October 24th - 30th is International Open Access Week 2016 - an annual event which celebrates open access publishing, with events being held at universities and libraries across the globe. We thought we'd take this opportunity to write a blog post about open access publishing; what it is and why it is important.
How does conventional publishing work?
Conventionally, journals are published by a publisher - an organisation or enterprise which handles the production and dissemination of research articles. The work of the publisher begins when a manuscript is accepted from an editorial team for publication. First, the publisher will copyedit and typeset the manuscripts, taking them typically from word documents and turning them into glossy typeset PDFs, ready for print. The publisher will then handle issuing the articles with DOIs (Digital Object Identifiers - unique codes which identify articles and can be used for tracking them down), publishing the articles online, and sometimes in hard copy, and sending the metadata of the articles to indexes, such as Pubmed, Web of Science or Scopus. Publishers will also typically handle legal issues such as copyright, graphic design and branding, and many other things besides. Having a publisher is therefore vital to ensure the smooth running, success and longevity of an academic journal.
How is this funded?
As you can imagine, however, these services are expensive, and therefore typically provided at a cost. Often, this cost is to the reader, who must either subscribe themselves to the journal to access its content, or whose institution may pay for a license. At Cardiff University, we have access to thousands of journals across hundreds of disciplines, through an institutional login service called Shibboleth. This typically allows us to access most research articles - however, frustratingly, it is a regular occurrence that we reach articles which our institution doesn't have a license for, and therefore we're unable to access that content. If this is the situation at a major research institution, located in one of the world's biggest economies, you can imagine that the situation is much worse for academics, clinicians and students in the developing world.
In a 2000 study by the World Health Organisation, it was found that 56% of institutions in countries with annual incomes of $1000 or less per person had no subscriptions to international journals, and that researchers and academics in these countries rated this as one of their most pressing problems. To tackle this issue, the WHO set up the 'research 4 life' initiative to facilitate access to research.
The cost of publishing can also be covered by the researcher - this is a form of open access publishing, where the author of a manuscript pays the publisher a fee (Wiley Blackwell currently charges an 'article processing charge' of $3000 for example), in exchange that their article can be accessed by any reader with internet access, without subscription or cost.
Is this ethical?
As the WHO's research demonstrates, open access publishing is an ethical model for the dissemination of research - it means that individuals from across the world are able to access the latest information to inform their academic or clinical practice - ultimately for the benefit of patients. Charging authors to publish their work, however, is just as much of an issue as charging readers, as it stifles the academic debate by excluding those without the resources to join in.
Introducing diamond open access
The Student Doctor is published by Cardiff University Press; an innovative and ethical diamond open access publisher. Being diamond open access means that they run exclusively on the "free-in, free-out" model, so there are absolutely no charges for readers or for authors. This is why we chose to publish The SDJ with them, as ethical publishing is a core component of our ethos. If you choose to publish your work in our journal, you will not have to pay any form of article processing charge. Once the respective issue of the journal is published, your work will then be freely available to any reader via our online journal platform, in addition to the published PDFs being stored in the Cardiff University Online Repository, known as ORCA. Open access is the future of academic publishing, and through following this model, we are leading best practice.
Cardiff University Press have produced this fun video, below, which uses their dragon mascot to explain the different types of open access publishing.
Instead of being provided by authors or readers, the funds for diamond open access publishing are provided by Cardiff University. The Student Doctor, for example, is funded by the School of Medicine. We would like to extend our gratitude to them for supporting our ethical publishing model.
Remember that submissions are now open for our January issue - so if you would like to publish your research or critical essays in a novel, modern and ethical diamond open access journal, please visit our author guidelines and submit your work by the 1st of December. We look forward to you joining us on our quest towards ethical publishing!
James Kilgour & Shivali Fulchand