All you want to know about open access publishing in media studies
Author: Jeroen Sondervan
Jeroen has over 10 years of experience working in scholarly publishing. After studying Media & Information Management at the Hogeschool van Amsterdam (HvA) and Media & Culture at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) he initially started as a book publisher.
He has been a commissioning editor for Amsterdam University Press from 2007 until 2016. For over 8 years he has been working on open access journals and monographs, specifically in the fields of film and media studies. He is member of the Knowledge Exchange Open Access Group and editor of the national platform www.openaccess.nl.
The process of scholarly communication is changing dramatically. Digitization of archives, online research methods and tools, and new ways to disseminate research results are developing fast. During the past four annual NECS (Network for Cinema and Media Studies) conferences, we have held two-hour workshops to discuss the implementation of open access, organized by, among others, editors of the open access journals VIEW: Journal of European Television History and Culture and NECSUS: European Journal of Media Studies. Both journals were founded in 2012 with a NWO grant.
In 2018 we will expand on our experience by organizing a one-day workshop immediately following the annual NECS conference, which this year will be held in Amsterdam, organized by the University of Amsterdam (UvA), University Utrecht (UU), and the Free University of Amsterdam (VU) on 27-29 June. Our post-conference workshop will take place on Saturday 30 June 2018 at the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, Hilversum, The Netherlands.
The developments in open research follow each other at a rapid pace. For the discipline of media studies, developments appear to be a bit faster than for other disciplines in the humanities, as there is already a longer tradition of online sharing, and different media are used for scholarly communication (blogs, videos, audiovisual essays, etc.), besides the traditional peer-reviewed journal article or monograph. With this one-day workshop we aim to explore the concept of ‘open’ in media studies by sharing best practices as well as to investigate what is needed for media scholars to make the entire scholarly communication process (research, analysis, writing, review, publishing, etc.) more transparent.
We will do so by bringing together a group of maximum 25 researchers in media studies in a series of workshops devoted to the themes: 1) research and analysis, 2) writing and publishing, 3) peer review, and 4) public engagement. The day will open with a keynote by prof.dr. Malte Hagener (Philipps-Universität Marburg), one of the co-founding editors of NECSUS and founder of the recently launched project MediaRep, a subject repository for media studies.
The main goals for the day are: creating awareness among the researchers; offer solutions to concrete issues; and explore new open access/science initiatives in relation to media studies. Outcomes of the workshop will be published on the website of NECS, as well as on the Open Access in Media Studies website.
Registration is free. However, there is a maximum of 25 participants. Workshops will be hands-on and active participation is encouraged. Interested?
For the preliminary program and registration, please follow this link.
Hope to see you in Amsterdam/Hilversum!
Organising team: Jeroen Sondervan (Utrecht University), Jeffrey Pooley (Muhlenberg College, US), Jaap Kooijman (University of Amsterdam), Erwin Verbruggen (Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision).
On October 21st the ScholarlyHub initiative launched its website, mission and ideas about developing a new social academic open access network for sharing papers and other scholarly literature. The project is in its incubator stage and needs crowdfunding to further develop these plans. ScholaryHub wants to directly compete with academic social networking platforms like Academia.edu and ResearchGate. The big difference between these commercial networking behemoths and the ScholarlyHub initiative, is the scholarly-led bottom-up approach of the latter. A remarkable group of academics from different disciplines have gathered to take the first steps towards a non-profit framework with options to share papers, collaborate with other researchers, and enhance public engagement, using social networking tools.
From the project website:
“ScholarlyHub will be a non-profit framework, where members pay a small annual fee (directly or through an existing learned society, network, project or institution) and create personal, thematic, project-based, associational or institutional profiles and populate them with scholarly and educational materials as they see fit. These are stored in a searchable, real open-access archive, and are directly viewable and downloadable from the portal by anyone (that is, not only members), without having to register or volunteer personal data.”
In order to make this happen, money is needed to built an infrastructure. No venture capital, but actual support from actual researchers. On November 29th ScholarlyHub launched a crowdfunding campaign hoping to raise € 500.000,- for developing the first version of the platform.
It will be very interesting to see how this initiative will evolve in the next few months, because in the last few years criticism has grown about the commercialization of the aforementioned platforms Academia.edu and ResearchGate. For these enterprises, the user is the product and that obviously leads to important (ethical) questions power, ownership, reuse, and archiving policies, etc.. All in all, practices ScholarlyHub explicitly rejects.
As can be found on their website: “Growing threats to open science have made it more crucial than before to develop a sustainable, not-for-profit environment. One that allows you to publish, share, and access quality work without financial constraints.”
But some have already asked the question how this platform will relate to, for example, the Humanities Commons, which pursues similar goals and which saw the light last year. And another example the Open Science Framework platform, which offers an open repository for papers and data. A very interesting and much needed discussion will happen in the coming months to investigate whether and how these non-profit platforms should co-exist.
In any case, it will be a much healthier situation if, in addition to the existing commercial academic social networks, non-profit equivalents enter this market.
This first-of-a-kind report from Knowledge Exchange maps the landscape for open access books in the Knowledge Exchange countries; Finland, Netherlands, UK, France, Denmark and Germany, together with Norway and Austria.
The field of open access monographs is still in its early evolution and therefore 73 in-depth conversations were conducted for this report to understand the different developments among three stakeholder groups: Publishers, funders and libraries. The importance of author attitudes, scholarly reward and incentive systems is also raised throughout the study by numerous interviewees.
The general explanation for monographs not being included in policies is the global focus on journal publishing and the perception that monographs are more complex to deal with than journals. Some also point to a lack of demand yet from authors.
In general, open access book publishers will comply with gold open access policies from funders and institutions. This is not the case for green open access. It appears that the current self archiving policies from publishers for books are largely restricted to book chapters.
The report also points towards the fact that funding schemes for books are lagging behind schemes for articles and their availability to fund the publishing process is somewhat ad hoc across the countries we’ve surveyed. Nevertheless the authors are ‘cautiously optimistic’ about the prospects for open access and monographs.
The report creates an overview of both the open access monographs policies, funding streams and publishing models for all eight countries for the first time. This is used to point towards areas of future efforts.
The authors Eelco Ferwerda, Frances Pinter and Niels Stern have done a marvelous job writing a comprehensive overview of the current status of open access monograph publishing and all its related issues. It is with no doubt that important findings in this report will find their way to the information available on this website as soon as possible.
I recently joined the publication committee of NECS European Network for Cinema and Media Studies. It’s an honor and I’m hoping to give more context to (open access) scholarly publishing in media studies in the nearby future.
One of the things I’m working on at the moment is the development of a global survey in order to map the changing landscape of scholarly communication in media studies. Publishing policies like open access (e.g. U.K. and Netherlands), technologies and workflows are in constant motion. But we sometimes forget that researchers are in the lead. How do they work? What do they need? What do they know about it?
I hope to open the survey in November 2017. One of the aims is to research and analyse existing knowledge on and practices of open access (science) publishing, workflows and tools in order to create an coherent overview that can be used by others to learn and/or adapt their practices. I will communicate further about this project on this website. If you want to be updated about this project, you can sign-up for the newsletter.
A few weeks ago, Peter Suber, one of the leading figures of the open access movement, published a blog poston the website of The American Philosophical Association, entitled: ‘Why Open Access is Moving so Slow in the Humanities’. In there, he sums up 9 reasons why this is the case and I will just mention a few below:
‘Journal subscriptions are much higher in the Sciences Technology and Medicine (STM), than in the Humanities & Social Sciences (HSS). In the humanities, relatively affordable journal prices defuse the urgency of reducing prices or turning to open access as part of the solution.’
‘Much more STM research is funded than humanities research, so there is more money available for paying any open access charges.’
‘STM faculty typically need to publish journal articles to earn tenure, while humanities faculty need to publish books. But the logic of open access applies better to articles, which authors give away, than to books, which have the potential to earn royalties.’
Sadness of it all is that this post is a slightly revised version from the original from 2004. Today we’re still dealing with almost the same issues as 13 years ago. One of Suber’s conclusions is that “Open access isn’t undesirable or unattainable in the humanities. But it is less urgent and harder to subsidize than in the sciences.”
I fully agree with this conclusion. But did we achieve nothing for the humanities then? No, a lot of things have happened in the last 5 to 10 years helping the humanities to make a transition to open access. But we are not there yet.
Open Access Journals
Globally several humanities journals have made the flip from toll access (TA) to open access and several new open access (niche) journals have seen the light in the last couple of years. Currently 9,426 open access journals are indexed by the DOAJ, of which a substantial part is in the humanities. A majority of those journals however, and we must not forget this, don’t charge a dime to publish research in open access. In many cases, and this is exemplary for the humanities, foundations, institutions, and societies are paying for publishing research.
The financial model for open access in the humanities is not an easy road. In my previous life as a publisher in the humanities I’ve developed a few gold open access journals, all financed with money from institutions or research grants. However, subsidies for a journal coming from different institutions is a fragile model. Some of the journals had the ambition to move towards an APC model. None have done it so far.
New kid on the block, but very successful, is the Open Library of Humanities, run by Martin Eve and Caroline Edwards. They proposed and have implemented a model, which is a library funded model. With enough supporting libraries they are able to publish humanities research with no APCs. Main goal is to unburden authors with all kinds of financial hassle.
Another trend is the renewed rise of institutional (library) open access publishing. Some examples are Stockholm University Press, UCL Press and Meson Press. They distinguish themselves from traditional university press in the way that they only publish research in open access.
Online research tools
Other interesting developments are the experiments with redefining online publishing. I think it’s safe to say that these experiments just happen in the field of media studies. Collaborative research, writing and publication platforms like MediaCommons and the recently launched Manifold are very exiting initiatives. They all experiment with new digital formats, writing and publishing tools, and data publications.
Open Access Books
Open access for the academic book is on the agenda since 2008 / 2009 with the development of, amongst others, the OAPEN platform. And with indexes like the Directory of Open Access Books, established in 2011, open access books become visible and findable. Two weeks ago, a new milestone was reached with 8000+ open access books being indexed by DOAB and published by 213 publishers.
However, open access for books is still underrated. There is a lack of aligned policies. Also, the lack of funding options makes it still very difficult for (smaller) humanities publishers to come up with a sustainable model for open access books. The focus for open access funding still lies with article publishing in journals and the financial models that come along with it.
For this website, I keep track of funders (research councils and universities) that actively support open access book publishing in media studies. I do this since 2015, but up till now the options for funding can be counted on 4 hands maximum. But even in the field of open access books things are happening with projects like Knowledge Unlatched. This project looks at funding coming directly from university libraries, supporting the ‘platform’ or book package and not the individual publication.
So, the important question now is what types of sustainable business models are appropriate for open access publishing in the humanities?
I think one important thing to keep in mind is that if we keep comparing the STM with the HSS it will not getting us very far. Another problem is that (open access) funding policies are still very focused on a local or national level or simply only look at APCs/BPCs. We need to work on a better international alignment of open access policies (per discipline) with different stakeholders (funders, libraries, publishers).
The Dutch Approach: Open Science
In February of this year, the National Plan Open Science was launched in the Netherlands. Towards 2020 this roadmap concentrates on three key areas:
Open access to scientific publications (open access).
Make optimal use and reuse of research data.
Adapting evaluation and award systems to bring them in line with the objectives of open science (reward systems).
One of the requirements is that by 2020 all researchers working for a Dutch research university need to publish their work (journals and books(!)) in open access. So this includes the HSS as well. To accomplish this the plan is launched to align all Dutch stakeholders to meet these requirements.
During the launch all the important academic stakeholders (research funders and associations) in the Netherlands explicitly committed themselves to this job. In Finland, similar things are happening. And in other countries discussions have started about open access and open science requirements and indicators as well. It’s of great importance to connect these initiatives together as much as possible.
One other thing that Suber also mentions in his blog and I’d like to bring into this discussion, are preprints. In the humanities depositing preprints or post prints is not so common as it is in the sciences. That is for obvious reasons; loss of arguments and research outcomes, scooping, etc. etc. But are all these reasons still valid?
As academic community, it’s important to share your research to improve science. In the HSS we are apparently in need for platforms that can quickly disseminate research, based on the popularity (also among humanities scholars) of commercial social sharing platforms like Academia.edu and Researchgate. Note that I deliberately call them social sharing platforms, because that’s what they are.
It’s important that we need to make clear to academics what the implications are when using platforms like Academia.edu and ResearchGate. Both examples are commercial enterprises and interested in as much (personal) data as possible. The infrastructure serves a need but it comes with a cost. We need to think of sustainable alternatives.
Back to the preprint discussion. In the humanities (thus for media studies), it is unusual to share research before it is published in a journal or book. But if everyone is so eager to share their publications in different stages of their research why is it still not common practice to share the work on a preprint server, comparable with ArXiv or SSRN (when it was not Elsevier property), and new servers like LawArXiv, SocArXiv, PsyArXiv, etc.
Will it ever become common practice in the humanities to share research in an earlier stage? Maybe this practice could help moving the humanities a bit quicker?
On Monday, June 26, the Netherlands Research Council (NWO) announced that they will terminate the Incentive Fund Open Access on January 1, 2018. NWO started this Incentive Fund in 2010 to finance open access publications and activities that highlight open access during scientific conferences.
The fund has been useful for advancing open access since it became available in 2010. However, this decision soon follows the launch of the National Plan Open Science (NPOS), signed by NWO, early 2017. In this plan institutions commit themselves explicitly to work on a healthy open access climate to achieve 100% open access for researchers affiliated to Dutch research universities. Now it’s obvious that this fund is not going to be the solution. However, it’s a remarkable step especially now. There is still a lot to do.
The choice is unfortunate, the more because NWO has been one of the first national research councils in Europe with an active open access policy and, moreover, a well-funded program from which APCs (and BPCs) could be paid, provided that the research will be available immediately after publication (the Gold route). On a national level NWO and the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) were the first funding bodies to mandate books and allocate money for BPCs. This policy is therefore quite unique, and only in the last three years or so, it’s under development at other places.
The Incentive Fund was founded with the aim to stimulate Gold open access. NWO hoped that with such a fund, this could be a model that universities would take over; individual institutions should bear the cost of open access with their own budgets. This has hardly come to fruition. Only the University of Amsterdam, Utrecht University, Delft University of Technology, and Wageningen University & Research have had such funds. At this very moment only Utrecht still runs an Open Access fund.
It is absolutely fair to ask why NWO should keep on spending money if it turns out that universities seem to find this step difficult. But now the boy scout decides to throw in the towel. Understandable, but disappointing. There are enough pros (and yes, cons as well) to consider.
In this piece, I would like to give some considerations why it would not (or would) be wise to terminate this fund. I take the arguments that NWO puts forward:
“NWO believes that the academic world is now sufficiently aware of open access publishing and its importance.”
I doubt this very much. The debate on open access has so far been predominantly conducted by policy makers, libraries, and publishers. Researchers often submit their articles to the established and renowned, usually high-impact, journals. This (imposed) culture does not necessarily lead to more articles in open access journals. And yes, there are many researchers who are aware or the benefits of open access and publish their work in open access, but to say that this is ‘sufficiently’? The ‘academic world’ is any case an international one.
“Currently there are many more opportunities for authors to make their publications available via open access channels without having to pay for publication costs. In part, this has been achieved through open access agreements between Dutch universities and publishers. In addition, there are a growing number of open access journals and platforms that do not charge publication costs.”
True, enormous steps have been taken over the past 20 years. Lots of journals made the transfer to open access. There are (commercial and non-profit) platforms for articles, preprints, post prints – you name it. But are these all for free?
NWO brings up the current OA Big Deals in the Netherlands. However, these deals are mainly focused on hybrid journals. All Gold open access journals from, for example, Springer or Wiley are out of the deal. For these journals, an APC is still required. At present, only the deal with Cambridge University Press includes 20 Gold open access journals.
In addition, the OA Big Deals only cover a part of all the Dutch open access publications in journals. At the moment, as academic community, we are trying to get more insight into this.
Not to mention the diversity of the deals. At Elsevier, it is possible to publish in 276 journals for ‘free’. All other (1800+) are still paid for. It is therefore nonsense to think that there are enough channels for researchers to publish their research in open access? I want to stress here that I don’t want to say that the APC-model is the holy-grail. Far from. But it’s the reality with which researchers are faced.
“Finally, there is the green route, which authors can use to deposit their articles in a (university) repository at no cost.”
Yes correct. And we have repositories for every university for more than 10 years. With varying success. However, for the time being, the government has also been advocating open access through the Golden route (i.e. via journals) since 2013 and above all stating that it is the most future-proof. Not in the last place by the VSNU. For NWO, the Golden route has always been the main goal. In addition, NWO demands immediate open access (without embargo period). This is hardly possible with Green (self-archiving) open access unless NWO wants to force researchers to publish the preprint without peer review? Apparently, they have revised their own terms and policy. This can happen of course, but I find it strange to argue that a fund aimed at publishing in journals needs to be terminated when Gold is the standard.
You could also argue that this fund leads to pushing more money in the (publishing) system. Then I’d like to say, let’s do better with the national deals and not only focus on hybrid journals.
In addition, there is the already mentioned National Open Science Program (NPOS). This plan focuses on three key areas, which are: 1. Promoting open access to scientific publications (open access). 2. Promoting optimal use and reuse or research data. 3. Adapting evaluation and award systems to bring them into line with the objectives of open science (reward systems).
One of the ambitions is full open access to publications. As stated:
“The ambition of the Netherlands is to achieve full open access in 2020. The principle that publicly funded research results should also be publicly available at no extra cost is paramount. Until the ambition of full open access to publications in the Netherlands and beyond is achieved, access to scientific information will be limited for the majority of society.”
In this transition phase. And with this, NWO supported, ambition in mind, the termination of a transit fund (this is how it should be seen) seems a bit premature to me. However, it should be said that the possibility remains to budget open access publications in project funding at NWO. But it is to be seen for how long this will happen considering their response: ‘for the time being’.
In the coming period, I will interview a number of researchers about their work and to what extent open access has a role to play in it. The debate around open access is often held on a policy level, with university boards or libraries and publishers. But the voices of those that actually make use of research papers, books and research data are often not heard. How does a researcher or practitioner see the open access movement enabling free online access to scholarly works? How does this affect their work? What initiatives of interest are being developed in particular fields and what are personal experiences with open access publishing? All kinds of questions that hopefully lead to helpful answers for other researchers engaging with open access.
First interview is with Adrian Martin. Adrian was born in 1959 in Australia. He is a film and arts critic for more than 30 years and as an associate professor in Film Culture and Theory he is currently affiliated with Monash University. His work has appeared in many journals and newspapers around the world, and has been translated into over twenty languages.
The interview starts:
Jeroen: When did you first hear of open access as a new way of distributing research to a wider audience?
Adrian: To appreciate my particular viewpoint on open access issues, you probably need to know where I am ‘coming from’. I am not now, and have rarely been in my life so far, a salaried academic. I have spent most of my life as what I guess is called an ‘independent researcher’. I have sometimes called myself a ‘freelance intellectual’, but I guess the more prosaic description would simply be ‘freelance writer/speaker’. So, not a journalist in the strict sense (I have never worked full-time for any newspaper or magazine), and only sometimes an employed academic within the university system.
Therefore, my entry into these issues is as someone who, at the end of the 1990s, began to get heavily involved in the publication of online magazines, whether as editor, writer, or translator. These were not commercial or industrial publications, they were ‘labour of love’ projects, kin to the world of ‘small print magazines’ in the Australian arts scene (which I had been a part of in the 1980s). No special subscription process was required; it was always, simply, a completely open and accessible website. My entrée to this new, global, online, scene was through Bill Mousoulis, the founder of Senses of Cinema and later I was part of the editorial teams of Rouge, and currently LOLA. And I have contributed to many Internet publications of this kind since the start of the 21st century. The latter two publications do not use academic ‘peer review’ (although everything is carefully checked and edited), and are run on an active ‘curation’ model (i.e., we approach specific people to ask for texts) rather than an ‘open submission’ model.
I say this in order to make clear that my attitude and approach does not come from only, or even mainly, an academic/scholarly perspective. For me, open access is not primarily or solely about making formerly ‘closed’ academic research available to all – although that is certainly one important part of the field. Open access is about – well, open access, in the strongly political sense of making people feel that they are not excluded from reading, seeing, learning or experiencing anything that exists in the world. Long before I encountered the inspiring works of Jacques Rancière, I believe I agreed deeply with his political philosophy: that what we have to fight, at every moment, is the unequal ‘distribution of the sensible’, which means the ways in which a culture tries to enforce what is ‘appropriate’ for the citizens in each sector of society. As a kid who grew up in a working-class suburb of Australia before drifting off on the lines-of-flight offered by cinephilia and cultural writing, I am all too painfully aware of the types of learning and cultural experience that so many people deny themselves, because they have already internalised the sad conviction that it is ‘not for them’, not consistent with their ‘place’ in the world. Smash all such places, I say!
This is why I am temperamentally opposed to any tendency to keep the discussion of open access restricted to a discussion of university scholarship – or, indeed, as sometimes happens, with the effect of strengthening the ‘professional’ borders around this scholarship, and thus shutting non-university people (such as I consider myself today) out of the game. Let me give you a controversial example. I use, and encourage the use of Academia.edu. It is the only ‘repository of scholarly knowledge’ I know of that – despite its unwise name! – anyone can easily join and enjoy (once they are informed of it, and are encouraged to do so). Now, many people complain about the capitalistic nature of this site, and everything they say in this regard may be true. But when I ask them for an alternative that is as good and as extensive in its holdings, I am directed to ‘professional’ university repositories for texts – from which I am necessarily excluded from the outset, since I do not have a university job. This is bad! And reinforces all the worst tendencies in the field.
Likewise, I bristle at the suggestion (it occasionally comes up) that an online publication such as LOLA (among many other examples) is not really ‘scholarly’. Online magazines are regularly downgraded by being described as mere ‘blogs’ (when this is not so!), with no professional standards, etc. etc.. But my drive is, above all, a democratic one. I work mainly outside the university setting because I want access to be truly open. And I want the work to be lively and unalienated. A tall order, but we must forever strive for it! So, in a nutshell, for me the term ‘open access’ simply means ‘material freely available to all online’ – but material that is well written, well prepared, well edited and well presented.
Jeroen: Did you ever publish one of your papers (or other scholarly material) in open access?
Adrian: Well, according to my above context of criteria, yes: a great deal, literally hundreds of essays! I believe I have covered a wide range of venues, from what I am calling Internet magazines (such as Transit and Desistfilm), through to online-only peer-reviewed publications (such as Movie, Necsus and The Cine-Files), through to the ‘paywall’ academic journals (such as Screen, Studies in Documentary Film and Continuum) which seem to exist less and less as solid, physical entities that one could actually obtain and hold a copy of (try buying one if you’re not a library), and more and more as a bunch of detached, virtual items (each article its own little island) on a digital checkout page of a wealthy publishing house’s website! This last point also applies to the chapters I have written for various academic books.
When I taught at Monash (Australia) and Goethe (Germany) universities from 2007 to 2015, I decided to ‘take a detour’ into this world of academic writing – partly because the institution demands or requires it, for the sake of judging promotions and so forth. I do not regret the type of in-depth, historical work, on a range of subjects, that this opportunity allowed me to do. But I am more than happy to be back in the less constrained, less rule-bound world of freelance writing. The university, finally, is all about a far too severe, restricted and vicious ‘distribution of the sensible’ – it tends to perpetuate itself, and close its professional ranks, rather than truly open its borders to what is beyond itself.
One of my best and happiest experiences with open access has been with the small American publisher, punctum books. I did my little book Last Day Every Day with them, and it has had three editions in three different languages there. Their care and dedication to projects is outstanding. The politics of punctum as an enterprise are incredibly noble and radical: people can opt to pay something for their books, or download them for free if they wish. Likewise, authors can take any money that comes to them, or choose to plough it back into the company (that’s what I did, and probably most of their authors do). At the same time, certain professional/academic standards are upheld: punctum has an extraordinary board, manuscripts are sent out for reporting, and so forth. They both ‘play the game’ of academic publishing as far as they have to, and also challenge the system in a remarkable way. I am proud to be involved with them.
Jeroen:You are an Australian scholar, living in Spain, traveling for lectures and conferences and studying and writing about a global topic as film and media studies is. How does free online scholarly content affect your daily work as a scholar?
Adrian: Well, I enjoy an extraordinary amount of access to the work of other critics and scholars, especially through Academia.edu, and through postings of links by individuals on social media. At the same time, the ‘paywalls’ shut me out, because the purchase rates are too high for me as an individual, and I have no university-sanctioned reading/downloading access. As a freelance writer, I have to go where the work is, and where the money (very modest!) is. So that itinerary necessarily cuts across ‘commercial’ and ‘academic’ lines, and also involves me with many brave projects that are largely non-academic, and commercial only on an artisanal scale: literary projects such as Australia’s Cordite, for example.
Jeroen:In your first answer, you already addressed the issues of Academia.edu (and I guess you can extend this to other commercial products with similar functionalities like Researchgate) but you also stress the need for a good place to share papers and research output. In the sciences, the preprint and postprint is an excepted and efficient standard in the scholarly communication process. Even publishers allow it. Lots of institutional archives (e.g. ArXiv, and SSRN) have seen the light mid-90s. And the use of those repositories increases every year. In the humanities, there is no such culture. Do you think this could change in a time where sharing initial ideas is becoming easier? Or is the writing and publishing culture in the humanities intrinsically different from that in the sciences?
Adrian: You offer a very intriguing comparative perspective here, Jeroen. I have no experience of scholarship in the sciences, so what you say is surprising (and good!) news to me. Perhaps, in the humanities, there has been, for too long a time, a certain anxious aura built up around the individual ‘ownership’ of one’s ideas – and thereby most of us have gone along with this perceived need not to share our work so readily or easily in the preprint and postprint ways that you describe. But I do think this can change, and quite radically, if humanities people are encouraged to go in this direction. One can already see the signs of it, when scholars share their drafts of papers more readily (and widely) than before. I think it would be a very productive development.
Jeroen: One of the biggest hurdles to take in the next 5 to 10 years regarding open access in the humanities are the costs of publishing. In the sciences, the dominant business model is based on APCs (Article Processing Charges). In the humanities this model is a problem. One of the reasons is that research budgets in the humanities and social sciences are much lower. Other reasons given are that since journal prices in the sciences are much higher there was an urgency to transfer to an open access environment. Subscription costs for humanities journals are much lower.
The majority of open access journals in the humanities and also in media studies have another business model and are often subsidized by institutions or foundations. But subsidies are often temporary. New initiatives like Open Library of Humanities and Knowledge Unlatched come up with different financial models, all aimed at unburdening individual authors, but all of these models still need to prove themselves. Nevertheless, things are changing. How do you see a sustainable open access publishing environment for the humanities, and more specifically film and media studies?
Adrian: Issues of funding – and money, in general – are vexing indeed. Once again, let me make clear where I’m exactly ‘coming from’. With Rouge and LOLA magazines, we have never received, or even sought, any government funding or any kind of arts-industry subsidy; we have never sought or accepted any advertising revenue; and we have never benefitted from any university grants of any kind. We run these magazines on virtually no money (beyond basic operating costs) and of course, as a result, we are unable to pay any contributor (and we are always upfront about that). This is perhaps an extreme, but not uncommon position. It was a decision that, in each case, we took. Why? Because we didn’t want the restrictions, and obligations, that come with the ‘public purse’ – or, indeed, with almost any source of ‘filthy lucre’! In Australia, for example, to accept government funding means you will have to meet a ‘quota’ of ‘local/national content’ – and if you don’t, you won’t get that subsidy again. Senses of Cinema has struggled with that poisoned chalice. With Rouge and LOLA, on the other hand, we enjoy the ‘stateless’ potentiality of online publishing – it is ‘of the world’ and belongs to the whole world (or at least, those in it who can read English!). Sometimes we engaged in (perhaps at our initiative) ‘co-production’ ventures, some of which panned out well (such as a book that Rouge made in collaboration with the Rotterdam Film Festival on Raúl Ruiz in 2004, or the publication last year in LOLA of certain chapters from a Japanese book tribute to Shigehiko Hasumi), and others which did not. But I and my colleagues stick to this generally penniless state of idealism!
I was naively shocked when I realised that academic publishers usually fund their open access projects through payments from writers! And that – as I discovered upon asking a few friends – some universities routinely subsidise these types of publications for their scholars. As a freelancer, once more, I am shut out from this particular system. Therefore, my next ‘academic’ book (Mysteries of Cinema for Amsterdam University Press) – ironically, largely comprised of my essays from non-academic print publications! – will not be Open Access, because I cannot personally afford that, and I have no ‘channel’ of institutional funding that I can access. Once again, that’s just the name of the game. I will be very happy when that book exists, but it will purely be a physical book for purchase only!
I have, therefore, no utopian visions for how to fund open access across the humanities board. Personally, I am currently looking into Patreon as a possible way to sustain arts/criticism-related website projects. It’s a democratic model: people pay to support your ongoing work, to give you time and space to creatively do it. It’s not like Kickstarter, which is geared to a single production, such as a feature film project. Patreon has proved a godsend for artists such as musicians. We shall see if it can also work in an open access publishing context.
Jeroen: You are one of the founding fathers and practitioners of the so-called audiovisual essay, a new rising digital video format in academic publishing. Instead of writing a paper in words, a compilation of images offers a new textual structure. Another digital format is the enriched publication; articles or books with data included. One of the issues, besides arranging new forms of reviewing, is copyright and reuse. The audiovisual essay format obviously benefits from images with an open license, like the Creative Commons licenses. This makes it possible to reuse and remix these images. Archives are being digitized rapidly, but only a small portion is currently available in the public domain. Scholars are often not allowed to make use of film quotes or stills in their works. How do you see the nearby future for using digitized media files for academic purposes in relation to copyright laws?
Adrian: We are in an extraordinarily ‘grey area’ here – appropriately, I suppose, since things like LOLA are (I’m told) classified as ‘grey Open Access’! And the legal situation for audiovisual works can vary greatly from nation to nation. We are in a historical moment when a lot of experimentation is going ‘under the radar’ of legal restriction, or (in the eyes of the big corporations) is considered simply too minor to consider taking any action against. Bear in mind that most critical/scholarly work in audiovisual essays (of the kind that I do in collaboration with my partner, Cristina Álvarez López) is not about making large sums of money; it is still a marginal, ‘labour of love’ activity, just as small, cultural magazines were in the 1980s.
This general fuzziness of the present moment is all to the good, in my opinion; we can all enjoy a certain freedom within it (with, occasionally, a ‘bite’ from above on particular questions of copyright: music use, for instance). I speak of no specific works or practitioners here, but much work in the audiovisual essay field happens both inside and outside of Creative Commons licenses. I don’t think anyone should be restricted to using just that. The front on which we all have to battle is ‘fair use’ or ‘fair dealing’ (hence the disclaimer ‘for study purposes only’ that Cristina & I place at the end of all our videos): the right to quote (and hence manipulate) audiovisual quotations for scholarly and artistic purposes, ranging all the way from lecture demonstration and re-montage analysis to parody and creative détournement/appropriation. The fully scholarly publication [in]Transition to which I and many others have contributed – no one will ever call that a blog! – takes full advantage, via its publishing ‘home base’ of USA, of everything that the fair use provisions in that country can allow. And I think you can see, if you peruse that site, how far the possibilities can go.
I very much liked the recent essay by Noah Berlatsky, “Fair Use Too Often Goes Unused” in The Chronicle of Higher Education, which argued that we – meaning not only writers and artists, but perhaps even more significantly editors and publishers – need to be questioning and pushing at the limits of the definition, practice and enforcement of fair use regulations. Too often (and I have experienced this myself) editors and publishers assume, at the outset, that a great deal is simply impossible, unthinkable: even the use of screenshots from movies! There is so much unnecessary fear and trepidation over such matters. Sure, no one wants to take a stupid risk and be sued as a result. But, to cite Berlatsky’s conclusion:
“Books and journal articles about visual culture need to be able to engage with, analyse, and share visual culture. Fair use makes that possible — but only if authors and presses are willing to assert their rights. Presses may take on a small risk in asserting fair use. But in return they give readers an invaluable opportunity to see [and I would add: hear!] what scholars are talking about.”
*During the NECS 2017 conference in Paris the session ‘The Changing Landscape of Open Access Publications in Film and Media Studies: Distributing Research and Exchanging Data’ will be held on Saturday July 1st. Download the final program here.*
The project Knowledge Unlatched (KU) offers a library sponsored model to ensure open access for monographs and edited collections in the arts & humanities and social sciences. Libraries can take part in Knowledge Unlatched by pledging for the offered title list. The KU project started in 2013 with a pilot of 28 books from 13 publishers to create a platform where authors, publishers, libraries and readers could potentially all benefit from open access for books. Authors see their work disseminated on a global maximized scale and in the KU model they won’t be bothered with BPCs. It is a fact that free accessible books have been downloaded extensively, on top of the normal sales of the paper version. Citations are not necessarily increasing, but they will come faster. Publishers can experiment with generating new revenue streams for open access books. Libraries are paying (you could have a discussion on where the money should come from) but in return are supporting open access for books and deliver accessibility for their researchers (online and with a cheaper acquired paper version – see below). And readers can read and download the books for free.
KU is an example of a crowdfunded, or better, consortium open access funding model. This model spreads costs and offers a broad access for books. It is currently the most important platform, and most likely the biggest in terms of scale, offering a constant stream of open access books. But is this model working?
I have mentioned it before in a previous post that some libraries  and commentators  see that the model could be sensitive to double-dipping and others have raised the the issue of free-riding (non-paying members taking advantage of the open access books made available by paying members). KU is aware of these issues. As Frances Pinter, the founder of KU, points out in an interview: “in order to deal with the free rider issue, we’re giving the member libraries an additional discount. So, when they buy into the free and they buy the premium, the total will be less than any non-member would have to buy for a premium version.” The collections offered are still fairly small considered to the global output but we’re still in the early days of open access monograph publishing. If more publishers are involved and participating in the growth of the entire collection more libraries could become interested as well.
The KU project started in 2013 with a pilot (Pilot 1: 2013-2014). The pilot consisted of a collection of 28 new books (front list) covering topics in the humanities and social sciences from 13 scholarly publishers including the following university presses: Amsterdam, Cambridge, Duke, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Manchester, Michigan, Purdue, Rutgers and Temple, plus commercial presses: Bloomsbury Academic, Brill and De Gruyter. The pilot was a success and all 28 titles were made available on the OAPEN repository. OAPEN is an online platform for peer reviewed academic books in the humanities and social sciences. In collaboration with the Directory of Open Access Books index it offers services for discovery, aggregation and preservation of open access books and related metadata. Just recently the library passed the milestone of 4 million downloads since it started reporting COUNTER compliant usage statistics (September 2013).
User statistics for books unlatched by Knowledge Unlatched in the Pilot and Round 2 have been published in the fall of 2016 by KU. Just to give you an idea of the impact the Round 2 collection contains 78 books and these titles have reached just under 40,000 downloads. The average download per title (via OAPEN) is 503.
Back to the yearly rounds of open access books. The second round (Round 2: 2015-2016) was much larger and consisted of 78 new titles from 26 scholarly publishers. In this round, the collection was built on five main disciplines, namely: anthropology, literature, history, politics and media & communications. Of course, I’m really happy with the last one, being one of the main disciplines of the KU book lists. This round was a success too and 78 books have been unlatched. 10 of them are dealing with the subject media and communication. This collection of 10 can be viewed and downloaded here.
The third round (2016-2017) includes 343 titles (147 front list and 196 backlist) from 54 publishers. Just recently it has been announced that for this round sufficient libraries have pledged. This means that in the next few months the entire list will become available for free downloading.
The good news is that of those 343 books, for the media and communications studies list, 9 titles are brand new (front list) and 13 books are back list titles (not older then 2 years). I think it is a good move to add back-list titles as well, since we tend to focus on only the new and latest stuff. But as we all know in the humanities and social sciences books have a long(er) life. Publishers of these 22 media and communication titles are amongst others Amsterdam University Press, Duke University Press, Intellect, transcript Verlag, UCL Press, Ottowa University Press and University of Toronto Press. The books of round 2 will be made available on the OAPEN platform. Note that some of these publisher don’t charge BPCs. They see the KU project as an addition to their business model and an option to publish books in open access. Some, like UCL Press and Amsterdam University Press, have a standard open access option for all their books and charge BPCs.
Normally I won’t post links to open access publications, since we have other spaces for this (Film Studies for Free and recently launched OpenMediaScholar) but for the sake of completeness I’m adding the following list of books that have been or will be published in the OAPEN library from early to mid-2017.
Cinema, Trance and Cybernetics, by Ute Holl, published by Amsterdam University Press.
For years, there was no overview of what the total amount being paid for journal subscriptions was per institute or on a national level, due to restrictions in the contracts with publishers (the famous non-disclosure agreements). The information on universities’ expenditures on subscriptions has therefore been secret information up to now.
With the transition towards open access and the related recent (re-)negotiations with big publishers to have an open access publishing option in their journals, there is a growing attention on the institutional and national expenditures. It is for several reasons that we need to have an insight in these costs to know what the cost-benefits would ideally be if we have a full shift to open access. But above all it should be standard policy to know what is happening with tax-money anyway.
In Finland, The Netherlands, U.K. and at some institutions in Swiss this data have been published publicly because in these countries several Freedom of Information (FOI), and Government Information Act (WOB – in The Netherlands) requests have been submitted, and above all, granted.
The following information is to give you a quick overview of the status and the available data:
In 2016 information on journal subscription costs paid to individual publishers by the Finnish research institutions has been released by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture, and its Open Science and Research Initiative funded 2014–2017 (Academic Publishing Costs in Finland 2010–2015). Since this data is spanning all expenditures, Finland is the first country to release this data for all its institutions.
More information on the dataset can be found here and here.
In 2016, two requests for information have been submitted. The first request arrived on 28 April 2016, and requested the publication of the total amount of the budget that the university has spent annually on subscriptions to academic journals over the past five years and the purchase of academic books over the past five years.
This request has been granted in September 2016 and the subscription costs data has been released here.
In September 2016, all Dutch universities received a second request relating to the open access license deals. Since 2015 negotiations started with the big publishers about the implementation of open access into the existing ‘big deals’. Currently the Netherlands is the only country where this is happening on such a united scale. All higher education institutes are acting as one party towards the publishers. Normally the details of those deals are contracted as a non-disclosure agreement but this second request asked for publication of those open access contracts. Just recently it has been granted as well and now contract details publishers such as Elsevier, Springer, Wiley, Taylor & Francis, ACS, Sage, Karger, Thieme, Walter de Gruyter, RSC, Emerald have been publicized. 
A list of the publishers’ contracts can be found here.
In the U.K. Stuart Lawson, Doctoral researcher at Birkbeck, University of London, has done some great work on getting insights in the journal subscription expenditures at U.K. higher education institutions. Not all instisutes are represented, but he managed to collect pricing data of 150 institutions with ten of the largest publishers from 2010-14. The raw data can be found here.
For the last three years (starting in 2014) for transparency reasons he systematically collects the APC expenditures data of several research institutes as well. This data can be found here.
In 2015, also after a FOI request, the ETH Zürich published an overview of the costs for journal subscriptions (2010-2014) with the three largest publishers, Elsevier, Springer and Wiley.
There is some more data on the financial flows in Swiss academic publishing to be found in this report.
Like everywhere else where money can be earned, also in the field of open access publishing there are pirates around. In the past 10 to 15 years, there have been many parties that abused the open access publishing model – in which the author must pay for the publication of his / her article, for the sole purpose of making money. These ‘publishers’ ask an Article Publication Charge (APC) for vague platforms or journals with a questionable or often non-existent reputation.
I’ve written about the Jeffrey Beall’s list before in Dutch here and eventually I wasn’t planning to write about his endeavors anymore, since it has been discussed a lot in the last few years. It’s a blacklist and for some it works as a point of reference, and for some it is only a biased view by one person; Jeffrey Beall himself.
Because the issues of academic quality in relation to open access almost always pops up in discussions about scholarly publishing I thought it still might serve the media studies community anyway to give some more context to this debate.
Since 2008 Jeffrey Beall, librarian at the Auraria Library, University of Colorado Denver, has been engaging with the quality issues of open access journals. In 2010 he began to draw up a list (the Beall’s List) of so-called “predatory journals. Publishers / journals featured as ‘predatory’ are often identified by aggressive marketing strategies (spam) mailings and calls to submit an article for a journal that after a critical review is no more than a hollow vessel. The Beall’s List has been able to build the necessary authority in recent years, and rightly so in some extent.
But since his list acquired a lot of both positive and negative attention in the last 8 years, and it gained a certain amount of prestige as being the one and only curated list of ‘malpractice’ in the landscape of open access journals, it is newsworthy that only two days ago the Beall’s list suddenly got offline and all activities related to his blog seem to be erased from the internet (if that is ever possible anyway). Up till now it’s unclear why this has happened and one can only speculate about the reasons behind it.
Beall was one of the first to systematically map the abuses in open access journal publishing. He also formulated criteria, by which he assesses the journals and publishers. These criteria are published online, and up to last week he constantly provided updates to it. Beall writes in this document (latest version 2015 ):
“Evaluating scholarly open-access publishers is a process that includes closely, cautiously, thoroughly, and at times skeptically examining the publisher’s content, practices, and websites: contacting the publisher if necessary, reading statements from the publisher’s authors about their experiences with the publisher, and determining whether the publisher commits any of the following practices (below) that are known to be committed by predatory publishers, examining any additional credible evidence about the publisher, compiling very important “back-channel” feedback from scholarly authors, and taking into account counter-feedback from the publishers themselves.”
But a growing amount of criticism to his work has appeared in the past two or three years. For example, it was not always clear why a publisher or journal made it to his list. Beall almost always made such a decision by himself, without having a clear and visible procedure for the outside world to judge. Transparency is an obvious problem; exactly what he is trying to denounce in the above quote.
It turns out that there is almost never ‘back-channel feedback, or if it is there, it is not often made public.
As the publisher, Frontiers, in October 2015 made it to the Beall’s list:
A huge online discussion started to get to know the rationale behind this decision. Many academics (who at that time also were partly involved as an editor at Frontiers) fell over this decision. It would be too one-sided, would place too much emphasis on what is not going well in the editorial processes, etc.. Moreover, Beall had issued a warning in 2013, but this has been quite brief. But, with this brief announcement his action came not completely out of nowhere. Despite the comments in favor of Frontiers, the publisher has taken steps to improve certain editorial processes. Beall’s action has therefore indeed lead to action/reaction, whether it is justified or not.
One thing is clear and that is that there is much to do about the list itself. There has been a formal accusation submitted by a publisher who thought that it was unlawfully added to the Beall’s list. Recently some people even suggested that Beall would ask for money in order to do an assessments to get a journal or publisher off the list. It is difficult to really determine the authenticity of such an allegation and we should therefore be careful about it. In the last few years some fanatics began a crusade against everything Jeffrey Beall is doing. Even bullying him. And maybe this, as we’ve seen just this week has apparently lead to the end of his blog? Anyway, such practices, however, contribute nothing to the search for a workable (global) system where we can separate the bad apples from the healthy fruit.
We must not forget that even in the ‘old’ world of traditional (closed access) publishing, there were (and still are) rotten apples in the fruit basket. For several years Beall has increasingly positioned himself in the opposite camp of open access. That in itself is not wrong, but since there always has been a lack of transparency, he undermined his (hopefully) good intentions.
So, he, like any other person or company who claims authority, needed to be held under a magnifying glass constantly. However, it does not make sense to put his work on the list completely sidetracked. Despite his, sometimes very negative, statements about open access, he ensured that we have to have a critical stance towards the quality of open access publishing, and more specifically the revenue models that come with it. The fact that at this time the focus is on pay-to-publish (APC-driven), it means that there needs to be a careful consideration how we can ensure quality without letting the financial incentives prevail. Moreover, the financial incentive in the old subscription model has always been very decisive. It is not for nothing that the big publishers continually defend’their’ citation indexes and impact factors with tooth and nail…
Are there other ways to assess the quality of open access journals and publishers? Yes there are. In the last few years a number of national and international initiatives have been developed to assess the quality of an open access journal (or publisher).
First, the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) greatly aggravated its access requirements in the past two years. A journal must meet a set of requirements to be admitted to the index. If a journal is indexed in the DOAJ, one can assume that it is a decent journal and that it meets the technical (infrastructure, storage, distribution) requirements and industry standards. How editorial boards are formed and whether the output is relevant to the field, remains a matter between scholars themselves.
In the Netherlands the Quality Open Access Market website launched in 2014. By inviting the academic community to provide an assessment for open access journals (so-called journal scorecards), they aim for a balanced review coming from the community itself. An addition to the review is that the website mentions whether there is an APC applicable, and if so, what costs are involved. Something can be said about the value-for-money of those open access journals.
QOAM makes use of the metadata database of the DOAJ. QOAM is heavenly depending on the contributions from the academic world as in scholars are asked to crowd-source the database. Until now, it seems, there is not enough critical mass of reviews in order to provide a complete overview.
The Think CheckSubmit website was presented in September 2015, and it’s supported by the OASPA | Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association. The aim of this website is to create awareness among scholars about open access journals and their quality. What are the important aspects that reflect quality? What is important for a proper distribution of your publication? And is the journal doing what it promises? By submitting a series of answers to specific questions, a researcher can evaluate the open access journal.
DOAJ is around for a long time now. The last two mentioned websites above are fairly new initiatives, but one can also search in existing systems, like Scopus and the Web of Science. Open access journals are indexed in those systems for a number of years now. These journals must meet high standards and will not simply appear in these indices.
So, to conclude, there are different roads leading to Rome when it comes to assessing whether a journal has quality or not. Many university pages and open access advocacy websites worldwide do mention Beall’s list as the place to separate the wheat from the chaff. And the advice is to avoid (most of) these open access journals or publishers. But we must realize that this is only an advise. For example, the publisher Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI) got on the Beall list in 2014, but several Dutch universities have an open access publishing deal with MDPI anyway.
As a result of this weeks closure (an archived webpage can still be accessed) of Beall’s blog those university pages need to be updated soon I guess.
By Jeroen Sondervan
Update January 19, 7:32pm: I just came across this post in the Inside Higher Education where they say Jeffrey Beall declined to comment on the removal of his website.
Update September 12, 2:25pm: Here is an article from Jeffrey Beall where he among other things, explains his decision to cease the Beall’s list: doi: 10.11613/BM.2017.029