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Publishers' Brief

Overview and comment on the crop of broad online only OA journals launched since 2010

A number of publishers, both commercial and not-for-profit, have recently jumped into the OA fray by launching broad author-pays online journals. Several are inclusive along the lines of PLoS One “all peer-reviewed scientific and medical research “while some others are positioned to strengthen the publisher’s brand. This latter approach can lay stress on selectivity (versus inclusiveness), speed of the editorial process, and incorporate online features that support good communication required by the particular community served that are not feasible in a print journal.  Some case histories of pre- PLoS One open access (author pays) journals are helpful to reflect on in considering this model. For example, how rapidly did the community adopt the journal? How long before it had an Impact Factor? What was the effect of this journal on other journals in the field? What about the fees charged, was that a barrier to getting established or quite the opposite?

The table here is a very brief summary of some of the existing and recent broad OA journal launches as of late November 2012.

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Six brief case histories with related publishing questions are provided here for use with Publishing staff or Publications Committees as a mechanism for exploring the issues they raise for many small and medium-sized publishers:

  • Scenario 1: Outsourcing post-acceptance editing
  • Scenario 2: Printing and/or print-on-demand
  • Scenario 3: Circulation and subscription management – print and online
  • Scenario 4: Subscription marketing and sales of print and online journals
  • Scenario 5: Business services
  • Scenario 6: A subject-based repository

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Electronic scientific, technical, and medical journal publishing and its implications”. July 2004 - A symposium held at the US National Academy of Science May 19th and 20th 2003.

The main focus of this symposium was how different business and distribution models for scientific, technical and medical (STM) information are changing in the face of digital technology development.

The report summary is available online at: and the full proceedings at: or as print on demand.

Here is a brief overview of the topics discussed and recommendations arising from the meeting:

  1. Costs of publishing: An authoritative analysis that compares the costs of publishing using a consistent framework would be useful because it would provide up to date and rigorous information to inform the current debate about “How much does it cost to publish a research article”?
  2. Business Models: As with other recent meetings the issue of Open Access proved to be the most contentious not over the active experimentation that is plainly going on, but because of the vigorous discussions about which model is “the best” –user pays or author pays. As a result of pressures to change business models will we see greater differentiation between what commercial publisher and not-for-profit publishers do?
  3. Legal issues: Librarians want interlibrary loan of electronic only copies and they want access to archival online only versions that is free of “restrictive licensing regimes”. Current publisher practice on both of these was seen as preventing libraries from switching to online only subscriptions – which could be in everyone’s interest. Copyright issues were discussed and it became clear that divergent practices at universities and research institutions contribute to the lack of clarity on who owns copyright and therefore who can transfer it. Existing and widely used models for copyright licensing to publishers where rights are reserved by the author – to post online or redistribute non-commercially- were strongly supported.
  4. Publishing in the future: These sessions focused on technology-enabling trends which are changing the STM publishing system and at least theoretically leading to dis-aggregation of traditional publishing functions. The result is publications that may change over time and exist online in several intermediate forms rather than as a discrete batch produced “published article” for example.
  5. Publication now refers to a document that is likely to be web-enriched with links – to data, to computational models and other sources, which is fully searchable and can be part of other service networks. The need for national investment in the cyber-infrastructure to maximize opportunities for integration of information in order to create knowledge was stressed, as were the lost opportunities and inefficiencies of not doing so. See also:  Revolutionizing Science and Engineering through Cyber infrastructure: January 2003 at

Given the increasing complexity and functionality of STM information online as part of the research and learning infrastructure, the role of publishers is clearly set to evolve in parallel with this infrastructure as they continue to enable and support the effective communication of science.

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Sharing Publication-Related Data and Materials: Responsibilities of Authorship in the Life Sciences

Publishers’ Brief - February 2003

The National Research Council committee on responsibilities of authorship in the biological sciences, of which I was a Member, found that the life-sciences community (= biology + clinical medicine) possesses commonly held ideas and values about the role of publication in the scientific process. These are broadly articulated by the UPSIDE principle within the report which was published on February 7th 2003. In addition the report identified Principles and Recommendations for sharing publication related data and materials many of which have a bearing on scientific and medical publishers.

The publication of experimental results and sharing of research materials related to those results are key elements in scientific communication. While largely unwritten, the community's expectations of authors are a reflection of the value of the publication process to the life-sciences community.  The central role of publication in science also explains its value to scientists who want to publish their findings. The arena of publication is where participants in the research enterprise share, and are recognized for, their contributions to science.

Journals play a central role in the process of scientific communication and the sections of the report that have key implications for publishers and Editors are shown with an * below.

Principles emerging from the report cover the following areas related to publication, *data and software, deposition of data in * public repositories,  and availability of *materials.

Recommendations put forward in the report cover each of the following:

Who has a policy?

Analysis of the policies of 56 most highly cited life science and medical journals

Percentage of journals



Type of Policy




(N= 56)

Society or Association







Life Sciences







Sharing materials

39  %

30  %

58  %

47  %

22  %

Sharing software






Depositing data






Statement of consequences






Whom to contact






No policy






Journals were identified from the Institute for Scientific Information Journal Citation Reports in the life sciences and medicine. The output was sorted by impact factor; review journals were excluded.  The policies of the top 56 journals (as found on their Web pages) were the basis for the table.  Percentages were rounded to whole numbers.

See the full report at:

“Universal adherence, without exception, to a principle of full disclosure and unrestricted access to data and materials that are central or integral to published findings will promote cooperation and prevent divisiveness in the scientific community, maintain the value and prestige of publication, and promote the progress of science.”

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