Successful journal flipping: TIB supports new journal Quantitative Science Studies

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The new year begins with good news: The International Society for Scientometrics and Informetrics (ISSI) and its partners announce the founding of a new scientometric open access journal. The journal will be managed by the former board members of the renowned Journal of Informetrics, who have collectively resigned from this Elsevier journal and who would rather continue their work in an open access context after a journal flipping. TIB supports this process by taking on a significant share of the transformation costs.

Resigning from JOI and founding of QSS

Under the name Quantitative Science Studies (QSS), the journal complies with the Fair Open Access Principles: transparent academic control, no copyright transfer, use of an open access license for all articles, no APC payment obligation for authors, transparent and low publishing costs. The journal will be owned by the Society and published by MIT Press.

In a joint press release of the new partners, the resigning editors state three main criteria they wanted to have implemented for their journal:

  1. scientific journals should belong to the scientific community and not be owned by commercial publishing houses
  2. journals should be open access and should comply with fair principles
  3. publishers should make citation data freely available

Elsevier did not want to allow these conditions, which lead to the resignation of all editors.

The conditions are comprehensible: The academic ownership increases the chance that profit interests do not dominate the management of the magazine. The Fair Open Access principles are intended to help curb harmful open access models. In particular, the expensive APC (Article Processing Charges) model means that publishing in open access journals is not open to all. In addition, institutions and authors with a high publication output are being punished. The question of open citation data is particularly sensitive in a field of research in which the relations between publications can be very important. In the future, the publisher will automatically make this information available (see also Initiative for Open Citations (I4OC)) so that it will become part of the huge corpus of free citation data.

As with similar projects, the issue of naming rights poses a difficulty; if the journal is owned by a commercial publisher, it is often not possible to take the established name with you. In this case, too, the newly created journal will be given a new name: Quantitative Science Studies. Notwithstanding, the scope of the journal and the competence of its editors will remain. What will change is very pleasing: the journal will be owned by a scientific society (and no longer by Elsevier), it will be completely open access (previously there was only an expensive hybrid option with Elsevier), the authors will be able to retain their copyright and will not have to transfer it, and the metadata including citation data will be freely available. The publishing costs will be comparatively low.

Such a conversion of a journal to a pure open access model is called journal flipping. The switch follows examples from the linguistic journal Glossa (editor resignation at Elsevier) and the mathematical journal Algebraic Combinatorics (editor resignation at Springer). Often these projects are combined with a move towards fair principles or at least with a transfer to an ownership independent of a commercial publisher. The Free Journal Network provides an overview of Fair Open Access journals. SPARC provides the document Declaring Independence for editors interested in changing their publisher.

Financing by TIB and our strategy

Since publications in QSS should not be dependent on APC payments, complete or partial financing by other sources is required. TIB suggests that this should be financed by a consortium of libraries and possibly other institutions. The establishment of such consortia takes some time and requires the financing of a transformation period. TIB has agreed to bear the article-related costs for the first three years and will be supported in this effort by the Communication, Information, Media Centre (KIM) at the University of Konstanz. The journal with its focus on quantitative science research is a suitable pilot case: an influential, interesting journal with strong references to statistics, mathematics, and computer science.

For TIB, this is a strategic investment: We want to fulfil our mission of ensuring optimal access to literature in our disciplines. The new journal QSS will ensure free access to its content and metadata and will have more sustainable legal and financial conditions than the Journal of Informetrics.  In addition to the advantages of the conversion of this specific journal, we hope that this move has a signal effect: the conversion of established journals to good open access models is possible, even if the publisher of a journal opposes this transition. Support for the Fair Open Access Principles continues to grow, which is a very good sign. We are pleased that the former editors of the Journal of Informetrics have chosen this path.

The conversion of existing journals to open access is an essential aspect of the complete transition to open access. At least at the moment, established journals, established editorial boards, etc. are of relevance to a large number of researchers. (However, researchers should not be evaluated based on the journals in which they have published). For TIB, this is an important part of our open access efforts, alongside, for example, the establishment of dedicated open access platforms. For some time now, TIB has been supporting the MathOA project under the umbrella of the Fair Open Access Alliance, which also accompanies the transition of QSS and ensures compliance with fair principles.

TIB will continue to be active in the area of journal flipping: We follow the developments and talk to contacts who are interested in a change of journals. We are striving for further projects and would like to continue our cooperation with the KIM at the University of Konstanz and other partners. Our top priority is to ensure that the resulting open access conditions of flipped journals are appropriate. Whether such models are implemented with the help of commercial publishers, university publishers, new publishing service providers, or entirely on their own, e.g. on journal servers operated by libraries, is of secondary importance and must be decided on a case-by-case basis.

In this sense, the conversion of journals is not a general rejection of publishers, but an expression of the self-confidence and responsibility of academic editors and their partnership with libraries supporting open access. But a change such as the one described here also sends a message to the DEAL negotiations and similar cases: If publishers do not move towards acceptable open access models, then other solutions come into play. We help to find solutions and – as in the case of the new journal QSS – help to implement them together with scientists.

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Marco Tullney

... leitet den Bereich Publikationsdienste der TIB und koordiniert deren Open-Access-Aktivitäten.

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