Optional Open Access Experiment
The advent of online publication has greatly improved access to scientific content on a global scale. Developments in bioinformatics have made accessibility to the complete literature critical if progress is not to be impeded and we are to move towards a predictive biology. The JXB believes the only way to ensure comprehensive access for all is to make it free. The Optional Open Access Experiment will bring us a step closer to achieving this ideal and the benefits to science will be well worth the effort. The aim of this joint experiment by JXB and OUP (in combination with others that OUP is undertaking) is to explore the consequences of moving from the current subscription-funded model towards an author-funded publication model, in which authors may choose to pay to have papers that have been accepted for publication made available online free of access charges.
The JXB Optional Open Access model
From its July 2004 issue, authors of primary JXB research papers will be given the option of paying US$400/£250 to allow all readers online access to their paper without charge. Review papers, Special Issues, and papers of those who choose not to pay the charge, will continue to be available online only to subscribers. The intention of setting a low author charge in the first instance is to allow us to gauge the extent of interest in principle in this charging model.
As the JXB author charge is optional, no author should be prevented from publishing by the existence of author charges. In addition, we are maintaining the OUP Developing Countries Offer that provides institutions in developing countries with free or greatly reduced subscriptions to JXB.
Effects on subscriptions
We recognise that making part of JXB freely available through Open Access might constitute a devaluation of subscriptions to the Journal. We therefore undertake not to increase JXB subscription rates in 2005 beyond the 2004 level. If the experiment is successful we will consider making use of the revenue from author charges to enable a gradual reduction in subscription rates in future years.
JXB and JISC
JXB has recently received a substantial grant from JISC, the Joint Information Systems Committee of the UK, in support of the Optional Open Access Experiment. In return, all papers with a UK author published in the first year of the trial will be made freely available online without an author charge.
A list of the JISC-funded Open Access papers is available here.
JXB and copyright issues
Some versions of "Open Access" include a change in author or Society rights, such that articles published under Open Access model are made freely available for any sort of use to all, as a whole, in part, or as a derivative. In the JXB Optional Open Access Experiment, authors will continue to retain their copyrights, and the Society and publisher will also retain the same rights as previously. This decision was taken primarily to protect the integrity of the scientific archive.
The future - the Optional Open Access Experiment and beyond
If our experiment proves successful, JXB will cautiously migrate from a subscription-based business model to one partly funded by author charges. All primary research will eventually be made freely available upon publication and author charges will become obligatory. Authors who are unable to pay will be eligible to apply for a partial or complete wavier of the charge. The 2004 author charges represent a substantial discount on the charge that would currently be required to fully fund publication of a JXB paper.
It is envisaged that fees will rise in a step-wise manner over the next few years. The first step will be if take-up reaches 50% during the initial trial period, which will trigger a doubling of the author charge. We believe that the adoption of this transitional approach is a sensible strategy for both authors and readers. If the model is to be successful, widespread changes in funding conventions will be required, so that all authors have access to sufficient financial resources to pay for the costs of publication of their research.
We will be closely monitoring the progress of the experiment by means of questionnaires to authors and readers, comparing usage of open and subscription access papers, and by examining subscription patterns. We welcome feedback on the experiment at any time and will in turn be providing feedback to authors, readers, and subscribers, based on what we learn in the course of the experiment.
If authors prove unwilling to pay the publication charges, the experiment is likely to be terminated and alternative funding models explored.
JXB and OUP hope that many contributors will support JXB's bold experiment with the Open Access model by paying the author charge if they are able to do so.
Questions and Answers
How will you ensure that the payment of publication charges by authors has no influence on whether an article is accepted for publication in JXB?
Authors will only be asked if they wish to pay author charges and have their article made available as Open Access after their manuscript has been accepted for publication. All manuscripts submitted to JXB will continue to be subject to the same rigorous process of editorial consideration and peer review, thereby ensuring that the high standards the community has come to expect from the journal are maintained.
Why might the estimated final full publication charges greater be than those currently envisaged by the Public Library of Science?
The current market rates (US$500-US$1500) charged by Open Access publishers such as the Public Library of Science are not thought to fully cover costs without additional subsidy (for example, in the form of a US$9 million grant to the PLoS) or institutional membership charges. In the long run, JXB has to cover its costs fully by charging either readers or authors.
JXB and OUP would like to express their thanks to all those who are taking an interest in the Optional Open Access Experiment. We welcome emails either to the JXB Editorial Office or to OUP with any comments or questions you may have.