Determining if your journal is a good fit for open access

Your journal’s primary goal: Serving your community

As an editor or editorial board member of a scholarly journal, you may be unaware of subscription patterns and pricing histories in the journal publishing industry. After all, your primary job is to focus on journal content -- to make sure that the latest and best research is published. When societies published most research, scholars often assumed that these organizations were managing and pricing the journals with an eye toward reaching their intended audiences around the world. But the reality today has changed. Some publishers charge readers high prices for the journals they publish. That has led to broad scale subscription cancellations and narrower dissemination. More and more editorial boards have found that they must become involved in the business aspects of their commercially published journals if they are to be sure these essential publications remain accessible to their intended communities.

Fundamentally, then, the question you and your fellow editors must ask yourselves is, ”Is our journal’s distribution model optimized to truly serve our community?” If your answer is no, and if you have found it difficult to engage your publisher to address your concerns about access and pricing, take the following diagnostic to better understand your options.

Is open access a fit? A simple diagnostic tool

The steps described below assume that your editorial board has attempted, without success, to reach an accord with the journal’s publisher on opening access to the journal’s content. They also assume that the parties differ on the principal issue of whether 100% of the content should be open access, as opposed to important, but less critical open access doctrinal differences (e.g. which Creative Commons license(s) to allow).

Determining Ownership

Your editorial board’s first step in assessing its options is to determine who owns the assets of the journal, most importantly the journal’s name and content. There are three common scenarios:

A society / nonprofit owns the journal, but publishes with a third-party (e.g a commercial publisher or university press)
A commercial / nonprofit publisher owns the journal, and contracts a society / individual editors for peer reviewed content
A society / nonprofit owns the journal and its content