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As a growing field, industrial ecology is keen to make the world aware of the questions it tackles and the insights it generates. The Journal of Industrial Ecology (JIE) thus is always seeking new opportunities for dissemination and thinking about how to achieve the widest possible access that enhances the development of the field, knowledge, and sustainability. It is no surprise, then, that the emergence of open access is an important issue for the Journal and the industrial ecology community.

In the past decade, JIE has become widely and, in some cases, freely available, going from approximately 850 print subscribers to access at more than 9,000 institutional sites around the world. Since its first year of publication, JIE has worked hard to obtain funding to make special issues freely available to readers with more than five such issues over its history. Free access has also grown via the UN's Research for Life initiative,1 which brings JIE for free to research institutions in over 100 developing countries worldwide; and now, through “hybrid open access” (more on this below), funded authors can pay a fee to have their articles immediately and freely available. JIE energetically continues to seek further opportunities to expand the dissemination of industrial ecology research, broaden the visibility of the field, and highlight its brand.

One of our concerns about open access is that the dynamics facing authors as they seek funds for publication fees are not widely considered. If an author must apply for funding for publication fees, this places an additional barrier that she must surmount to get her work published. … If industrial ecologists must compete at the departmental or university level for funds for publication fees, will they succeed against colleagues in more traditional disciplines?

So, how exactly does the Journal of Industrial Ecology (JIE) handle open access? And how should it? Like many topics in our domain, this is both complicated and evolving—and it can be viewed at different scales, from the specific question of whether and how to blend open access articles with traditional articles to broad questions about whether open access is a desirable publishing model to even broader questions of whether journal articles are the best way to disseminate most scientific research.

While the broad questions surrounding the future role of journal articles for disseminating scientific research and the benefits of open access as a publishing model are quite interesting, we take the view that both conventional and open access journals will play an important role for readers and writers of academic scholarship for some time to come and therefore we here focus on much narrower and more practical considerations of open access.In this editorial, we discuss the role of open access in the industrial ecology research community, whether JIE should change from a subscription-based journal to an open access journal, and how requirements from funding agencies for open access are currently handled by JIE. But first, let's provide some background and explain some open access terminology.There has been a desire, for some time in a number of quarters, for greater accessibility to research results, with particular focus on medical research. In response, research funding agencies, especially government funders, are increasingly requiring that authors make their publications freely available to readers on the grounds that society should not pay twice—once for the research and a second time for access to the resulting publication. Thus, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the United States, the UK Research Council (RCUK) in the UK, and other funders have established requirements for “open access.” This can mean a variety of things. “Gold open access” refers to a situation where the author pays a fee to the publisher and the article is made freely available in perpetuity. The fees can be paid from the author's own funds or from a variety of institutional sources, such as university funds established for this purpose, or grants that include or allow payment of publication fees.

“Green open access” refers to situations where the article must be deposited in an institutional repository maintained by a university, government, scientific organization, or related entity, and no payment is provided to the publisher. It can also refer to posting of the article on the author's own website. Some variants include an embargo period during which the article is posted on the publisher's website in the conventional manner (i.e., behind a subscription-based paywall) for a period of time, ranging from 6 to 18 months, after which it becomes freely available. In some cases, the final, typeset version of the article must be made freely available; in other cases, the as-accepted manuscript version is sufficient to meet funder requirements.

The emergence of open access has resulted in some significant changes in the way the world of academic journals works. Less than a decade ago, nearly all academic journals operated on a business model in which institutions (usually libraries) and individuals paid for subscriptions or licenses in return for which the institution or individual received a copy of the journal and/or electronic access to the publication. Since the advent of open access, the journals world has split into traditional journals, open access journals (typically dependent on author publication fees), and “hybrid journals,” in which some articles are open access and the remainder require a subscription or license to access.

The JIE is one of these “hybrid journals.” That is, it is subscription-based, but also publishes (gold) open access articles. The interesting and complicated question is whether JIE should eventually shift entirely away from subscriptions to an approach based solely on author fees and related revenues.

Open Access and the Industrial Ecology Community

  1. Top of page
  2. Open Access and the Industrial Ecology Community
  3. Meeting Open Access Requirements at the Journal of Industrial Ecology Now and in the Future
  4. Biographies

The debate over open access is usually framed as a choice between a model where publishers provide needed services—peer review, editing, typesetting, maintenance of sophisticated Web platforms, and so on—and a model where information is readily accessible and readers face no barriers to the vast body of knowledge contained in academic journals. One important part of this debate revolves around the level of value added provided by publishers and the cost of providing those services. Open access proponents typically argue that the cost is out of sync with the profits made by the publishers. As commercial entities, publishers are wary of sharing detailed financial data on these matters, so the debate continues.

There is another way to view this choice. In our view, this is a debate over reader-pays versus author-pays models. Those labels are, of course, an over-simplification. It is typically an intermediary—a library—that has to pay for scientific journals in subscriber-based models.2 And, in open access approaches, the author may receive funding from grantors, home institutions, and the like, and other third parties may pay the publisher directly for the publication costs, as when, for example, a waiver fund is created to support authors from developing countries. An important part of the open access vision is the shift of the money used by libraries to pay for subscriptions to funds that authors can tap to pay publication fees. Whether such a reduction in subscription expenditures by libraries would become—dollar for dollar—funds available for authors depends on the budgetary politics that accompany any such transition.

One of our concerns about open access is that the dynamics facing authors as they seek funds for publication fees are not widely considered. If an author must apply for funding for publication fees, this places an added barrier that he or she must surmount to get his or her work published. More important, we expect that as funds to cover the cost of publication fees become more common, there will be a need to vet requests for funding and thus obtaining money to pay fees will become an additional arena for competition among authors.

We recently have been made aware of an institutional policy which tends to support these concerns, even for those authors with research funding. Under this policy, researchers within this UK institution are advised to expect about 1% of their funding level to be available for open access fees. At typical levels of open access fees, a £300,000 (about $500,000) grant would result in funding to support gold open access for no more than two articles. It seems likely that a successful research program on this scale could easily warrant publication of more than two articles. What happens then?

In some ways, open access is a creature of “big science.” If an author is part of a biomedical research laboratory operating on multimillion-dollar NIH grants, the cost of publication may be only a small part of the lab's budget. Industrial ecology is different. Much of the research is “desk research” performed in front of computer screens, sometimes without any external funding. For these researchers, from where will the money for publication fees come? If they must compete at the departmental or university level for funds for publication fees, will they succeed against colleagues in more traditional disciplines?

Meeting Open Access Requirements at the Journal of Industrial Ecology Now and in the Future

  1. Top of page
  2. Open Access and the Industrial Ecology Community
  3. Meeting Open Access Requirements at the Journal of Industrial Ecology Now and in the Future
  4. Biographies

Currently, JIE articles can meet open access requirements in either of two ways. Authors can pay a fee for gold open access or they can post accepted, but not typeset, manuscripts on the Internet after a 12 month embargo (one version of green open access).

Although JIE will monitor the benefits and costs of a switch from a hybrid to an open access journal, such a change is unlikely to occur in the near term. Among current publication models, the hybrid model seems better suited to meeting the needs of the diverse industrial ecology research community, allowing us to accommodate results that warrant publication and inclusion in the industrial ecology literature from research funded with an open access requirement as well as from modestly funded or unfunded research.

Our journal seeks to serve both authors who wish to contribute to the industrial ecology literature as well as readers seeking to follow developments in our field. We believe that, at the present time, the hybrid model allows us to best serve both of these groups. Over the longer run, it is hard to predict how academic publishing will evolve. Some open access will surely increase with the creation of new open-access-only journals and increases in the use of open access in hybrid journals. Thus, the question is not whether to have open access, but how much and in what form. Put another way, who should pay, how much, and for what? And, for our community, can these evolving practices and institutions be shaped to fit the needs of interdisciplinary, environmental research of the sort that we pursue?

This editorial only skims the surface of the complex topic of open access. We invite readers who want to discuss this to post comments on the discussion forum of the International Society for Industrial Ecology (www.is4ie.org/discuss).

Notes
  1. 1
  2. 2

    Typically, it is fees from library subscriptions, rather than the money from individual subscriptions, that make up the bulk of a journal's revenue.

Biographies

  1. Top of page
  2. Open Access and the Industrial Ecology Community
  3. Meeting Open Access Requirements at the Journal of Industrial Ecology Now and in the Future
  4. Biographies
  • Reid Lifset is resident fellow in industrial ecology at the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, USA and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Industrial Ecology.

  • Edward Gordon is an assistant editor of the Journal of Industrial Ecology also at Yale's School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.