In the past few decades, authors, editors, and publishers of academic journals have witnessed dramatic changes in the scholarly publishing environment. The days of small, nonprofit societies publishing print-only journals are long gone (with a few exceptions), and for-profit, commercial publishers have taken over the market, with many adverse consequences. In 1973 Elsevier (part of the RELX Group), Wiley-Blackwell, Springer Publishing, Taylor & Francis Group, and Sage Publications collectively published approximately 20% of journal articles across all disciplines; these five publishers advanced their share of the market over the next 40 years to 53% in 2013 (source). Furthermore, they currently publish approximately 70% of the articles in chemistry, psychology and the social sciences (source). In 2016 Elsevier alone had gross revenues of £2.32 billion and a profit margin of 40% (source: PDF), slightly exceeding that of Apple. In short, this oligopoly essentially controls access to the majority of scholarly information published—information that is crucial to the forward progress of our society. What are just a few of these consequences?
- The vast majority of the world's population—including public and mental health practitioners, policymakers, and researchers in developing nations—cannot access the most current and accurate information because they are not affiliated with a university or other institution that can afford to subscribe to these journals, nor can they themselves afford to pay $25-$50 for one-off access to an article.
- The hefty and ever-increasing subscription fees charged by these commercial publishers are crippling university library budgets, forcing acquisitions librarians to cancel long-held titles that may not be heavily used but are nonetheless crucial to research and scholarship. Even at Harvard University, the world's wealthiest academic institution, the library can no longer afford these skyrocketing costs.
- Commercial publishers are stifling scientific and academic creativity. As Stephen Buranyi writes in a recent article in The Guardian, "These days, given a choice of projects, a scientist will almost always reject both the prosaic work of confirming or disproving past studies, and the decades-long pursuit of a risky 'moonshot', in favour of a middle ground: a topic that is popular with editors and likely to yield regular publications." Put more succinctly, Joshua A. Krisch notes in Vocativ, "Scientific research—from baby steps in basic science to revolutionary breakthroughs—is effectively controlled by five major corporations."
These issues have been discussed and debated for a number of years. In particular, academic library administrators have long warned the scholarly community about the serials crisis, the situation alluded to above in which subscription prices for journals have vastly outpaced the inflation rate for several decades while library budgets have remained flat or been cut. A number of solutions to this crisis have been proposed, and UTA Libraries is embarking on one in particular.
Similar to many top research libraries in the United States and globally, UTA Libraries has formed Mavs Open Press to offer open-access, digital publishing services to UTA faculty, staff, and students. We will partner with you to provide the tools and support to launch a new journal or convert an existing one to open access at absolutely no cost. If you are currently an editor of an academic journal published by a scholarly society with a tight budget or have thought about starting a new peer-reviewed journal, we provide services that can help you produce your journal or start a new one in a professional, timely manner. Our journal publishing services include the following:
- Obtaining an ISSN for the journal and DOIs for articles;
- Assisting with all aspects of technical setup and production of each issue, including in some cases layout and copyediting (note that layout and copyediting may require funding);
- Providing a publishing platform that simplifies the peer-review process and includes options for blind or double-blind review;
- Hosting open-access digital content on a secure server with frequent backups and built-in redundancies;
- Consulting on copyright questions;
- Maximizing discoverability of your journal through search-engine optimization and robust metadata; and
- Preserving and archiving the digital content in perpetuity.
A favorite quote of librarians is "Information wants to be free," and in that spirit, we hope that you will want to learn more about these services and join the open access revolution. For more information, please contact Jody Bailey, Director of Publishing, UTA Libraries.