I’m tickled pink about a new article I contributed to, which has just been published by the UKSG (United Kingdom Serials Group). I’m the second-named author, which means that Hayley Gibson, the first author, did more of the writing work, but I’m pleased that almost nine years after retiring I can still contribute to publications.
The article has been published as an editorial in UKSG eNews, which is read by people involved with scholarly journal publishing. Scholarly journal publishing is an important part of the overall scholarly publishing industry.
When you think about it, a great deal of time, effort and $billions is spent on research worldwide every year; research into medicine, engineering, science, the social sciences, arts and humanities and so on. The results of such research is mainly published as articles in scholarly journals – articles on everything from malaria prevention, earthquake studies, global warming and water resources, right through to advances in batteries, food processing, nutrition, buffaloes, rabbits and even essential oils.
Researchers, academics, students and sometimes the general public read these articles and often incorporate the published research results into further research, and all of this, hopefully, eventually benefits our society.
More than 2.5 million scientific articles are published each year, and it is very important that such articles are visible and discoverable to anyone who wants to read and use them. There are many tools to assist in this discoverability – just ask any academic librarian to name them. Google Scholar and Microsoft Academic are two of the largest, and many more are mentioned in this Wiki List of academic databases and search engines.
Most of those tools try to index either as many publications as possible, or publications in particular subject areas, and most cover articles going way back.
Of all of the many millions of articles which have been published over the years, perhaps the cream on the publishing cake includes the most recent articles. This is one reason why I am involved with JournalTOCs, a free service which assists researchers and others to keep up-to-date with the most recent articles published in nearly 32,000 different scholarly journals produced by more than 3,200 different publishers, large and small.
Now then, there are basically three different publishing models for journals. There are journals which are subscription-based, journals which are available on Open Access, and there are hybrid journals.
The articles in subscription-based journals are behind paywalls and can be read only by those who subscribe, or by those in institutions that subscribe (and make access available to their members, normally through their libraries) – the publishers of those journals cover their costs through the subscriptions.
The articles published in Open Access journals are freely available to read by anyone – the publishers of those journals cover their costs mainly through Article Processing Charges (APCs) paid (mostly) by the authors or their institutions or research funders.
Hybrid journals are those which are essentially subscription-based, but which also include some Open Access (freely available to read) articles – the publishers of hybrid journals cover some of their costs through subscriptions, and some through APCs.
In recent times, the number of Open Access journals has increased, and so has the number of hybrid journals.
So far, so good. If an institution subscribes to a subscription-based or hybrid journal, then the contents of that journal, whether behind a paywall or those previously mentioned Open Access articles in hybrid journals, will be easily available to members of the institution in question, usually through being found via the institution’s discovery tool(s). Open Access articles in hybrid journals to which an institution does not subscribe, however, may well not be accessible through the institutions discovery tool(s). Open Access articles in hybrid journals won’t be included in discovery tools (academic databases and search engines) which only index Open Access journals. Some freely available discovery tools may not include Open Access articles in hybrid journals.
Those pesky Open Access articles in hybrid journals may not appear in all sorts of places where people look for articles, because they are not easy to identify as freely available, amongst all the subscription-based stuff behind paywalls in the same journals. The National Information Standards Organization (NISO) looked at all of this and came up with some recommendations for what they called ‘article-level descriptors in machine-readable form’ which would have assisted the automated identification of Open Access articles in hybrid journals, in the knowlede that if there’s an automated way of identifying such articles then many things can follow to assist in the visability of those articles in discovery tools and elsewhere, but there were various issues that hampered the take-up of their recommendations.
The article that Hayley Gibson and myself wrote recently addresses some of the above, and then shows how JournalTOCs has provided an alternative, pretty simple, way for the automated identification and discoverability of Open Access articles in hybrid journals.
The way it works in practise is demonstrated in the graphic above. Third World Quarterly is a hybrid journal published by Taylor & Francis. It is one of more than 12,000 hybrid journals currently being published by various publishers. Some of the articles in Third World Quarterly are behind a paywall, and some are available on Open Access. JournalTOCs has identified those Open Access articles as shown in the above graphic. If you go to the Taylor & Francis website for the journal, for example here where the contents of Vol 39 Issue 6 are listed, you can see that some articles have the Open Access icon and some don’t. Taylor & Francis know which of their articles are Open Access, but how can discovery tools, databases, search engines and aggregators identify, like JournalTOCs has done, those articles as Open Access in an automated way? The answer is explained in The importance of cc:license for the discoverability of open access articles in hybrid journals, by Hayley Gibson and myself.