The term open access is a hotly debated concept which has many implications and meanings. A number of people are self-described open access advocates, and they can be motivated to achieve a wide array of changes. Some wish to make content 'free-at-the-point-of-use' whereas others wish to make content available without any sorts of restrictions at all. Others envision a world where content is paid for but flows over the internet in frictionless ways. Some believe it is a crusade to replace the subscription-based publication method, or to rid the world of commercial publishers, whilst many don’t see what all the fuss is about!
One thing is certain: open access, in its many forms, is here and open access publishing will continue to grow.
While open access publishing has gained the support of a number of different actors, authors, funders and research organizations, uptake remains modest in many research fields. In certain areas, such as life and medical sciences, open access publishing has reached a point where around a quarter of all research is available at the point of use through the different open access models. In other fields, such as social sciences and economics, there is a reduced focus on open access publishing and we do not feel any particular push from our authors.
Understanding the options
Authors want publishing choices, and Elsevier is happy to provide them! Let’s take a closer look at the options:
Open access journals – These are often referred to as 'gold' open access journals and the primary business model is that authors pay an article processing fee to support the costs of publishing.
Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Biomedical Informatics, Ted Shortliffe, indicates: “Scientists in our community are strongly in favor of open access and a significant number have started to shift towards open-access venues, even if it means that they have to pay the article processing fee.
Blind adherence to open-access idealism is untenable from an economic perspective, even with an all-digital publishing model.
We must not undervalue the role that editorial functions and tools play in quality control and logistical management. I accordingly look for ways to decrease overall publishing costs, to maintain revenues (from authors or subscribers), and to provide free and open access as soon after publication as is fiscally viable.”
Elsevier’s Open Access Journals
This model is a sustainable form of open access, as long as the article processing fee covers the costs of publishing the article and is affordable for the author. In recent years, several publishers have emerged offering open access journals, including BioMedCentral and Public Library of Science (PLoS).
Elsevier has now launched 12 open access journals and is developing more in collaboration with our author communities. We remain committed to the subscription model of publishing, but also see journals that operate with article processing fees as a sustainable alternative. Consequently, we will proactively continue to develop journals under the most appropriate model, both in discussion with our author communities and Editors, and in reaction to customer requests.
Open access articles – Sometimes referred to as 'hybrid' open access publications, these individual articles are made open access to non-subscribers of subscription journals after the author pays a sponsorship fee. These fees are often reimbursed by either the author’s institution or funding organization.
At Elsevier, we have had a sponsored option available since 2006 and this is now active on more than 1,200 of our journals. We will continue to expand this option to other journals as there is a demand to do so. In addition, we have agreements with several funding organizations whose grant recipients are specifically asked to ensure their articles are published with open access.
In 2011, Elsevier had more than 1,000 articles sponsored in our journals, with only 10% of these being sponsored by individual authors – the remainder enabled through our agreements with funding bodies. One major element we need to stress for sponsored articles is that we are careful to not 'double dip', that is collect income from subscriptions and sponsorship on the same article. To ensure we do not do this, we alter our journal prices to reflect any revenue we receive through sponsored articles. Click here to view our policy.
Elsevier has sponsorship agreements with:
Elsevier also works with several societies that wish to sponsor open access to journals. Under this model, Elsevier hosts the journal on SciVerse ScienceDirect, makes it open access and also produces print copies for the society. The journals we operate using this model are not branded as Elsevier titles, and ownership and control remains entirely with the society in question – for example, even peer review of the journal is handled by the society. This is a way for Elsevier to facilitate journal development in local and regional markets and promote international visibility of science in emerging countries.
Open archives – This involves providing free access to a journal article after a particular time has elapsed following publication. Elsevier now offers open archives for 43 of our journals, including several of our most significant journals such as Cell, Neuron and Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
The Journal of Biomedical Informatics recently adopted this model and Shortliffe says: “I have been able to make it clear that our journal and Elsevier are committed to making the scientific literature in our journal available to all while implementing a 12 month delay that allows a subscription-based model to continue and provides open access after a year to everything that we publish. Many colleagues have welcomed this approach and this may have affected the uptake of sponsored articles since they know that their paper will be accessible in a year (and for many will be accessible immediately through institutionally-based subscriptions).”
Elsevier believes that authors should be able to distribute their accepted manuscripts, e.g. posting to their websites or their institution’s repository and emailing to colleagues etc... Consequently, we have developed an article posting policy that enables them to do this voluntarily.
This approach, often referred to as 'green' open access, is a passion for some academics (e.g. high-energy physicists) and a relatively low priority for other researchers (e.g. economists and social scientists), but several organizations have introduced mandates that require their researchers to deposit articles, often in the absence of any recognition to the journal that published the article - or indeed without any time between publication and deposit.
In cases of mandated deposit, Elsevier is working hard to develop agreements with organizations to introduce a sustainable element to manuscript posting – often involving the introduction of journal level embargo periods, which allow the publisher to recoup the investment made in publishing the article.
We have significantly developed our open access publishing options and also continue to develop and invest in subscription publishing at the same time. In the longer term, we anticipate continued mixed-model publishing, with both subscription and open access publishing operating alongside one another.
Dr Riaz Agha BSc (Hons), MBBS, MRCSEng, MRCSEd, FHEA is the founder, Managing and Executive Editor of the International Journal of Surgery and a trainee surgeon at Frimley Park Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in Surrey. Here he reflects on the launch of The International Journal of Surgery: Case Reports (IJSCR) for which he is Managing and Executive Editor.
“In May 2010, we launched Elsevier’s very first open access journal, the International Journal of Surgery: Case Reports.1 The journal complements its subscription-based sister journal, the International Journal of Surgery. I always felt that open access was a good model for many journals.
Most of the open access journals in this field actually charge £1,000-2,000 to publish full length articles. As we wanted to focus on case reports – and that kind of charge is often beyond the affordability of surgeons in training or individuals without access to institutional funds/grants - our charge of £250 per accepted case report is more appropriate.
I am happy to see the number of authors willing to pay this rise year on year as the journal develops. It is also great to see our articles are being read widely too with more than 10,000 downloads in just our second year. Most satisfying is that we have provided a new journal that the scholarly community and surgeons alike appreciate.’’
1 Agha R and Rosin DR. Time for a new approach to case reports. International Journal of Surgery: Case Reports 2010;1(1):1-3 PMCID PMC3199611. Co-published in the International Journal of Surgery 2010;8(5):330-332. PMID: 20470911.
DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF UNIVERSAL ACCESS
David’s role focuses on the development of a wide range of strategies and implementation of access initiatives and he is a key contact between Elsevier and funding organizations, universities and research institutions around the world. He has worked at Elsevier for more than 15 years, including periods in both editorial and marketing positions, and spent the majority of his career managing the scientometric research and market analysis department within the company. David speaks frequently at various global events about the development of new universal access initiatives and technologies, as well as publishing matters in general. He has a BSc in pharmacology from the University of Sunderland and an MBA with distinction from Oxford Brookes University.