scholarship
   of their faculty are licensed by libraries from the commercial
   publishers, often at top dollar.

   For example, the libraries of the University of California (UC) system
   collectively spend 50 cents per second on journals from the top four
   science, technology, and medical journal publishers, or $79 per student
   per year. Did the commercial publisher add value? Sure, in most cases.
   Is that value worth the cost? Increasingly, faculty, librarians, and
   others say no.

   The movement
   In May 2000, a large group of high-level university administrators and
   librarians met in Tempe, AZ, and agreed to a set of "Principles for
   Emerging Systems of Scholarly Publishing." It was a line in the sand,
   drawn by those determined to change a "system of scholarly publishing
   [that] has become too costly for the academic community to sustain."

   Every revolution must have its leaders, and this one is no different.
   One dominant figure is Stevan Harnad, who has written on this topic for
   years. His discussion list, the September 1998 American Scientist
   Forum, is his main vehicle for his strongly held views on open access
   to scholarly literature. Another key personality is Peter Suber, who
   manages the SPARC Open Access Newsletter and previously ran a Free
   Online Scholarship bulletin board. Others include Harold Varmus and
   Michael Eisen of the Public Library of Science (PloS).
   Models and exemplars

   One of the earliest (1995) and most well-developed e-journal platforms
   is HighWire Press at Stanford University. HighWire has a large (337)
   stable of mostly scientific and medical peer-reviewed journals, which
   it supports with a robust and full-featured publishing platform called
   Bench>Press. The HighWire model is one of fee-for-service, with many
   of the journals using the HighWire service to charge subscription fees.
   However, there are some open-access e-journals at HighWire, and they
   also offer a "moving wall" for most journals wherein older issues
   become open access.

   The Berkeley Electronic Press ("bepress") offers another commercial
   system for open journals. Its EdiKit system also takes papers from
   submission through the peer-review process, but the end product is
   usually articles in Adobe Acrobat, although it can accommodate HTML.
   Again, the model here is fee-for-service, with a number of the journals
   charging subscription fees.

   PLoS, also aimed at creating a production-grade online publishing
   system, has a very different model. With a $9 million grant from the
   Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, PLoS intends to make the full
   contents of all its journals freely available. Its first journal (PLoS
   Biology) is due this month. Its economic model is based on charging
   authors for publication, although an author's inability to pay "will
   never be a consideration in the decision whether to publish."

   UC's eScholarship Repository will launch its first journal around the
   same time, supported by the same bepress EdiKit system that is behind
   the non-peer-reviewed content of the eScholarship Repository. In this
   model, the institution supports the infrastructure that makes online
   publication possible, with faculty and researchers from UC institutions
   and elsewhere providing the oversight and professional expertise.

   For those wanting to go it alone, the Open Journal System (OJS) offers
   a free, open source solution for journal publication. A full-featured
   online peer-review system from the Public Knowledge Project at the
   University of British Columbia, OJS seeks to lower dramatically the
   barrier to those wishing to start new publications.
   Will the paradigm shift?

   More about journal management systems--as well as other resources--are
   listed in the [138]link list with the online version of this column. Be
   aware that some systems may no longer be active. You can keep up with
   the open-access e-journal movement through the SPARC Open Access
   Newsletter, the September 1998 American Scientist Forum, and the SPARC
   web site. To find out what open-access journals are available, see the
   Directory of Open Access Journals.

   It's too early to tell what impact the open-access revolution will have
   on the dominant paradigm. But the breadth and depth of the movement is
   impressive. Although the revolution has not yet succeeded in all of its
   goals, it is gaining enough ground that one can envision the toppling
   of the current system--unimaginable even a few years ago.

                                                                 Link List

               Bibliography and Summary: Electronic Peer Review Management
                                         Directory of Open Access Journals
                             eScholarship Repository Peer-Reviewed Content
                                                Journal Management Systems
                                                      Open Journal Systems
                                                 Public Library of Science
                                   September 1998 American Scientist Forum
                                              SPARC Open Access Newsletter
                                                          Tempe Principles
             Tools and Resources for Online Journal Editing and Publishing
      Web-Based Journal Manuscript Management and Peer-Review Software and