Transitioning Your Scholarly Society’s Journal To Open Access
As the Open Access movement gains traction in the world of scholarly publishing, scholars in many disciplines have concerns about implications for the future of journals that are owned by scholarly societies but published by commercial publishers. Because subscription money from journal sales helps keeps the societies viable, how can they respond to requests to open the journal for all to read? Will their current publisher agree to an open access transition?
Reasons to flip
Journals flip from a paid subscription model to open access for a variety of reasons, but these themes are constants:
- To shift control of and bring more equity to the scholarly process
- To broaden the audience who may easily read the material the journal publishes
Knowledge is power
As a first step in considering whether to transition a journal to open access, it is crucial to understand the logistics, formal agreements and finances of the current publication arrangement. Issues to explore include:
- Ownership of the journal
- Understanding how the journal’s income is earned and what activities that income supports
- The terms and conditions of the society’s contracts with the publisher or publishers
Knowing the existing landscape will help the society decide whether to transition an existing journal to open access, to start a new open access journal, or to move an existing journal to a new publisher.
In addition, it is important to understand the discipline’s support for and understanding of open access and the prevalence and reputation of other open access journals in the field. Members of the society will need to assess whether the advantages of open access publication might outweigh the loss of some revenue. They can only do a full assessment when they understand the present publishing situation.
Where to get assistance
Consultants can help members of a society discuss open access publishing options with their present publisher and discuss alternatives with the society’s membership.
- Closest to home, John McLeod at the UNC Press consults with individuals and organizations who are interested in open access publishing through the Office of Scholarly Publishing Services.
- Members of the University of California Office of Scholarly Communications Publishing Workgroup (email link) encourage interested parties to contact them for “candid and confidential advice on publishers” who are interested in launching new open access journals.
- The Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA) and the Association of University Presses (AUP) offer similar services.
For a more detailed reading on transitioning a journal to open access, see:
- University of California Office of Scholarly Communications “Guide to Transitioning Journals to Open Access Publishing” and other resources on their website. (2019).
- Scholastica “How to Start or Flip an Open Access Journal: Academic-Led Publishing Primer” (2018).