As the title indicates, this presentation aims to make a contribution to the conference theme of “Openness in Learning Technology”; with a particular emphasis on open access journal publications by examining who actually covers the cost of open access journals. Openness appears to be a bit like an EL James novel and exist along a continuum of shades where everything is not always what it initially appears to be. The genesis of this presentation began with our interest in open access journals in general and with one title in particular: the Irish Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning (IJTEL) which is the official publication of the Irish Learning Technology Association (ILTA). The IJTEL is an open access peer-reviewed journal published under the terms of Creative Commons International (CC BY 4.0). As editors of an open access journal, we are acutely aware that getting an peer reviewed open access journal out there involves a financial commitment. In our case, the Irish Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning (http://journal.ilta.ie/index.php/telji) , the costs are minimised with all those involved giving freely of their time, but that still leaves costs that are covered by a professional organisation (ILTA) that primarily raises its funds from an annual conference.
The arrival of the internet completely changed the way that researchers and authors can engage with their potential readership. In theory at least there is very little to stop an individual or group set up a web page and distribute their academic material. That said, consumers of such material want to have some form of quality benchmark; they need to be sure that what they read has veracity and standing. This is where peer-reviewed journals journals can offer a degree of reassurance. However, in many instances that reassurance can come at a price as open access to journals is still the exception and not the rule. For example, the SCIMAGOJR (SJR) journal ranking indicator reports that in 2017 only 15.27% of the journal outputs were open access. While this represents an improvement in comparison to an open access rate of 2.83% in 1996 (the earliest SJR yearly listing), the 85% differential would seem to suggest that the EU’s target of achieving free and re-usable access to public and private-public funded research outputs by 2020 (Khomami, 2016) might be somewhat ambitious.
As previously acknowledged, openness is something of a moveable feast and while we as a journal believed that we are engaged in providing an open access journal, our work with IJTEL and subsequent small scale analysis of other ‘open’ journals has prompted us to reflect on our work with the journal. Editors, authors and reviewers give their labour for free; while ILTA pays the hosting charges. In other words, openness is not free, somewhere along the line, someone is paying. In asking both who funds and what level of openness is provided we discovered considerable disparity to the point whereby we wondered is a new vocabulary required to define OA?
Session content: evaluation and reflection
In our current roles we have acted as both consumers and producers of open access material. However, as previously indicated our grasp of openness is not as developed as we thought, hence the need to this small-scale study. To answer our two questions, we examined the top sixty OA journals that were returned from a subject search for education on SCIMago on 6/7/18. We chose as our sampling frame the SCImago Journal & Country Rank (SJR) indicator. In terms of suitability it “built from from data in the subscription-based Elsevier’s Scopus database” (Jascó, 2013 p. 259). Additionally, (in keeping with the openness theme) it “was the first service to offer an open access alternative” (Jascó, 2013 p. 260). For each journal, we looked at the sponsor, source of funding, type of distributing license and how copyright was handled. We also made a qualitative judgement as to how many of David Wiley’s Five Rs of openness (https://opencontent.org/blog/archives/3221) each journal satisfied.
The three themes that emerged from this analysis are (i) the differences in the way in which creative commons licenses are utilised or not by the OA community the impact that has for our understanding of copyright, (ii) the extent to which authors are expected to carry the financial burden of the cost of open access, and (iii) and whether or not AO publishing is sustainable, given the extent to which it relies on goodwill and informal support to exist.
The creative commons license has come to occupy a very important position within the open education movement, providing as it does a degree of guidance and certainty. That said, although thirty six of the sites indicated that they used creative commons there was a wide variation in terms of license versions (20 version 4.0; 11 version 3.0) copyright; attribution and jurisdiction. A further five stated that they licenses under creative commons but did not specify what version. A further seven seven stated that they were open journals that provided articles freely but there was no explicit reference to creative commons.
The twelve journals classified as hybrid (Piowar et al. 2018) highlighted a wide variation in costs ranging from one publisher requesting $20-$30 for hard copies all the way up to $3,000 for Gold open access by a well known commercial publisher. Other examples of costs were the autor publishing charges (APC) which ranged from $200 to $1,800. Just over forty of the journals indicated that they received sponsorship or some form of support from a University or a professional body so in effect they are helping with the cost of maintaining open access. The picture painted in this short analysis coupled with our reflections of our experience as journal editors highlights that three are inevitably a degree of costs, costs that have to be borne by someone. Whether the support is monetary and/or time provided; it begs the question about the sustainability of open access journals.
Jascó, P. (2013). The need for end-user customisation of the Journasets of the subject categories in the Scimago Journal ranking database for more appropriate league lists. A case study for the Library & Information science field. The Information Professional, 22. 5 pp. 459-473.
Khomami, N. (2016). All Scientific papers to be free by 2020 under 2020 under EU proposals. The Guardian. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/may/28/eu-ministers-2020-target-free-access-scientific-papers [Accsssed 3/07/2018]
Piowar et al. (2018), The state of OA: a large-scale analysis of the prevalence and impact of Open Access articles. Peer J. e4375; DOI 10.7717/peer.4375. [Accessed 30/06/2018].
Wiley, D. (2014). The Access Compromise and the 5th R. Iterating Toward Openness. Retrieved from: https://opencontent.org/blog/archives/3221 [Accessed 1/07/2018]
Resources for participants
Google Sheet of analysis of the sixty articles: