August 13, 2005

Another open access experiment

The journal Information and Computation has announced that

for one year, effective immediately, online access to all journal issues back to 1995 will be available without charge. This includes unrestricted downloading of articles in pdf format.
Retrieval traffic during the open access period will be considered as future subscription policies are formulated.
Journal articles may be obtained on Elsevier's Sciencedirect at

This is obviously not the first journal to adopt an open access policy, experimentally or permanently, but is it the first one published by Elsevier to do it via Elsevier's site?

According to Peter Suber's page of Open Access lists, editors at several Elsevier journals have declared independence over the years (though not all of these have gone all the way to open access):

  • In 1998 most of the editorial board of the Journal of Academic Librarianship resigned to protest the large hike in the subscription price imposed by Pergamon-Elsevier after it bought the journal from JAI Press. Several of the editors who resigned then created Portal: Libraries and the Academy at Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • In November 1999, the entire 50 person editorial board of the Journal of Logic Programming (Elsevier) resigned and formed a new journal, Theory and Practice of Logic Programming (Cambridge).
  • Early in 2001, a handful of editors of Topology and Its Applications (Elsevier) resigned in order to create Algebraic and Geometric Topology (University of Warwick and International Press), a free online journal with an annual printed volume.
  • Elsevier has published the European Economic Review since 1969. In 1986 the European Economic Association (EEA) adopted it as its official journal. But the EEA grew increasingly unhappy with Elsevier's subscription price and its requirement that the publisher, not the association, hire the journal's editors. In 2001 the EEA started the process of declaring independence from Elsevier. In March 2003 its new official journal, the Journal of the European Economic Association, was launched by MIT Press at about one-third of the Elsevier subscription price.
  • On December 31, 2003, the entire editorial board of the Journal of Algorithms resigned in order to protest the high price charged by the publisher (Elsevier). On January 21, 2004, the same board then launched a new journal, Transactions on Algorithms, published by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).

Elsevier is by no means the only publisher to have been put into the role of King George by rebellious journal editors, but I've quoted these example's from Suber's list to indicate one of the sources of pressure that may have led to a change in policy at Elsevier specifically.

Several other recent conversions to open access are documented on Suber's Open Access News blog, such as the Netherlands Journal of Medicine, which was once an Elsevier publication.

Suber's blog also quotes from a recent article by Robert Kiley, Head of Systems Strategy for the Wellcome Trust, annnouncing that

...from 1 October 2005, all new grant recipients will be required to deposit in PMC [PubMed Central -- myl], or a UK equivalent, any papers arising from Trust-funded research. This condition will be extended to all existing grant holders from October 2006. All papers deposited with PMC will be made freely available to the public, via the Web, within 6 months of the official date of final publication.

Kiley goes on to write that

Ultimately, for the benefits of open access to be fully realised, we need to win over the hearts and minds of those who actually do the research and write the papers – the scientists and researchers. For this group, the key drive behind publishing is a desire for their research to be read and cited. To misquote President Clinton ‘it’s about impact, stupid’. Fortunately for advocates of open access, research1 is starting to show that open-access articles were cited between 50–300% more often than non-open access articles from the same journal and year....The developments announced by the Wellcome Trust over the past couple of months – coupled with the public access initiatives at the US National Institutes of Health and the recent announcement from Research Councils UK (RCUK) in support of open access – all suggest that we are witnessing a sea-change in the way research findings will be disseminated and made accessible in the future.

Are there any language-related journals that have moved in this direction? DOAJ lists 37 open-access journals in the subject area of linguistics, but these don't include the titles that I for one would like to see there.

Related Language Log posts:

Costs and business models in scientific research publishing (5/11/2004)
More on scientific and scholarly publishing (6/14/2004)
A small rant (6/30/2004)
The status quo just can't stand (7/31/2004)
Abusive publisher of the month (8/25/2004)
Open access again (8/31/2004)
Some open access advice for Michael Silverstein (9/1/2004)
Prickly paradigms under a bushel? (9/3/2004)
Pamphleteering, old and new (9/3/2004)
You couldn't have a starker contrast (9/17/2004)
Scirus (12/1/2004)
Prairie dog talk (12/8/2004)
Blogs disgoogled? (2/23/2005)
Raising standards -- by lowering them (3/7/2005)

[Update 8/15/2005: Vincent Arnaud points out by email that there is a larger list of open-access journals, " maintained by Jan Szczepanski, a librarian at Sweden's Goteborg University", with a copy posted by Peter Suber here. This list includes more than 170 OA language-related journals (search for "LINGVISTIK"). However, I'll repeat my observation that most of the titles I'd like to see there are missing. ]

Posted by Mark Liberman at August 13, 2005 10:45 AM