The changing face of academic publishing

Posted on December 6, 2021

By Rosie Liljenquist, Publishing and Open Access Librarian

Academic publishing, like much of the world in general, is experiencing a state of flux. Traditional methods of publishing no longer fully embody or completely support the needs of researchers, publishers, libraries, and institutions. Varying publishing models abound, including differing degrees of open access. Open access as a scholarly concept has been around for decades, but only in the last few years has the movement really exploded. Some of this explosion is due to the technological shifts and workflow adjustments mandated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of the adjustment toward opening up digital content the scholarly communications landscape shifted to accommodate alternative methods of dissemination which has given rise to Article Processing Charges or APCs.

APCs are touted by certain journal publishers as the fees necessary to make an article openly accessible. These fees tend to be disassociated from individual institutions and are typically paid for through grant monies or directly from the researcher’s pocket. While there are many challenges associated with APCs, they are one of the ways that researchers can ensure that their work gets seen by those who want and/or need to see it. In a recent study, a high percentage of faculty agreed that APCs were necessary; however, they felt that they, the researcher, should not be responsible for their payment (citation).

One of the irritating quirks of APCs is that they are not standardized. Any publisher in any discipline can charge what they like. This often results in disparity between fields. For example, a fee for humanities could be as low as $50 whereas fees for the sciences, especially medical and health sciences, can exceed $5,000. This disparity sows discord and deters researchers from publishing in journals that require these charges.

At William & Mary, there are options available for researchers who are inclined to publish their works openly. One of the ways is through VIVA, the Virginia Academic Library Consortium. As members of this consortium, W&M faculty receive specific publishing benefits. These benefits include a read-and-publish deal with Rockefeller University Press (RUP) and Association for Computing Machinery (ACM); and an open access model with Wiley publishing which includes access to and publication in Wiley journals. In addition, VIVA offers APC discounts with the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Chemical Society, and Wiley.

In addition to these publishing opportunities, VIVA supports course materials affordability by hosting two grant opportunities in the fall and spring: VIVA Open Adopt Grant (for ~$2000) and VIVA Open Course Grants (ranges from $2000 to $30,000). These grants support faculty in the adoption, adaptation, and creation of open course content with little to no cost for students.

There are still barriers to open access; however, for faculty who are inclined to increase their scholarly impact, open access provides the means. Through W&M Libraries and VIVA support, faculty have access to funding opportunities that will financially support the shift to open.