It is clear that major research funders (such as the National Institutes of Heath in the United states and the Wellcome Trust in the UK) have a large stake in the publication process. They are starting to highly recommend (or require) to the researchers who they fund where they should publish their work. If researchers accept money from organizations that have publication demands, then the researchers will try to abide by those rules. The administrators who hold the purse strings are starting to see that there is greater value in Open Access (OA) outlets where anyone with an Internet connection can download, read and use that research. It doesn’t make sense for the funders to let this research hide behind subscription journal paywalls. Some administrators see that publication in just about any Open Access journal is better than publication in a prestigious, but closed access journal. In these cases, the funders will pay for an author-side publication charge, often called an APC. [The image above is CC-By-SA from http://www.flickr.com/photos/68751915@N05/]
If the researchers do not wish to publish the research in an Open Access Journal, then they could consider archiving the peer-reviewed version of the resultant article(s) to a green OA repository. Most likely, this would satisfy the requirements of the research funders. In the UK, the Finch Report makes financial recommendations concerning how public money should be used to support greater access to the research literature. This will take effect in 2014.
However, not all research is funded by large organizations with public money. There is a large amount of research that is conducted in the social sciences and the humanities where researchers may not receive research grants. (This is also true in the sciences, but it is less severe of an issue.) In these cases, researchers could consider submitting their research to one of many OA journals that do not have an author-side publication charge. In fact, most (about 70%) Open Access journals do not have author charges. Many of these journals are funded with donations or support from organizations who wish to provide greater access to research. If one wishes to find a good Open Access journal in a subject area, you could use this directory.
Some may wonder about the effects of Open Access on smaller societies. Many small societies depend upon subscription revenue to support their organizations. In response, interested people should read “The challenge for scholarly societies” by Cameron Neylon. In it, he noted:
As the ratchet moves on funder and government open access policies, society journals stuck in a subscription model will become increasingly unattractive options for publication. The slow rate of progress and disciplinary differences will allow some to hold on past the point of no return and these societies will wither and die. Some societies will investigate transitional pricing models. I commend the example of the RSC to small societies as something to look at closely. Some may choose to move to publishing collections in larger journals where they retain editorial control. My bet is that those that survive will be the ones that find a way to make the combined expertise of the community pay – and I think the place to look for that will be those societies that find ways to decouple the value they offer through peer review from the costs of publication services.
As we move forward into the Open Access age of scholarly publishing, we will see even more versions of funding models. The short-term future might feel a little bit like a roller coaster for many publishers and scholarly societies. Hope you enjoy the ride.