Image Credit: Pexels
Image Credit: Pexels

In the rapidly evolving digital scholarly communication landscape the academic community has more publication options to choose from and, as a result, expectations of journals are changing. Today, rather than simply seeking journals with high Impact Factors (IF), long a “gold standard” of publication quality, many scholars are embracing new article level impact indicators and favoring open access (OA) publications above all else. For academic journal publishers, particularly of journals established using a traditional paywall publishing model, now is the time to reassess current publishing practices and determine the best ways to make articles more widely accessible. Journal publishers must ensure they are giving authors adequate OA publishing options, whether Green or Gold, and that OA policies are clearly communicated on their journal websites and in all author correspondences.

In this blog post we list 4 steps you can take to reassess the OA policies of the journals you publish, stay on top of new OA mandates, and ensure your journals are meeting the needs of the scholarly community.

Track OA policies and recommendations and see where your journal stands

As a journal publisher, you’re likely always on the lookout for changes in institutional and funder OA policies and preferences as well as general OA news. In every discipline, there are a host of relevant entities to keep track of and new information to process by the day. We know this can get a bit overwhelming! Here are a few steps you can take to stay on top of it all:

  • If you use Gmail, Yahoo, or another email provider with the option, set up email alerts for when particular keywords or phrases related to OA publishing are used in online content. For example, you can set up alerts for uses of “open access journals,” “open access publishing,” and “open access mandates.”

  • Maintain a list of funders in your discipline and make time to check their OA policies. SHERPA Juliet aggregates OA policies for more than a hundred and fifty funders from 22 countries. You can use this database to search a list of funders fast.

  • Check to see if your titles are listed in SHERPA FACT. Authors use SHERPA FACT to search for journals they are considering submitting to in order to see how well they comply with different research funders’ OA policies. If any of your journals have a listing, make sure it’s accurate and contact the database if not. If the listing is incorrect, that could be a sign that the OA policies on your website are unclear.

  • Seek resources on how you can improve your OA policies to better support scholars and institutions in complying with OA mandates, such as Jisc’s “Open Access compliance: how publishers can help“ guide.

The Jisc “Open Access compliance“ guide offers some particularly helpful steps publishers can take to facilitate OA including: registering article DOIs upon acceptance and informing all authors of the DOI for early archiving, ensuring acceptance letters to authors include a version of the manuscript that can be submitted to repositories and clear information on your journal’s archiving policies, and making both journal and article level policies clear in all author communications.

When checking your OA policies, you’ll want to pay attention to details including that your journals are allowing the right version of articles to be archived, that any embargo periods you have fit within funder guidelines and are reasonable to authors, and that you have both pre- and post-publication archiving options.

If you have a traditional paywall journal and need to transition it to a Green or Gold OA publishing model there are many resources to help. To get started you can check out Scholastica’s OA Journal Starter Kit and SPARC’s “Transitioning Your Journal from Subscription to Open Access“ resources page.

You’ll also want to look out for OA briefings to track trends in OA publishing and get ideas for how your journals will need to evolve in the future. PASTEUR4OA offers a list of Advocacy Resources that is a great place to start.

The OA policies and copyright licenses of the journals you publish should go hand in hand. You’ll need to ensure your journals have clear copyright guidelines that do not contradict your OA policies in any way. Copyright pertains to all rights to reproduce, publish, modify, and sell copies of a work. Academics are increasingly seeking to publish in journals that will allow them to retain the rights to their article or at least their research data. If any of your journals require authors to transfer all copyrights to the publisher you may want to consider whether such a policy is necessary and revise accordingly. If you decide to require copyright transfer, be sure to build ample flexibility into your publication agreements. Many authors will want provisions that permit them to use their article in teaching and professional presentations, share works with colleagues, and add a version of their work to an institutional repository.

In order to make your journal articles as open as possible, consider publishing under a Creative Commons license. There are multiple Creative Commons licenses available that offer varying levels of openness. You can choose whether or not you’ll require attribution for republication of works, allow commercial use of the works you publish, and allow derivatives of works among other considerations.

Ask authors what they need

As you reassess your journal’s OA policies be sure to look beyond mandates alone. You may technically be complying with all OA guidelines in your discipline, but that doesn’t mean authors are completely comfortable with your OA policies. There may still be grey areas in your OA guidelines that authors are unsure of, such as unclear pre-publication archiving policies that could be making authors wary of submitting their articles to preprint servers.

The best way to ensure you’re giving authors a positive publishing experience is to see how they feel about working with your journal and if they have any concerns or suggestions. Consider sending a survey to authors on your journal’s OA policies. You can also keep track of larger-scale author surveys other organizations are running. Examples include Editage’s new “Author perspectives on the academic publishing process“ survey and Nature’s 2015 “Author Insights“ survey.

Additionally, you can reach out to funders, librarians, and others working on institutional OA initiatives to ask them where they believe most publisher OA policies could be improved. Conferences are a great opportunity to learn from sessions and have candid conversations with members of the academic community working in a variety of roles.

Reassess your OA policies and ensure they’re front and center

You’ve had a chance to research institutional and funder OA policies in your publication discipline, different OA publishing models in use, and where your journals stand. Now it’s time to review the OA policies for each journal you publish and revise where necessary. To start, you’ll want to thoroughly read each journal’s OA guidelines and all associated pages and make note of any areas that need to be changed either to comply with existing guidelines, better serve the academic community, or simply be written more clearly. Work with your publication team and the editorial boards of your journals to make any policy changes and agree on new guideline language or formatting where needed.

Your OA guidelines should be accessible from your author instructions page. You can include them on the page or link to a separate page. Either way, just be sure they aren’t buried. Finally, be sure to also give authors a designated contact for any questions. Authors will appreciate clear guidelines and open communication!

Danielle Padula
This post was written by Danielle Padula, Community Development
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