Monday, 14 July 2014

Going for gold: Why and how is IDS bringing our journal back in-house and making it open access?

By James Georgalakis

The recent announcement by IDS that we are not planning to renew our contract with Wiley Blackwell for the publication of our journal, the IDS Bulletin, will have delighted some and baffled others. Re-launching our flagship publication as a gold open access digital journal means the end of subscription income and the end of a large publisher’s marketing support. From January 2016 the Bulletin will be produced in-house and will be available to all for free.

Since 1968 the IDS Bulletin has been an integral part of IDS’ research dissemination strategy, covering the major themes and influencing debates within international development. As we move forward we will build on its unique characteristics including the thematic issues that mobilise scholars from multiple disciplines, around key development issues. However, for the first time in its history from 2016 there will be no paywall, no embargos and few licencing restrictions to obstruct researchers, students, policy actors and activists from using the Bulletin to support their work.

This new open access IDS Bulletin will be supported by robust editorial and peer review processes with an editorial steering group made up of IDS fellows from all of our key research areas plus an advisory body to provide oversight. Academic editors of issues will be drawn from across the IDS community, including our partners, and a small in-house production team will provide a high quality publication available for free digitally and in print for those that need it.

Who Pays?
Of course the key conundrum of the open access movement has always been who pays? If not the subscriber then surely the researcher (via their funder of course). What this means in practice for conventional social science journals is paying article processing charges (APCs) of around £2000 per article to commercial publishers. In the case of the new IDS Bulletin we are dispensing with this process altogether and simply bringing production and distribution in-house and charging projects and programmes a fixed sum of just under £6000 for a whole issue of up to 9 articles and then fundraising to meet the shortfall. With its long history, policy focused thematic issues, not-for-profit financial model and full compliance with even the most stringent open access policies, we are confident that the IDS open access Bulletin will attract the financial support it needs to continue to provide fresh new thinking on key development issues.

Why not just publish a hybrid?
A hybrid publishing route involves placing submitted versions (post peer review but pre editing and formatting) of your articles in a repository and making others gold open access with APCs. Many publishers including Wiley have developed hybrid systems. However, the Bulletin is quite different to other journals. With thematic issues that are often built around a specific research project or programme the use of APCs is almost impossible. We need to fund each whole issue otherwise it is game over. Hence the charge we apply to projects wanting to commission an issue. Plus, simply releasing the submitted versions of articles still fails to meet the strictest of open access mandates such as DFID’s. In fact, this hybrid route was originally recommended by the UK Government as part of a five-year transition (from 2012 to 2017) towards fully Gold Open Access. It does not work for us and it may not represent a long term solution for other learned societies in the social science sector.

An open access strategy fit for fifty years in development studies
Our emerging open access strategy and our desire to pursue engaged excellence demands that we open access to as much of our evidence and knowledge as possible. The schemes to open up access to journals to southern institutions such as HINARI, AGORA and OARE under the Research4Life programme are good but no longer go far enough. The ongoing evolution of the IDS Bulletin is in part thanks to Wiley Blackwell themselves who have over the last six years helped build its credibility and reach. However, the expiry of our contract with Wiley at the end of 2015 marked an opportunity to take the journal into the next exciting phase of its development. It will be re-launched in our fiftieth year and form a key part of our anniversary celebrations as we release the entire back catalogue. This major publishing event will form part of the narrative around the Institute’s fiftieth birthday as we explore our future role in a changing world in which development knowledge is generated globally and we seek to share it with all those that need it.

James Georgalakis, is the Head of Communications at IDS
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Other posts by James Georgalakis on research communications:

The Guardian
Has Twitter killed the media star?
Marketing: still the dirty word of development?

On Think Tanks
Is it wrong to herald the death of the institutional website?
How can we make research communications stickier? 

Impact and Learning 
Digital repositories – reaching the parts other websites cannot reach
Influencing and engagement: Why let research programmes have all the fun?