The Future of Academic Publishing: Ripe With New Possibilities

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

Recently, a special issue of Nature explored changes happening right now in academic publishing. While the focus in this issue was on scientific publishing, many of the ideas presented apply to academic publishing as a whole and reveal that, despite some issues, open access publishing will require publishers to adapt.

Here are some of the reasons why scientific publishers are starting to consider open access as a viable option:

Per-article costs are lower in open access journals. According to data presented in “Open access: The true cost of science publishing,” it is cheaper, overall, to publish an article in an open access, online-only journal than in a subscription journal published in print and online. The cost difference is significant, according to the article: the average publishing cost per-article in an open access journal is about $2,289 compared to $4,871 for a subscription journal.

Some institutions are requiring researchers to publish in open access journals. As of April 1, any researcher supported by a UK research council is required to seek publication in an open access journal or a journal that releases the paper to an open access depository, according to Publishing: Open to possibilities. In the U.S., President Obama mandated that any taxpayer-funded scientific research must be made available within 12 months of publication. This gives all scientific publishers the incentive to open up their articles and to consider an open access or hybrid model of publishing.

Researchers see the value in open access. According to a survey conducted by Nature Publishing Group (NPG), 45% of researchers believed that all science papers should be published in an open access format (“Disciplinary Action“). These results show support for open access publishing, but other parts of the survey show that many researchers are still wary of what publishers should do with open access articles once published: 85% of respondents selected “Don’t Know” when asked what type of open access licence they had chosen when their work was published.

These articles in Nature reveal that science publishing is in the midst of profound changes. The open access model provides an opportunity for publishers to cut costs and to bring cutting-edge research to the general public. If anything, the open access movement could provide a catalyst for major disruption in academic publishing.

Since most open access publishing requires the Web to function, open access could give academic publishers needed flexibility as they move to a digital model. A recent conference report for Beyond PDF2 echoes this idea:

What is still experimental in trade narrative fiction is increasingly commonplace in academia: reshaping not merely the product, but the thinking that yields one. And that’s really important. It means that scientists and humanities scholars alike can publish—on a blog, in figshare, or in a microjournal—insights, results, and data whenever they think it appropriate to share with their colleagues.

Because of the collaborative nature of academic research, academic publishers could use open access to not only reduce costs but to also give researchers and readers information quicker than other types of publishing.

Academics and researchers take note: publications like Nature are considering the possibilities, and this suggests more opportunities for new ways of publishing.

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