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
Follow James @ www.twitter.com/bloggs74

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?

4 comments:

  1. A fascinating and bold move James - I'm sure many in the HSS community will be looking on in interest. It rasies a number of questions (in no particular order):

    - You say R4L and similar schemes don't go far enough. How exactly are they failing, and why do you think this is?
    - Reading DFID's OA policy it seems that Accepted Manuscipts (ie post peer review but pre editing) are perfectly ok as far as they are concerned. Could you direct me to the bit where they insist on Versions of Record?
    - What licence(s) will you be using?
    - Costs - the call for journals publishing to be taken back in house is frequently heard, so it's interesting to have an idea of what that might actually cost. 6 issues x £6k + shortfall is a not insignificant amount. What sorts of bodies are the 'projects and programmes' you mention?

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    1. - You say R4L and similar schemes don't go far enough. How exactly are they failing, and why do you think this is?
      There are two parts to this. Firstly we know that with extreme poverty and rising inequalities in countries classified by the world bank as middle income, schemes aimed at institutions in low income countries are not always reaching everyone they should. Many libraries in the global south with budgets under pressure are having to make some hard choices despite R4L etc. Secondly, we want to open up access beyond those with access to libraries. The Bulletin is a very policy focused publication and we know that policy actors and civil society organisations will also benefit from easy access and re-usage of the content. We want to share these outputs digitally with as wide a group as possible via the platforms they use whether academic repositories, institutional websites or social media.
      - Reading DFID's OA policy it seems that Accepted Manuscipts (ie post peer review but pre editing) are perfectly ok as far as they are concerned. Could you direct me to the bit where they insist on Versions of Record?
      While it is true that Accepted Manuscripts may be deposited in repositories with a maximum embargo of 6 months and our current contract with Wiley would allow this, DFID have still indicated that they can no longer fund complete issues of the Bulletin. Despite the strict wording of the policy I think there is still a perception that Accepted Manuscripts are not of sufficient quality and that Gold Open Access, i.e. post-print versions, are preferable. We are playing the long game here and felt that if the green route was beginning to look unworkable for us we needed to be far more radical and go for gold.
      - What licence(s) will you be using?
      We are currently exploring a range of options and consulting with our members on this. All Bulletin articles will be published under one of the CC licenses and we may have some flexibility for individual author preferences. It is looking quite likely that all content will be published using a license ranging somewhere between Attribution-Non Commercial and the most open Attribution only.
      - Costs - the call for journals publishing to be taken back in house is frequently heard, so it's interesting to have an idea of what that might actually cost. 6 issues x £6k + shortfall is a not insignificant amount. What sorts of bodies are the 'projects and programmes' you mention?
      I think production costs will vary enormously from one journal to the next. In the case of the Bulletin we calculate that to meet all costs associated with both production and distribution/marketing we are looking at around £11,000 per issue. We do not want to compromise on quality so the cost of in-house editorial coordination and freelance copy editing is as you say not an insignificant amount. The projects and programmes I mention will vary from modest sized ESRC and DFID research projects to multi-funder very large research consortia. IDS delivers the vast majority of our work in partnership with Southern institutions and the IDS Bulletin already has the highest proportion of southern article authors of any development journal. We hope that we may be able to leverage some resources from open access grants and funds as the new OA Bulletin will provide a great vehicle for southern authors wanting to publish in journals.
      I hope this answers all your questions
      Best James

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    2. hi James, exciting development for the Bulletin and great that more and valuable research will be open to all! I look forward to being one your occasional readers. I won't comment on the OA issue here, but wanted to comment on your point that existing 'access schemes' don't go far enough.

      Actually I think they go further than many people appreciate. Rather than just making journals available (absolutely vital of course), several access initiatives are going further. For example, INASP is providing a range of capacity building to ensure that librarians can manage access to the research that’s available (be it OA or subscription), and can ensure researchers and students have the skills to use it, and that IT staff can develop and manage the campus networks than deliver this to users. And there’s still a lot more to do to create the demand for this material – as part of everyday research and teaching practice.

      So I absolutely agree that there's a lot more work needed to make sure Southern researchers (and other research/policy audiences) have access to what they need, and open access certainly offers huge potential. But from over a decade running an access initiative, we've also learnt is that making the research available is only the first part of a difficult process!

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  2. Thanks James, that's a really useful set of responses. The point about the scope of initiatives like R4L beyond academic institutions is an important one. Good too to hear sensible estimates of the cost of journal publishing - much more than the 'just a button' crowd might claim...

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