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Open Access Publishing Is Revolutionizing Peer-Reviewed JournalsResearch Paper

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Open Access publishing is revolutionizing peer-reviewed journals in terms of the process of submission, journal business management, and the nature of peer review in general. The basic theory behind Open Access publishing is to make articles "free for everyone to read," as opposed to the prevalent system of charging "billions of dollars per year" for accessing the final product (Van Noorden 2013, p. 2). In the Open Access model, authors and the institutions that support them foot the costs of publication, rather than asking libraries to pay for subscriptions or consumers to pay per use. Furthermore, Open Access policies reflect Creative Commons License practices that generally entail "unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium is permitted, provided the author/editor is properly attributed," (Springer 2015, p. 1). The author retains the rights to his or her own material when using Open Access journals. Open Access liberalizes peer-review journal publishing in ways that are democratic, more accurately reflecting globalized education and the principles of a free market economy.

Open Access publishing first emerged during the 1990s, corresponding with the spirit of open source technologies that emerged during that time. Since then, Open Access use has been increasing steadily. Since the year 2000, the average annual growth rate in Open Access academic journals has been 18% for the number of journals and 30% for the number of articles published in them (Laakso, Welling, et al. 2011, p. 1). In 2011, 11% of all peer-reviewed articles were published in Open Access journals (Van Noorden 2013, p. 2). So steady and strong has been the tug of Open Access journal management that stalwarts in the industry like Elsevier have been making changes to their business model to remain relevant and competitive, even if not initially to reflect the Open Access ethos (Peet 2015).

The new Elsevier policy does not quite approach Open Access, because it changes little regarding the actual business model. Instead, the new Elsevier policy attempts to "strike a balance," by retaining rights to author material and charging exorbitant subscription fees, while allowing for a certain degree of "sharing," (Wise 2015, p. 1). The rhetoric about "sharing" that Elsevier touts as their new policy has nothing to do with embracing Open Access, though. Critics of Elsevier are quick to point out that the revised policy means little, "impedes open access and sharing," and "represents a significant obstacle to the dissemination and use of research knowledge, and creates unnecessary barriers for Elsevier published authors in complying with funders' open access policies," (COAR 2015, p. 1). COAR (2015) claims that the new Elsevier policy actually impedes sharing by imposing an "embargo period" and additional fees for authors (p. 1). Ironically, though, Elsevier does also manage a collection of Open Access journals (Elsevier 2015).

The debate over the new Elsevier sharing policy highlights some of the core issues in journal management posed by Open Access. Open Access also brings to light issues related to the process of managing peer review processes and financial decisions related to the management of Open Access journals.

In contrast to Elsevier, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has also amended its journal policies but in a way more in accordance with the spirit of Open Access. While initially offering traditional publication services in journals, peer-reviewed articles can become Open Access after a six-month embargo, in addition to other protections for journals that are part of the PubMed Central system (Suber 2004). As of 2010, the NIH has started to require Open Access availability of results from research projects they fund because the funding does come from taxpayer money (Bjork, Welling, et al. 2010, p. 1). In fact, one of the main reasons why the British Medical Journal has opted to transition to BMJ Open is that when its researchers are funded by the NIH and other publically funded organizations like the UK Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust, the journal must comply with Open Access (Groves & Sands n.d.). Open Access has become increasingly entrenched and is poised to replace or at least merge with traditional methods of managing journals publishing peer-reviewed articles.

The British Medical Journal (BMJ) is one of the most prestigious traditional peer-reviewed journal publications to offer an Open Access component, proving that established and respectable journals can transition well to the new model of research publication and dissemination. However, the traditional subscription-based journals and some academic databases protest that Open Access compromises the ethics of peer review, and that Open Access denies the tremendous costs associated with journal management.

The costs of research publishing have been exaggerated, claim proponents of Open Access, while opponents claim that Open Access sacrifices "editorial quality," (Van Noorden 2013, p. 2). Traditional journal publishers reject articles after a lengthy peer review process, and may therefore invest more in each paper published vs. An Open Access publisher. However, according to Springer (2015), Open Access publications "run through the same peer review, production and publishing processes than journals and books published under the traditional subscription-based model do," (p. 1). Peer review processes for Open Access journals are no different than they are for print publications. In fact, articles or papers are often rejected by peer participants and Open Access review boards. Peer reviewers may sometimes volunteer their services to support their field of academic inquiry. However, "the quality of a scholarly journal is a function of its authors, editors, and referees, not its business model or access policy," (Suber 2013, p. 1).

The journal industry's finances and budgeting is highly secretive and "largely mysterious," lacking any evidence to support the exorbitant costs charged for journals or even single article access online (Van Noorden 2013, p. 2). Educational institutions and the libraries that purchase journal subscriptions are required to sign non-disclosure agreements, making it almost impossible to know the actual costs, and the costs of production are likewise withheld from the public (Van Noorden 2013). The non-disclosure agreements reflect the differential pricing models, as each institution negotiates financial terms related to the cost of the license and also the cost of reusing archived content (PLOS n.d.). However, some estimates of the industry suggest 20-30% profit margins for the journal publishing industry as a whole, with science alone generating $9.4 billion per year (Van Noorden 2013, p. 3). Even non-commercial publications are built on a profit model, and managers are understandably feeling threatened by Open Access. The sense of threat is largely unfounded, though, and rooted in outmoded thinking and lack of contact with the realities of the academic publishing industry and the prevailing demands of publically-funded research institutions.

As PLOS (n.d.) points out, the outmoded subscription models made sense prior to new media and digital publications, when actual paper publishing, journal binding, storage space, and archiving had tangible costs associated with them. Digital journal publishing confers none of those costs, and therefore the pricing and overall business models of peer-reviewed journal publishing needs to change. Moreover, the nature of education has changed to bolster the need for Open Access journals. A greater number of students access course materials, and attend their universities, remotely.

How it Works

Open Access has no standardization in terms of offering journal managers a concrete business model. Rather, there are innumerable methods that journals and aggregators can use in order to manage their costs and ensure sustainability as well as potential profitability, if profitability is a core goal of the publication. Business models generally involve a combination of cost management systems, including ensuring that authors can shop around for an ideal publisher via an open market system. Authors can pay to publish themselves, or their research institution can sponsor their publication in the Open Access journal. Open Access services are generally much cheaper than services offered by traditional print publications (Van Noorden 2013).

Charge to authors, subscriptions, and subsidies are the primary means by which Open Access journals are funded. The larger the publication the more likely it is to charge author fees or have membership fees, as well as attracting advertisers ("Author Fees and Other Business Models Fund Open Access Journals" 2011). Many institutions including universities but also research institutions have set up Open Access Funds, and Open Access Funds can be part of general funding for institutions like universities or the National Institutes of Health (Springer 2015). The creation of Open Access funds has become a common trend in scholarly journal management, and is also integrated into the management of research institutions. Moreover, a membership model like that of SPARC (2015) has helped to fund scholarly Open Access journals.

Community publishing models, which depend more on volunteers and less on profitability, are used especially in niche areas of scholastic inquiry such as the arts and humanities (Open Access Scholarly Information Sourcebook 2012). The community publishing model entails taking advantage of volunteer labor for everything from peer review, editing, and production. The benefit to the volunteer may be networking with peers, promoting the ideals of the academic field, and achieving core academic goals such as propagating research or… [END OF PREVIEW]

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