Regardless of the debate about open access (OA), one thing is certain: the OA journal is not going away anytime soon. Tamer El Bokl opened this session by stressing that its purpose was not to debate the concept of OA but to offer inspiration and guidance for organizations that are considering launching an OA journal. He then introduced three speakers who shared their success stories.
Patty Baskin offered several strategic tips that helped the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) launch two new OA journals within the last four years. As executive editor of the Neurology journals, Baskin said that a critical part of her strategy was to ensure that her goals were aligned with those of the AAN. In the end, those goals included 1) expanding readership, 2) filling a market niche for subspecialists, 3) achieving wider and faster dissemination of content, and 4) taking advantage of electronic media, all of which could lead to increased membership. Despite aligning these goals, Baskin noted that she had to contend with anxiety among the AAN and authors alike and ask some hard questions about launching a new OA journal: How do you convince authors that it is not a “second-tier” publication? How do you solicit material for a journal with no impact factor? Will the brand be strengthened or diluted? How do you address legal issues such as copyright holding and a publisher agreement? And ultimately, will the new business model even work?
Baskin addressed some of these challenges by organizing editor retreats and operational meetings, asking key players to review the business plan, and conducting a competitive analysis against other journals with similar topics. She acknowledged a resistance from authors but said that a call for papers and the editors’ personal solicitations to colleagues helped kick-start submissions. Baskin also arranged a focus group at the AAN’s annual meeting to help identify areas for improvement, including educating authors about OA costs, assuring authors that their papers would be discoverable, and exploring potential member discounts.
Cameron Macdonald and Suzanne Kettley of Canadian Science Publishing (CSP) followed Baskin with a joint presentation of CSP’s experience launching several OA initiatives. As a smallmarket publisher with a broad range of general subject matter and, according to Macdonald, a bit of an identity crisis (“Are we a Canadian publisher or an international publisher?”), CSP faced its own challenges. However, a decline in subscriptions, a flat submissions rate, and the institution of OA requirements by Canadian funding agencies inspired action. To help authors meet the requirements of the funding agencies, CSP implemented a repository partnership with the University of Toronto to provide authors with an OA platform for sharing their accepted manuscripts. Additionally, after an independent CSP survey revealed that 83 percent of Canadian science researchers agreed with the concept of OA, CSP decided to deliver what those researchers wanted in the form of two new OA journals: Arctic Science and FACETS.
Kettley, who stressed the importance of selecting the right discipline for a new OA journal, said that CSP chose arctic science as a topic because it is one that is particularly relevant to Canada. A market research consultant validated these assessments by concluding that no other North American OA journals were fully devoted to arctic science, leading to wide support within the Canadian research community. Kettley also advocated choosing an editorin-chief carefully and early, stating that this person should be an OA supporter and ambassador.
With the selection of a topic behind them, CSP had many decisions to make, including how to brand the journal, how to address various licensing issues, and how to shape their business model. The latter task involved setting the article-processing charge (which Kettley characterized as a balancing act to cover costs while remaining affordable to authors), integrating a payment system for authors, and realistically estimating the time needed to recoup their investment (which can be extensive, according to Kettley).
Kettley then spoke about FACETS, a multidisciplinary journal that has since launched in the fall of 2015, and described the benefits and challenges of such a journal. Like CSP itself, FACETS is an international journal but also a trusted Canadian solution, offering choice and support to the scientific community. She concluded by saying that it is the responsibility of journal publishers to support the scientific community, not only the other way around. This symbiotic relationship is critical if any journal is to thrive—so when an organization chooses to launch an OA journal, it must be one that will benefit the community.