Learn More About Scholarly Information

Scholarly publishers: who we are and what we do

What is required to turn research into a journal article

Peer review

How science, education and knowledge benefit from journal publishing

How researchers get access to journal articles

How publishers provide wider access to journal articles beyond traditional markets

How the archival record of scholarly digital works is created, made available and maintained

Frequently asked questions about journal access

Scholarly publishers: who we are and what we do

  1. Scholarly Publishers Are Extremely Diverse. The world of scholarly publishing is composed of a broad range of organizations, including learned societies, university presses, government research departments and commercial publishing companies. The scope of their activities ranges from a single journal, in the case of some of the smallest organizations, to as many as 1800 journals coming from a single large scientific publisher. According to industry association estimates, the proportions of article output in STM (scientific, technical and medical) journals by type of publisher are: commercial publishers (including commercial publishers acting on behalf of societies), 64%; learned societies, 30%; university presses, 4%; and other types of entities. 2%.1 The fact that commercial publishers often distribute learned society journals makes it difficult to estimate the distribution of the market between commercial and nonprofit publishers, but it appears that more than 50% of published journals are linked to nonprofit organizations.2
  2. Scholarly Publishing Contributes to the Economy. Scholarly publishers make a substantial contribution to the economy. For example, the STM portion of the industry employs about 90,000 people globally, and publishing activities support 20,000 - 30,000 additional people who provide services (suppliers, freelancers, external editors, etc) necessary to publishing.3 The US STM market represents some $7-8 billion in revenue, of which journals comprise about $3 billion. Over 1000 US-based STM publishers (including both commercial publishers and many society publishers) employ some 36,000 staff and indirectly support an additional 20,000 workers. North American-based STM publishers account for 45% of all peer-reviewed research papers published annually for researchers worldwide. The industry realizes a substantial amount of revenue from exports outside the U.S. It is estimated that at least 40% of U.S. STM publishers’ revenues come from outside the U.S. University presses are another important part of the scholarly publishing community. The American Association of University Presses (AAUP) has 116 members in 42 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico who together employ more than 3500 people. In 2007, university presses published 657 journals and 11,000 new books and currently have 160,000 titles in print; book sales for university presses in that year were $530 million. In addition to direct publishing activities, and even more importantly, scholarly publishing plays a central role in supporting and enabling a broad range of other economic activity, public policy and advances in human welfare that are generated from the discovery and application of research in medicine, public health, pharmaceuticals, energy, environmental technologies and industrial development, to name a few.
  3. Publishers Foster Scholary Communication in the Research Community. Scholars and researchers use journals to facilitate communication and to help them filter through the mass of available information to identify trustworthy and relevant information to use in their work. Journals typically support a specific discipline and serve as a central point of contact and information exchange for the members of that community, who are frequently spread around the globe. Journal publishers identify appropriate contributors and readers for each journal, ensuring that research results are reported and shared in a way that encourages further research. Journals also maintain the historic record of research, the “minutes” of scholarship that enable today’s researchers to trace back along the trail of research findings and articles to document progress from the original discovery to the present. Journal publishers continually invest in new journals to support these scholarly communities and ensure that intellectual communication keeps pace with new and growing areas of scholarship. In fact, the number of journal articles published and the number of new journal titles grows at a rate of about 3% per year, consistent with increases both in the number of researchers and in funding for research and development.
  4. Journal Creation Requires Investment, Support, Patience and a Willingness to Assume Risk. New journal titles are introduced because publishers monitor new developments, conduct market research to identify new and emerging fields, identify appropriate individuals to serve as editors and members of the editorial board for the new journal, locate contributors and potential subscribers, and underwrite the financial support necessary to establish the journal. In emerging subspecialty disciplines, a new journal title, dedicated to a particular field, enhances the development of new areas of research and adds to the overall development of knowledge by providing a means for researchers in a specialized field to share results and further their work. For example, as scientific research becomes more complex and interdependent, new interdisciplinary journals are also established to bring together papers from the crossroads of such diverse fields as biomedicine, engineering, chemistry, environmental studies and materials science, enabling researchers to apply the findings from one subject discipline to solve problems in other fields of study. It is worth noting that new journals typically lose money. A publisher expects to lose money on an annual basis for the first 3-5 years of a journal’s life, and only to cover the cumulative loss over 7 years or more.4 Therefore, surpluses or profits generated by existing, established journals support the introduction of new journals on new topics.
  5. The Proceeds of Journal Publishing Support Important Activities and Social Goals. In addition to supporting newer journals, the proceeds of established journals are used for many other purposes. Publishers must reinvest in their publishing businesses (to support the cost of people who manage the publishing process, to pay for overhead costs, to maintain and upgrade software and hardware infrastructure required to manage the editorial process, to disseminate journal articles widely and preserve content, and to pay other costs directly and indirectly related to their publications). Scholarly societies reinvest, on average, 30% of their publishing surpluses and some commercial publishers report that they reinvest as much as 25—28% on e-journal systems alone.5 In the case of scholarly societies (which typically have tax-exempt status), substantial portions of any publishing surpluses are used to support their other activities. According to a survey conducted by the ALPSP 6 on how learned societies use their publishing surpluses, almost all (96%) use publishing surpluses to reduce the cost of journals for their own members. The scholarly societies also reported applying these surpluses to other activities, as follows: 
  • 33% to reducing conference fees
  • 26% to travel and other bursaries
  • 21% to research grants
  • 26% contributed to public education
  • 82% contributed to the general expenses of the society
  • 14% put some into the society’s reserves or endowments for future use

University presses, which are another important source of scholarly journals, may use journal publishing surpluses, when they have them, to help underwrite losses from other activities, such as publishing scholarly monographs in highly specialized fields. Finally, commercial publishers, after making necessary reinvestments and paying taxes, must provide a return to their shareholders in order to stay in business.

1 STM; “Scientific publishing in transition: and overview of current developments,” September 2006 (“STM Overview”) (copy available for download at http://www.stm-assoc.org/helpful-articles-reports-messa/).

2 Morris, “Mapping the journal publishing landscape: how much do we know?” LEARNED PUBLISHING, Vol. 20, No. 4, October 2007(“Morris, Landscape”) (copy available for download through the ALPSP website or at http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/alpsp/lp).

3 (STM Overview, page 6)

4 Morris, “The true costs of scholarly journal publishing,” LEARNED PUBLISHING, Vol. 18, No. 2, April 2005 (“Morris, Costs”) (copy available for download through the ALPSP website or at http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/alpsp/lp).

5 (Morris, Costs)

6 (Morris, Costs)

What is required to turn research into a journal article

  1. Journal Articles Are Selected Through a System That Requires Substantial Support and Investment. Publishers locate experts to act as editors of their journals, typically paying the out-of-pocket editorial administration costs of those experts, and often providing direct compensation as well. Editorial boards are formed, and the expenses associated with their activities are paid or reimbursed by publishers. Publishers provide editors and editorial boards with staff support. Most journals also use online manuscript submission and tracking systems, which are established, managed and maintained by the publisher.1
  2. The Number of Articles Submitted for Publication is Increasing. With twhether or not the article is publishedhe growth in research and scholarship, the rate of manuscript submissions to reputable journals has increased. Editors surveyed in a recent study 2 reported that the average acceptance rate for their journals was about 50%. About 20% are rejected prior to peer review (either because of poor quality (13%) or being out of scope (8%)) and another 30% are rejected following peer review. Of the 50% accepted, 40% are accepted subject to revision. Acceptance rates were generally lower in humanities and social sciences, and higher in physical sciences/engineering journals, 3 although the most selective and highly regarded journals have (as would be expected) considerably higher rejection rates. A higher submission rate results in more work and more administrative costs for publishers, since there is a cost associated with every article that is peer reviewed, whether or not the article is published.4 The costs to manage the peer review process, particularly for a journal with high rejection rates, can be significantly higher than would be apparent to the reader, who is seeing only a portion of the manuscripts that actually go through the review process.
  3. Publishers Invest at Every Stage of The Process from Submission to Publication of the Final Article. In order to ensure the quality of the published article and to improve its readability and utility for the reader, publishers incur both direct costs to publish each article, and indirect costs.5
  • 3.1 Direct costs include (for example):
    • Supporting editors in their management of the peer review process, by keeping track of reviewers and articles, sending articles out to appropriate reviewers, following up with reviewers to make sure the reviews are completed, reviewing the responses and communicating those responses to authors.
    • Content editing, which may range from a routine style and language clean-up to extensive line editing for purposes of clarity (particularly when, as is not uncommon, the author is not writing in his or her native language), and which also typically includes extensive reference and citation checking, review and revision of charts and illustrations, and, where necessary, clearing permissions for the use of previously published materials. To improve the quality of the scholarly record, publishers are working together to incorporate plagiarism detection systems into either their manuscript submission or editing processes. An example of this effort is the CrossCheck™ plagiarism detection system being developed by Publishers International Linking Association (“CrossRef”).
    • Preparing the article for final publication (usually in both print and electronic form) including copyediting, processing author approvals, page preparation, indexing, coding, proofreading, incorporating images and final composition.
  • 3.2 Indirect costs include (for example):
    • Developing and acquiring online systems, and maintaining, updating and improving the associated hardware and software on an ongoing basis. These systems include internal systems for managing the publishing process as well as the electronic platforms that host the journals and through which most researchers access scholarly literature.
    • Marketing activities, to ensure that the intended content users are aware of its availability, which includes making sure that the journal articles are included in all relevant abstracting and indexing databases and linked to and from databases and references. Marketing often includes participation at professional, scientific and library conferences, which highlights the journal to both potential customers (i.e., often libraries) and contributors. Not incidentally, fees paid by publishers at such conferences often subsidize the costs of holding the conference and the opportunity for experts to meet and exchange ideas and information.
    • Sales and licensing activities, including costs related to developing, negotiating and adjusting the licenses to unique local and institutional requirements that are particularly important for the distribution of digital versions of the journals.
    • Investing in robust and scalable linking, archiving and tracking software and hardware systems. Digital technology has revolutionized the role of publishers in connection with archiving, and has transferred much of the responsibility and a substantial portion of the costs associated with creating and maintaining archives from libraries to publishers.
    • Participating in industry initiatives such as the development of standards and protocols, of systems permitting the linking of references across published literature and of best practices to help ensure consistent and reliable access to the literature for everyone involved in scholarly communication.
    • Costs to protect and defend the authoritative version against plagiarism and piracy.
  1. Electronic Distribution has not Reduced Overall Costs for Publishers. While electronic distribution has increased access for users, it has not reduced overall costs for publishers, since most of the direct and indirect costs are incurred before the journal has been printed or published online. Electronic distribution itself involves significant costs over and above the cost of printed journals, which continue to be required by many users. Electronic publishing requires more, not less, staff than analog publishing, and in fact the level of expertise required has increased because of the need for highly trained technical experts at all stages of the process. Significant investments are also required to acquire, maintain and engage in on-going development of both hardware and software infrastructure.
  2. Publishers Can Only Continue to Invest If They Have Sustainable Business Models.Whether the publisher generates revenue through the sale of subscriptions, through an author-pays model in which the researcher or the researcher’s affiliated institution or funding agency subsidizes the costs of publication, or by some other means, the direct and indirect costs of publication must be covered or publishing will not be sustainable.

1 Three quarters of editors (76%) reported that their journal used an online manuscript submission and tracking system. Their use was most common in life sciences (85%) and least common in humanities and social sciences (51%). (Publishing Research Consortium, Peer review in scholarly journals: Perspective of the scholarly community — an international study (“PRC Peer Review Study”) (copy available for download at http://www.publishingresearch.net/projects.htm)

2 PRC Peer Review Study

3 PRC Peer Review Study

4 Morris, “The true costs of scholarly journal publishing” LEARNED PUBLISHING, Vol. 18, No. 2, April 2005 (“Morris, Costs”) (copy available for download through the ALPSP website or at http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/alpsp/lp).

5 For a detailed discussion of the costs of journal publishing see King, “The cost of journal publishing, a literature review and commentary,” LEARNED PUBLISHING, Vol. 20, No. 2 (April 2007) (copy available for download through the ALPSP website or at http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/alpsp/lp).

Peer review

  1. The Peer Review Process Permits the Scholarly Community to Identify Reliable Information. When a journal editor receives a manuscript he or she believes may be appropriate for publication, a crucial next step is to determine what qualified experts in the field think of it. This is done by sending the manuscript out for “peer review,” which is a careful reading of the paper and writing of a report, usually by two of the author’s professional peers. The reviewers are asked to determine whether the article makes a meaningful contribution to its field and weed out papers that simply re-hash what has already been published in the literature. These reviewer reports help the author correct any errors or oversights and may refer the author to the work of other published authors whose work may not — but should — be referenced in the paper. Publishers manage this process by working through the editor who locates the expert reviewers, compiles the results, communicates them to the author and ensures that they are incorporated into the article prior to acceptance for publication. The editor and the peer reviewers together ensure that the manuscripts that are accepted for publication meet the criteria established for the journal. The range of articles and volume of scholarly journal activity provide some sense of this enormous undertaking. The most reliable estimates are that there are between 20,000 and 25,000 peer-reviewed journals publishing more than one million articles annually.1 The number of issues published each year, and the number of articles in each issue, varies widely from journal to journal, but even an estimate at the lower end of the scale shows that peer review activity is extensive. The Publishing Research Consortium 2 recently conducted a survey showing that 80% of papers subject to peer review were reviewed by 2 or more reviewers, and that active reviewers referee an average of 8 papers per year.
  2. Scholars Believe Peer Review Improves Scholarly Communication. The scholarly community believes that peer review greatly contributes to the quality and accuracy of scholarly communication, according to a recent survey of more than 3000 academics (including authors, reviewers and editors).3 The average respondent in this recent comprehensive survey done of participants in the peer review process 4 had published 60 papers, including 8 papers in the immediately proceeding 24 months.
    • 90% said that peer review improves the quality of the published paper. 89% of those in the survey who were authors said that peer review had improved the quality of their last published paper.
    • 93% disagreed with the statement that peer review is unnecessary. 85% said that peer review greatly helps scientific communication.5
  3. Peer Review is the Most Reliable Method for Improving and Maintaining Quality. Of the most commonly suggested possible substitutes for peer review, post publication review of published articles was preferred to peer review by only 5% of the respondents in the recent peer review survey 6 and use of metrics (such as post-publication ratings or usage or citation statistics) was preferred by only 5-7% of respondents. Many respondents (37%) saw post publication review as effective, but as a supplement rather than a substitute for pre-publication peer review.
  4. Managing the Peer Review Process is Costly. Publishers incur substantial expenses by supporting the editor in conducting peer review. These costs include (1) the highly skilled people required to manage the process, (2) purchasing, maintaining and updating the technology to streamline the process, (3) keeping track of reviewers and articles, (4) locating and maintaining relationships with possible reviewers, (5) sending articles out to appropriate reviewers and following up with them to make sure the reviews are completed, (6) reviewing the responses and communicating those responses to authors. These steps are typically managed with the use of specialized software systems that are either internally developed, licensed commercially or are open source software. In addition to the software system, the necessary hardware must be acquired and maintained. And although software is very useful in organizing and managing the peer review process, the editor must evaluate the reviews and determine how to respond to them. Software cannot substitute for editorial skill and judgment.
  5. Publishers Choose and Manage the Most Appropriate Peer Review Process for Their Publications. Publishers choose the type of peer review that is appropriate for each journal. Peer review can be conducted in various ways. A “single blind” review is when the reviewer knows the identity of the author, but the reviewer’s identity is kept confidential. A “double blind” review is when neither the reviewer nor the author’s identities are disclosed to the other. “Open” peer review is when the author and the reviewer are both aware of each other’s identity at the time of the review. Of the respondents to the PRC Peer Review Study, 84% had experience with single blind reviews; 44% had experience with double blind reviews. 22% reported experience with open peer review; only 8% had experience with post-publication review. Whatever the method chosen, publishers and editors have been successful at identifying appropriate reviewers. In the same study, 7 reviewers report that 74% of the invitations they received to conduct a review fell within their core area of expertise; 24% said the invitation fell outside the core area but within the reviewer’s peripheral area of expertise. Only 3% of respondents reported having declined to review a particular paper because they lacked expertise in the proposed article’s subject matter.

1 Morris, “Mapping the journal publishing landscape: how much do we know?” LEARNED PUBLISHING, Vol. 20, No. 4, October 2007 (copy available for download through the ALPSP website or at http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/alpsp/lp).

2 Publishing Research Consortium, Peer review in scholarly journals: Perspective of the scholarly community — an international study (“PRC Peer Review Study”) (copy available for download at http://www.publishingresearch.net/projects.htm)

3 PRC Peer Review Study

4 PRC Peer Review Study

5 The importance of peer review has been confirmed in other surveys. See, Rowlands and Nicholas, “The changing scholarly communication landscape: an international survey of senior researchers” LEARNED PUBLISHED Vol. 19, No. 1 January 2006, reporting that 96.2% of the 5500 respondents indicated that peer review was “quite” or “very” important to the quality of scholarly communication. (copy available for download through the ALPSP website or at http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/alpsp/lp).

6 PRC Peer Review Study

7 PRC Peer Review Study

8 PRC Peer Review Study

Peer Review: The Nuts and Bolts guide for early career researchers

How science, education and knowledge benefit from journal publishing

  1. The Scholarly Community Relies on Peer-Review Publishing in Reputable Journals as a Core Means of Scholarly Communication. Journals provide a way for a researcher to report research results, while establishing the timing and source of those results. Publication in a peer-reviewed journal:
    • Announces that the report of the research has been examined and vetted by experts and that the presentation has been improved through the peer review editorial production process.
    • Brings the research together with other papers in the same specialty field and focuses the material for an appropriate audience.
    • Assists scholars and researchers in filtering through the mass of available information to locate relevant and reliable information1 and identifies a specific point in time when a specific research finding was reported.
    • Creates a permanent and retrievable record that becomes part of the larger archive of scholarly literature.
  2. Investments by Publishers Enhance Access to the Scholarly Record. Most academic research journals are available online (according to some studies, more than 90% of scientific, technical and medical journals and more than 80% of art and humanities journals).2 To make it easier to locate and use articles, publishers make substantial investments in:
    • Creating, supporting and maintaining robust hardware and software infrastructures to distribute and archive scholarly literature, and updating those tools as the needs and expectations of authors and users of scholarly literature change over time. Publishers have invested hundreds of millions of dollars over the past decade in the online distribution infrastructure.
    • Verifying references and creating, managing and maintaining online links, providing coding for digital dissemination, integrating machine-readable tags, supporting reference linking and indexing, and otherwise enriching the content, design and functionality of online publications.
    • Encouraging and supporting the development of inter-operative, industry-standard tools for citation and other purposes, such as “persistent identifiers” (that is, the articles’ unique identifiers for researchers to ensure that they are using and citing the authoritative version of the article).
    • Creating visibility of research results through arrangements with third-party vendors that push relevant research information to the appropriate research communities through a combination of traditional tools and emerging technologies, such as abstracting and indexing services, citation databases, table-of-contents alerting services, podcasts, RSS feeds, press communications and sponsorship of scientific and technical conferences, seminars and symposia.
  3. Publishers Maintain, Update and When Necessary Correct Published Articles. The published peer reviewed journal article serves as the "minutes” of scholarship — a definitive record of the author's work, edited and reviewed by academic peers, prepared for publication and then widely disseminated. It is preserved and safeguarded by publishers in the form in which it was published. This is vital to ensuring the integrity of the academic record of science and other disciplines — distortion, error, misattribution and plagiarism all have dangerous consequences for scholars, scientists, health practitioners and the communities they serve. When an article has to be corrected after publication, it is the publisher who manages that process as well, ensuring a complete archive record of the article.
  4. The Maintenance and Protection of the Final, Published Version is Increasingly Important. Increasingly, multiple versions of the same or similar materials can be found online. This is a result of the growth of discipline specific or institutional repositories or web sites, pre-print servers, self-archiving by authors and mandated deposits. Authors are often able to self-archive manuscripts of their work, whether on their own web sites or institutional sites — or both. However, there are often significant differences between these versions and the final published version.3 The final version of the article, as published in the journal, becomes the “version of record” for the critical reason that the publisher takes ongoing responsibility for the content of the article. Publisher investment provides persistent and reliable access to the published version, maintains the links and identifiers that permit that version to be located and cited consistently, and incorporates changes, addenda and corrections as necessary. The version the publisher makes available is the one of record against which other versions can be compared, and through which the integrity and reliability of scholarly literature can be confirmed.
  5. Publisher Investments in Technology and Infrastructure Have Resulted in Significant Improvements for Researchers. Functionality and efficiency have dramatically improved for readers, who can now perform complex searches of journals, immediately retrieve and print full text articles, link instantly to other cited articles, export text to other databases and programs, and receive e-mail alerts when new journal issues are released. Voluntary cross-publisher initiatives such as CrossRef 4 have broadened the impact of these benefits for researchers. The result of these productivity benefits has been documented in the field of science. The portion of their time that scientific researchers spent analyzing (vs. gathering) information increased from 2001-2005, according to a recent study by Outsell Inc.5 Compared to the print-only era, scientists now read 25% more articles per year from almost twice as many journals, and they do so using up a smaller portion of their time.6

1 STM; “Scientific publishing in transition: and overview of current developments, September 2006 (“STM Overview”) (copy available for download at http://www.stm-assoc.org/helpful-articles-reports-messa/).

2 STM Overview, p 7

3 Wakes and Campbell, “Author’s version vs. publisher’s version: an analysis of the copy-editing function” LEARNED PUBLISHING, Vol. 20 No. 2, April 2007 (copy available for download through the ALPSP website or at http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/alpsp/lp); see also Thatcher, “The Value Added by Copyediting” AGAINST THE GRAIN, Vol. 20 No. 4, September 2008.

4 CrossRef (www.crossref.org) was formed in 2000 by the scholarly publishing community as an independent, non-profit, member supported organization. CrossRef assigns and maintains persistent digital identifiers (“digital object identifiers” or “DOIs”) for journal articles and other scholarly works that are used to facilitate linking between online resources and discovery of scholarly research.

5 Outsell I-Market Hot Topics, vol 1, May 6, 2005: “2001 vs 2005, Research Study Reveals Dramatic Changes Among Information Consumers.”

6 Original data at http://www.dlib.org/dlib/october03/king/10king.html shows that the average number of articles read by scientists was 150 in 1977 and 216 in 2000-2003. Cited by Carol Tenopir in presentation at http://web.utk.edu/~tenopir/speeches/2000_2004.html. Discovering the Magic: Faculty and Student Use of Electronic Journals, “Scientists appear to be reading from more journals—at least one article per year from approximately 23 journals, up from 13 in the late 1970s and 18 in the mid 1990s.”

How researchers get access to journal articles

  1. Scholars Have Better Access to Scholarly Literature Now than in the Past. Journal articles are available today to more users at lower per-use cost than ever before. Most researchers have access to the journals they need and that access continues to improve, an extraordinary contribution to the advancement of science, knowledge and education. More than 2/3 of the respondents in the PRC Peer Review Study described their access to scholarly journals literature as good or excellent, with only 7% describing it as poor or very poor. These achievements are the direct result of the publishing community’s investment — often led by the private sector and the competitiveness inherent in the business environment in electronic dissemination and innovations that improve researchers' efficiency and effectiveness. For example, according to another study, over 75% of researchers globally indicated that access to scientific journals had become easier in the five years preceding the study, while the majority indicated that they have “good to excellent” access.1 Researchers rank “access to research journals” twelfth on their overall list of concerns while availability of funding for research is their number one concern.2
  2. Subscriptions Provide Access to Journal Content. While print versions of most journals still exist, and the traditional paper subscription model has not entirely disappeared, most of the scholarly research community — especially those using the journal literature — locates and reads scholarly materials online. Over 90% of STM journals are now online, and publishers are digitizing more and more back issues than ever before. More content is available to more users than at any time in history and the cost per article is falling steadily each year.3 Subscription revenue accounts for over 90% of journal income overall, and now typically takes the form of licensing payments for online access. Subscribers to scholarly journals are typically libraries rather than individual users, and libraries often “pool” their resources through the formation of consortia that share resources, including licensed access to scholarly journals. These large institutions or consortia often have significant leverage in licensing negotiations. The typical researcher gains access to scholarly journals through affiliation with a university, research facility, hospital, corporation or government agency that will license electronic content. Often these licenses provide online access to the complete electronic library (or library consortia) holdings to authorized users in remote, often small facilities, so access is often expanded beyond local, state or even national boundaries.
  3. The Development of New and Flexible Licensing Terms has Helped to Hold Down Cost Increases and Enhance Access. In the electronic environment, list price (usually associated with the price for a single print subscription) is typically no longer the primary indicator of the actual price paid for a journal or the price per download of a journal article. Through electronic distribution, publishers can provide subscribers with access to a larger number of journals, for example, through volume discounts, consortia buying, site licenses, state or national licenses, access vs. ownership and pay-per-use options. Access may be offered on a title-by-title basis, or a single license agreement can provide for access to a large number of different journals from a single publisher. Aggregators — offering materials from multiple publishers — also offer license-based access to databases of scholarly material for which they acquire rights from the primary publisher. Researchers also gain access through not-for-profit collaborations between publishers and digital archives (like JSTOR) and libraries (like Project Muse and High Wire Press).4
  4. Publishers are Experimenting with “Open Access” Distribution Models. There is no one-size-fits-all model across the publishing landscape. Nonprofit and commercial publishers provide access to non-subscribers through a variety of models and initiatives that make journals available without direct payment by the user. But acquiring, vetting, producing and distributing journal content still costs money which the journal must recoup in order to remain viable. Sources of funding include the author-pays model (in which the researcher, his or her supporting institution or a grant pays a per-article or per-page fee); private foundations; volunteer support and in-kind contributions; advertising and licensing journal content to third parties.5 While many open access journals are published by non-profit entities, commercial organizations are also looking at new business models, and some are offering open access journals or journals that incorporate some aspects of open access.6
  5. Self-Archiving and Open Repositories as a Source of Access. Users have been increasingly accessing scholarly literature through discipline specific or institutional repositories. More and more authors are self-archiving with their institutions repositories. Authors deposit a variety of materials in addition to their journal articles, including raw research and data and other versions of their research such as pre-prints (before peer review) and accepted manuscript (after incorporation of peer reviewers’ comments).7Given the often significant differences among the pre-print version, the accepted manuscript and the final published version8 of the article, those other versions are not generally seen as adequate replacements for the final, published version of the article.9 Publishers’ policies on author archiving are often quite liberal. For example, according to a database of publisher policies maintained by the SHERPA/RoMEO project, of the 169 publishers included, 45% (including some of the largest commercial publishers who together publish a large percentage of all scientific journals) allow author-archiving of both pre-print and accepted manuscript versions of articles they subsequently publish.10

1 Ian Rowlands, Dave Nicholas and Paul Huntingdon “Scholarly Communication in the Digital Environment: What Do Authors Want?” Centre for Information Behaviour and the Evaluation of Research (“CIBER”), Department of Information Science, City University (now at UCL), 18 March 2004, see http://www.ucl.ac.uk/ciber/ciber.php.

2 Journals and Scientific Productivity: a case study in Immunology and Microbiology, by Rowlands and Oliveri, May 2006, www.publishingresearch.org.uk

3 “Scientific Publishing in Transition: an overview of current developments.” Mark Ware Consulting, September, 2006 (“STM Overview”) (copy available for download at http://www.stm-assoc.org/helpful-articles-reports-messa/)

4 More information on each of these initiatives is available at their respective websites: JSTOR; Project Muse; High Wire Press.

5 Research Report, “The Facts About Open Access,” ALPSP, 2005 (copy available for download at http://www.alpsp.org/ngen_public/default.asp?ID=200)

6 Such as, for example Springer Open Choice

7 These deposits are often made with the knowledge and consent of the publisher. According to a database of publisher policies maintained by the SHERPA/RoMEO project, of the 169 publishers included, 45% (including some of the largest commercial publishers who together publish a large percentage of all scientific journals) allow author-archiving of both pre-print and post-print versions of articles they subsequently publish. STM Overview, p29; http://www.sherpa.ac.uk/romeo.php

8 Wakes and Campbell, “Author’s version vs. publisher’s version: an analysis of the copy-editing function,” LEARNED PUBLISHING, Vol. 20 No. 2, April 2007 (copy available for download through the ALPSP website or at http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/alpsp/lp).

9 See, Ware, “Open archives and their impact on journal cancellations,” LEARNED PUBLISHING, Vol. 19, No. 3, July 2006 (copy available for download through the ALPSP website or at http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/alpsp/lp).

10 STM Overview, p29; http://www.sherpa.ac.uk/romeo.php.

How publishers provide wider access to journal articles beyond traditional markets

Societies, commercial publishers, libraries, patient health organizations, UN bodies, and government agencies are making published research available to even more users through new programs and partnerships. These initiatives make millions of scholarly articles available to patients and to researchers, scientists and healthcare practitioners in the developing world:

  • Health InterNetwork Access to Research Initiative. The HINARI program, set up by the World Health Organization (WHO) together with major publishers, provides free or very low cost access to one of the world's largest collections of biomedical and health literature. Over 3680 journal titles are now available to health institutions in 113 developing countries.
  • patientINFORM.org is a collaborative effort by trusted and experienced patient health organizations, medical societies, health information professionals and scholarly and medical publishers. Publishers provide the organizations with online access to their peer-reviewed biomedical journals. The participating voluntary health organizations select the articles that would be useful to patients and provide them with summaries of those articles, to help the patient or family member more fully understand the implications of the research. Publishers provide the readers with free online access to the full text of these articles as soon as they are published.
  • Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture Program. The AGORA program, set up by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN together with major publishers, gives developing countries free or very low cost access to an outstanding digital library collection in the fields of food, agriculture, environmental science and related social sciences. AGORA provides a collection of 1278 journals to institutions in 107 countries in the developing world.
  • Online Access to Research in the Environment Program. Online Access to Research in the Environment (OARE), an international public-private consortium coordinated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Yale University, and leading science and technology publishers. It gives developing countries free or very low cost access to one of the world's largest collections of environmental science literature. Over 1,300 scientific journal titles owned and published by over 340 prestigious publishing houses, scholarly societies and scientific associations are now available in more than 100 low-income countries.

Public access is also very good, particularly in the US where the public has immediate, free access to current STM journals via the open door policy of most university libraries. Most publishers’ licenses, for example, explicitly allow members of the public to have walk-in access to their online databases and materials subscribed to by a library.

How the archival record of scholarly digital works is created, made available and maintained

  1. Publishers Invest in the Cost of Creating and Maintaining Archives of Published Scholarly Literature. Scientists and scholars advance knowledge by building on the work of their peers and predecessors from earlier generations. The integrity of the scholarly work done now and in the future is dependent upon the existence of a permanent, validated and definitive record of the work of others. Historically, when scholarly literature was primarily distributed in print, libraries undertook the burden of maintaining archival copies of printed articles. Now that most scholarly communication takes place online, publishers have largely taken on the role of creating and maintaining the digital archival record of knowledge, incurring considerable expenses to do so.
    • Journal publishing has existed for hundreds of years. Since e-journals have existed only since the 1990’s, a significant body of research material was not originally available in digital form. To make the history of research conveniently available to those working now, many publishers have made very substantial investments related to digitizing and creating retrospective archives of scholarly literature. This undertaking requires much more than simply scanning the pages of print journals: (1) content must be tagged (i.e., internally indexed and labeled so that the content can be searched and specific information with the document can be located); (2) references must be electronically linked to the articles they cite; (3) persistent identifiers (such as “digital object identifiers” or “DOIs”) must be assigned so that the newly digitized content can become a part of the overall scientific record.
    • Over a million new peer-reviewed articles are published each year. In addition, millions of articles published in the past, some dating back hundreds of years, have been scanned and digitized. Thanks to investments in infrastructure required to validate and to preserve published journal articles, and the efforts of publishers, libraries and archives, an estimated 29 million articles have been archived and are instantly available at the user’s desktop today.1
  2. Publishers Cooperate with Other Publishers, Libraries, Archives and Government Agencies to Ensure the Preservation, Availability and Accessibility of the Scholarly Record. The following is just a partial list of the activities and organizations in which publishers are participating to accomplish these goals:
    • CrossRef was formed in 2000 by the scholarly publishing community as an independent, non-profit, member supported organization. CrossRef assigns and maintains persistent digital identifiers (“digital object identifiers” or “DOIs”) for journal articles and other scholarly works that are used to facilitate linking between online resources and discovery of scholarly research. By mid-2008, CrossRef had registered 32.3 million DOIs from 20,814 journals, 67,943 books and 13,122 conference proceedings, along with 118,655 DOIs for components (e.g. images, datasets and tables) of journal articles and book chapters.2 As of May of 2008, the total number of registered DOIs had increased to almost 31.2 million. This permits consistent and efficient linking of citations throughout a vast wealth of online scholarly material.
    • Project Muse is a not-for-profit collaboration between libraries and publishers, providing 100% full-text, affordable and user-friendly online access to a comprehensive selection of prestigious humanities and social sciences journals.
    • Highwire Press is a division of Stanford University Libraries, which produces the online versions of high-impact, peer-reviewed journals and other scholarly content through partnerships with scholarly societies, university presses and publishers. HighWire Press makes almost 2 million scientific articles available without subscription, to aid in the digital dissemination of primary scientific information.
    • Portico was founded in 2002 with a grant from the Mellon Foundation, to provide a permanent archive of electronic scholarly journals. With the cooperation of journal publishers (participating on a voluntary basis) and libraries, Portico now has commitments of more than 10,000,000 articles from thousands of journals, preserved in a persistent archival format, and has started archiving e-books as well.
    • Jstor provides archival storage and digital access to scholarly materials originally distributed in print through licenses from participating publishers.
    • Artstor is a digital library of nearly one million images in the areas of art, architecture, the humanities and social sciences, with a set of tools to view, present and manage images for research and pedagogical purposes.
    • Clockss is a partnership of publishers and libraries working to achieve a sustainable, globally distributed archive of scholarly e-content, to ensure reliable long-term access. During the pilot (completed in Spring 2008), six U.S.-based libraries and one in the U.K participated in the program, along with eleven publishers (including several of the largest scholarly publishers), together accounting for thousands of journals. The ongoing transition to formal, post-pilot operations is attracting additional libraries and publishers.

1 See http://www.crossref.org.

2 Pentz, “CrossRef at the crossroads” LEARNED PUBLISHING, October 2006 (copy available for download through the ALPSP website or at http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/alpsp/lp).

Frequently asked questions about journal access