Journal editors take note – you have the power

Some interesting news has come across my desk today, both as an open access advocate and someone who is based in a library.

The editorial board from the Journal of Library Administration has resigned in protest of the restrictive licensing policy imposed by its publisher Taylor & Francis (T&F). Brian Mathews includes the text of the resignation in his blog here

They might not be aware of it, but the editorial board are following in the footsteps of other editorial boards. A webpage put together by the Open Access Directory called Journal declarations of independence  lists examples of “the resignation of editors from a journal in order to launch a comparable journal with a friendlier publisher”. There are 20 journals listed on the pages, with the timeline running from 1989 to 2008.

What is a licensing policy?

For those people new to open access, a quick explainer. This is referring to the restrictions the publisher is imposing on what an author can do with copies of their published work. T&F say on their author pages that authors who have published work in a T&F journal are limited in what they can do with copies of the work:

  • Authors are not allowed to deposit the Publisher’s Version

This is fine – the publisher does manage the peer review process and provide the electronic distribution platform. They also have investment in the layout and design of the page and the manufacture of the downloadable pdf. Most publishers do not allow the Published Version to be made available.

  • Authors are allowed to put a copy of the Submitted Version (this is the version sent to the journal for peer review) into their institution’s web-based repository. In some disciplines this is called the pre-print. T&F rather confusingly call this the ‘Author’s Original Manuscript’.

So far so good – it seems quite generous. But in many disciplines, sharing the Submitted Version is inappropriate because it may contain errors which could reflect badly on the author, or even in some instances be dangerous to be made public without correction.

  • Authors are allowed to put a copy of the Accepted Version (the author’s post-peer reviewed and corrected version) into the institutional repository. T&F call this the ‘Author’s Accepted Manuscript’.

Again this seems generous. But the author can only do this “twelve (12) months after the publication of the Version of Scholarly Record in science, engineering, behavioral science, and medicine; and eighteen (18) months after first publication for arts, social science, and humanities journals, in digital or print form”.

Bear in mind the peer review and amendment process can take many months and there is often a long delay between an article’s acceptance and publication. This means the work is only able to be made open access two to five (or more) years after the original research was done.

This is what the Journal of Library Administration editors were originally protesting about, and then they took exception to the suggestion by T&F that authors could take up the open access ‘option’ for a fee USD$2995 per article. This amount is far beyond the reach of most H&SS scholars.

The lure of the commercial publisher

Talking to stressed, overworked editors it is easy to see why allowing a commercial publisher to take over the responsibility of publishing their journal is attractive.

But there is a catch. For a start, in the conversations I have had to date with journal editors who have ‘sold’ their title to a commercial publisher, it seems there is no exchange of money for ‘goodwill’ in the way there would be for the sale of any other business.

In addition, when a commercial publisher owns a journal title, it means they impose their own copyright transfer agreements – which determine what the authors are able to do with their work. This is often more restrictive than what the independent editorial team was allowing.

But the most dramatic difference to operations when a previously independent journal is bought by a commercial publisher is the amount they charge for subscriptions. For example, the Journal of Australian Studies  has a subscription which comes as part of the membership to the International Australian Studies Association (InASA). Members receive other benefits such as discounts to conferences. It costs AUD105 each year.

But if you consult the journal’s page on the T&F website  the online subscription is USD781 and the Print & Online subscription is USD893.

It is not that T&F are the only ones, mind you. The Journal of Religious History  is published by Wiley. Members of the Religious History Association can join for AUD45, and receive the print and online version of the journal. But subscriptions through Wiley range from USD593 for an institutional Print & Online subscription, to USD76 for a personal Print & Online subscription.

And when you start looking at Wiley’s permissions they are even more restrictive than T&F. Again the author can archive the Submitted Version, but for the Accepted Version there is an embargo of 0-24 months ‘depending on the journal’ and even then written permission from the publisher is required (good luck with that).

So what can journal editors do?

For a start remember that you are crucial to the success of a journal. Publishers rely on their editors absolutely to produce journals, which means you come into negotiations from a position of strength.

So if you are an editor of an independent journal and are considering ‘selling’ your journal to a commercial publisher the issues worth consideration include:

  • What are the restrictions the publisher will place on the re-use of the work published in the journal? Do they align with your current (or intended future) position? Are they prepared to negotiate these with you?
  • What will the subscription cost be to the journal? Does that mean some readers will not be able to afford subscriptions?

If you are the editor of a journal that is currently being published by a commercial publisher:

  1. Check out the restrictions imposed on your authors by looking the journal up in Sherpa/Romeo
  2. If those restrictions do not meet with the philosophy of the dissemination of your journal, consider contacting the publisher to request a less restrictive permissions policy

There is evidence that this has worked in the past. On 1 November 2011, T&F announced a two year pilot for Library and Information Science Journals, meaning that authors published in 35 library and information science journals have the right to deposit their Accepted Version into their institutional repository.

It seems that library journals have a reasonable track record on this front. In March this year- Emerald Group Publishing Limited announced a ‘special partnership’ with the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA). Under this agreement, papers that have their origins in an IFLA conference or project and are published in one of Emerald’s LIS journals can become open access nine months after publication.

Moving your journal to an online open access platform

If you are the editor of an independent journal and you are considering moving online, some questions to consider include:

  • Who is your readership and how do they read the journal? In some cases the journal is read in lunchrooms in hospitals for example, so the printed version is necessary
  • Can the journal go exclusively online and assist readers by providing an emailed alert for each issue?

There are many tools to assist journal editors manage the publication process. The Open Journal System (OJS) was developed by the Public Knowledge Project, and is an open source (free to download) program to manage journals.

Australian universities host many open access journals (listed here) with a considerable portion published using OJS. Most of these journals are run with some subsidy from the institution, and do not charge authors article processing charges. From the researcher’s perspective they are ‘free to publish, free to read’.

In addition, the National Library of Australia runs the Open Publish program which hosts many open access journals.

If you have questions about this and want to know more please leave a reply to this post.

Dr Danny Kingsley
Executive Officer
Australian Open Access Support Group

12 thoughts on “Journal editors take note – you have the power

  1. As an academic librarian in Canada, I highly support Open Access and everything described in this post, and also encourage editors to consider moving away from commercial publishers to open access platforms – my own library hosts a couple using EJS.

    However, in the interest of not seeing anyone blindsided or getting caught by the commercial publisher, I do want to provide one caution. Big publishers like T&F and Wiley have signed many multi-year contracts known colloquially as “Big Deals” with major university systems and consortia. Big Deals enable libraries and their patrons to have access to the content of journals for which they’d not normally choose to pay for an individual subscription. If you pull your journal from one of these publishers, your journal will disappear from the holdings of their Big Deal customers, except those who had been paying for a subscription within the Big Deal (in order to acquire perpetual access rights). Many of us believe that the readership you will gain from going Open Access will far exceed the loss of easy/integrated access from leaving the Big Deal package, but you just need to be aware of this issue as I’m sure the commercial publishers will raise it as an argument why you should not leave them.

  2. Response from Taylor & Francis:

    Dear Danny,

    We read with interest your comments on 25 March. Commentaries circulating around the JLA Board resignation have introduced some misunderstandings with regard to our author rights policies. For the benefit of the acsareahemic communities whom we serve globally, we thought it helpful to respond.

    We publish more than 600 journals on behalf of learned societies around the world, including 68 ANZ-edited journals. In a recent author survey conducted to more than 2,700 academics in Australasia, 75% of respondents ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ with the statement that Taylor & Francis are “supportive of the academic and research community in Australasia”.

    In the last two years more than 200 journals have chosen to join the T&F fold globally, and a recent editorial by Joost Fontein for Critical African Studies, a journal previously published under an institution-funded free open access model, provides excellent background on the reasons for their move to Taylor & Francis:

    The regrettable circumstances around the resignation of the JLA Board have highlighted the complexities of the current arena. This is characterized by a range of Open Access models, alongside a range of licences, in the quest to meet the different requirements being set by various funding bodies around the world.

    JLA had the best “Green OA” route option available, since journals in our Library & Information Science (LIS) portfolio do not have to pay an Author Publishing Charge (APC) in order to achieve full OA from the point of publication. Under our LIS pilot program authors can freely post their (“post-print”) manuscript immediately on publication – ie without any embargo. Details of the Routledge/Taylor & Francis LIS pilot are available here:–news/Latest-News/Routledge-trials-new-author-rights-policy-for-Library-and-Information-Science-Journals1/

    There is no requirement for JLA authors to pay an APC in order to publish in the JLA or to get immediate full-text Open Access of their articles. Taylor & Francis’ APC paid OA model, T&F Open Select, has been implemented as an option for authors to comply with the recent RCUK and Wellcome Trust mandate on those journals where there is an embargo period on author accepted version posting in a repository:

    A number of further points we would like to clarify:
    • Journal of Australian Studies – copyright in the title and content of the Journal remains vested in the International Australian Studies Association (InASA), and InASA continues to set the Journal’s editorial policy and direction.
    • Society member supply of journals – society and publisher work together to subsidise such supply. Member charges do not reflect true publication cost.
    • You reference licensing policies in the context of “restrictions the publisher is imposing on what an author can do with their work”. Our licence grants significant reuse rights to authors (pre-prints, non-embargoed post-prints, sharing, classroom use, presentation at conferences, republication in existing or new form), whilst we ask only for a sole licence over the published version of record.

    Taylor & Francis has a range of licences designed to meet author and funder needs. T&F regularly reviews author documents, and since late last year we have been working on new versions for release. These versions will provide greater choice and more immediate clarity to our authors about the rights they retain.

    Above all, in our work with editors, learned societies, libraries, funding bodies and thousands of individual authors worldwide, we take a flexible and collaborative approach, seeking to provide the greatest choice, whilst working to ensure we publish quality journals that are sustainable for Taylor & Francis and our publishing partners.

    For a complete explanation of our current LIS Author Rights Policy, please visit the following link:

    We hope this information is helpful.

    Sarah Blatchford – Regional Director
    Routledge/Taylor & Francis Australasia

  3. […] “A webpage put together by the Open Access Directory called Journal declarations of independence lists examples of ‘the resignation of editors from a journal in order to launch a comparable journal with a friendlier publisher’. There are 20 journals listed on the pages, with the timeline running from 1989 to 2008,” Dr Kingsley wrote on her blog. […]

  4. Hi Danny,
    As editors of JAS, we would like to add that we have a very productive collaborative relationship with T&F. They provide us with a great deal of support, and the journal has really benefitted in terms of quality and prestige since beginning the relationship with Taylor & Francis.
    At the recent meeting in Canberra of journal editors, which you attended, the most substantive issue that emerged was the lack of recognition that editing work receives within our institutions, and the ARC more generally. Indeed, publishers seem more aware of and supportive of our efforts that many others in the academy. Certainly, in our ongoing relationship with them, T&F has always demonstrated how seriously they take the work we do.
    Maggie Nolan and Melissa Harper
    Co-editors, Journal of Australian Studies

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