A Personal Open Access Plan

Watching the momentum swirl in academia in response to RWA and the increasing verbal acknowledgement by faculty that the closed access publishing system isn’t working has been exciting.  I’ve talked to a number of students and faculty who are very interested in what’s happening. The students, particularly, are horrified at the status quo (whether their horror outlasts their need to publish in the future remains to be seen).

Thinking about this and the efforts at Cost of Knowledge and the blog posts of very smart colleagues, an idea started forming in my head that I wanted to share with you–mostly to keep myself accountable, partially so I can give you updates as it happens, and finally so I think through this a little more.

I am making a public commitment to try to get tenure at UIC only publishing in Open Access journals.

Why is this scary? I’m at a R1 institution and a huge portion of my tenure evaluation is my ability to publish. I’m absolutely in a publish or perish situation for the next four years and that’s a big red flashing deadline at the top of the really long to do list.

What are the opportunities? There are a number of new(er) peer reviewed OA journals in the library field that will be good fits for me. Most of the ALA Journals have gone OA. I have friends and colleagues who have expressed interest in writing with me and who think finding an OA journal sounds fantastic.

Who is with me?  In addition to those potential coauthors, I have other friends and colleagues who are cheering me on from the sidelines.  The faculty at my library approved an Open Access Policy (not linked on our website yet) that I’ve mentioned before.

What might be potential barriers?  Time–I’m up against an unforgiving clock and my department has lost 1.75 FT people since September. Coauthors. Colleagues. Projects I don’t know about yet.

But now is a good time for this.  Five years ago, my publishing options would have been limited and this would have been much harder.  Newer journals have emerged and I think we’ll see their traditional impact factor as well as alt-metric power rise as people make use of freely available information. And I’d much rather give OA journals what few hours I do have to edit and review (speaking of which, who needs help?).

I haven’t looked through all of our tenured/tenure track faculty, but I think this will be a first for my library.

What all of this will mean, how it will shake down, where we go from here remains to be seen. I can’t begin to predict everything that’s going to happen in the next few years. I go forward, however, with this commitment.


  1. Comment by Chris Rusbridge:

    Don’t know you and we’re never likely to meet, but heartiest congratulations for such a principled stance, and I wish you every success. Peer review in some OA journals _can_ be slower (except PLoS et al, who don’t do IS AFAIK), so it may be wise to get in early. But, this is a great idea, more power to you!

  2. Comment by Abigail:

    Thank you Chris!

  3. Comment by tjvision:

    I think your principled stance might well count as a net positive when it comes time for tenure review. And if it isn’t, perhaps that isn’t an institution you want to be at…

  4. Comment by Abigail:

    I hope it will both with my institution and with the external reviewers who also will be determining my future…

  5. Comment by Mike Taylor:

    I add my congratulations and thanks to the pile. Mass declarations like the Cost Of Knowledge are important; but in the end what’s going to make the difference is one individual after another committing to open publishing.

  6. Comment by Abigail:

    Thank you Mike!

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  8. Comment by claudia:

    My researcher heart is in love with your researcher heart mind!! Thank you so much for everything that will be done after your words and position! All Best* ( Because science matters & Humanity need a new and pure spirit to be alive)

  9. Comment by Steve B.:

    Thanks for your commitment Abigail. I think you are the first pre-tenured librarian to make this commitment, at least publicly.

  10. Comment by Thomas Hossie:

    Wow, good luck to you! I’d love to see a drop in the cost of publicaiotn in OA journals though (PLoS Biology US$2900, PLoS Medicine US$2900, PLoS Computational Biology US$2250,
    PLoS Genetics US$2250, PLoS Pathogens US$2250, PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases US$2250
    PLoS ONE US$1350. I guess that’s jsut one more hudle for you to jump!

    What do you think about the possible ethical concerns regarding the pay-to-publish structure of OA journals? Right now I lean towards publishing in a society journal.

    Also, You might be interested in a colleague’s post: http://katatrepsis.wordpress.com/2012/01/28/scientific-publishing-what-a-con/

  11. Comment by Abigail:

    Hi Thomas,

    There are a lot of considerations for Open Access. I’m fortunate that many library journals don’t have huge fees associated with OA, but the flip side of that is I also am not regularly pulling down large grants from NSF, NIH, etc either.

    I have fewer ethical issues with OA publishers charging the money for maintainable infrastructure for open, long access to my article than I do with the ethics behind raising prices dramatically and squeezing every last drop out of the slashed academic library budgets to make sure profits stay in the 30-40% range. I know there are concerns that it’s becoming vanity press but overall I don’t see that happening.

    If you can find a good society journal for your work, that’s great, but many of those are also charging high costs to libraries (e.g. ACS), so I would recommend a chat with your scholarly communications librarian and a look through DOAJ for opportunities.

    Thanks for dropping by and sharing that blog post!

  12. Comment by Thomas Hossie:

    Evolutionary Ecology Research is a example of what seems to be a reasonable working model (mixed model of funding) from my field. See the “Publicaiton fees” section: http://www.evolutionary-ecology.com/advice/AdviceFrames.html

  13. Comment by Jay Fitzsimmons:

    Hello Abigail,

    Congratulations on putting principle above other factors. I agree with you that the subscription fees charged by the mega-publishers are ridiculous. However, I also think the fees charged to authors by many open access journals are ridiculous and deter authors like me who don’t have enough money to pay them. For all the propaganda about openness surrounding open access, I believe their business model gives advantage to researchers with large grants or wealthy institutions – those researchers already have plenty of an advantage and don’t need any more. There is a solution, as Tom Hossie pointed out: non-profit journals.

    I volunteer as Journal Manager for The Canadian Field-Naturalist (http://www.canadianfieldnaturalist.ca/index.php/cfn). Ours is one of the oldest ecological journals in North America, published by the Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club. It’s downright weird for a local club of naturalists to publish a peer-reviewed scientific journal, but we do it through the hard work of volunteers. We keep subscription fees low so they are affordable by small conservation and wildlife groups because we are more interested in informing conservation management than making money.

    It bugs me when open access proponents group all subscription-based journals together with the Elseviers and Springers of the world. For me the split is not between subscription-based and open access journals, but between non-profit and for-profit journals. I decided a couple months ago to stop volunteering as a reviewer for for-profit journals, and I will also preferentially submit my research to non-profit journals. The mega-publishers are eating up all of us other small publishers, creating a monopoly in which they can charge the ridiculous prices they do. Two years ago we received publishing offers from the mega-publishers for our journal, and their plan was to increase our subscription fees several hundred percent! We respectfully declined their offers. Actions like yours, supporting one type of publisher instead of others, are the way to affect change. I disagree with the type of publisher you’ve chosen to support, but I admire your principle and I hope you reconsider non-profit subscription-based publishers.


  14. Comment by Dorothea Salo:

    Stick to your guns, Abigail. Small hobbyist journal publishers such as Jay describes will do far better in a substantially open-access environment than they’re doing now, with the major internationals hoovering up their air supply.

    I can’t understand why they don’t see that, I must say.

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