Q: Why have the LingOA journals decided to leave their current publishers?
- The editorial boards of these journals want to be able to publish academic articles under the conditions of equitable and affordable (“fair”) Open Access. They reject the conditions and the excessive rates charged by many commercial publishers for publishing academic articles. However, they will have no reason to leave the incumbent publisher if it accepts LingOA’s conditions. Those conditions are as follows: (1) a reasonable price per published article, (2) articles shall be published in Open Access and therefore be freely accessible on the Internet, (3) ownership of the (title of the) journal shall rest with the journal’s editorial board, and (4) the author of the academic article shall retain the full copyright to his or her work. Fair Open Access as defined by LingOA exists if a publisher meets all of the above conditions.
Q: What publication platform will the editorial boards move to?
- Some will move, for the time being, to Ubiquity Press (UP, http://www.ubiquitypress.com/), an Open Access publisher that was founded relatively recently and satisfies all of LingOA’s conditions. In addition, the Open Library of the Humanities (OLH, https://www.openlibhums.org/), in conjunction with its library board, will support LingOA Journals after the transition period of the first five years.
Q: Why was LingOA launched in the Netherlands?
- There are two reasons:
- Linguistics is a very strong discipline in the Netherlands and plays a leading role internationally.
- The Netherlands is also in the forefront of the Open Access movement, thanks in part to State Secretary Dekker’s call to that effect and to the negotiations on this subject between the Association of Dutch Universities (VSNU) and universities on the one hand, and the big commercial publishers on the other.
These two facts have a mutually reinforcing effect. Another obvious reason is that many linguistics journals originated in the Netherlands, not least because of the country’s rich tradition in the publishing industry.
Q: What is the Open Library of the Humanities?
- The Open Library of the Humanities (OLH) is another fair Open Access publisher. OLH is a charitable organization dedicated to publishing Open Access scholarship with no author-facing APCs (https://www.openlibhums.org). This will provide long-term sustainability for Fair Open Access journals, ensuring that no author will ever have to pay for APCs out of their own pockets. OLH collaborates with a worldwide network of libraries that pay the costs of Open Access publications on behalf of the authors/researchers.
Q: Isn’t Ubiquity Press simply another commercial publisher?
- It is a publisher like all others, but one that meets all of LingOA’s conditions. And the costs that it charges are exceptionally low. At Ubiquity Press (UP) the Open Access publication of an article costs € 400, compared with fees of up to € 1,000 or even € 4,000 charged by traditional publishers. In the sector, these costs are known as ‘article processing charges’ (APCs).
Also note that Ubiquity Press is not the ‘owner’ of the journal: the editorial board and the author retain ownership of the title and of the copyright, respectively. This means that the journal can decide to leave UP at any time of its choosing.
Q: What additional rates does Ubiquity Press charge for subscriptions to libraries?
- UP is what is known as a ‘full’ Open Access publisher: it does not sell subscriptions to the journals in its portfolio in the first place. This also means that it does not employ the ‘double dipping’ concept: collecting subscription fees for access to the full journal while also charging the author a fee for the Open Access version of each separate article.
Q: Still, Ubiquity Press will want to make a profit, so how can it survive on those low publication fees?
- Unlike the big commercial publishers, Ubiquity Press was not set up primarily to generate maximum profits. Nor is it a listed company, whereas many commercial publishers are. UP is able to charge lower fees because they have minimised their own costs by avoiding expensive and laborious systems. However, what really sets UP apart is its aim to provide a service to the academic community, which also means ensuring that publication remains affordable.
Q: So exactly how much cheaper will publication become?
- For a start, LingOA will make sure that taxpayers no longer pay twice for the same information: via the university library for access to the full journal and then again via the author, who uses public funds to pay for having an article published in Open Access.
What’s more, the costs of (only) publishing in Open Access format will go down, since UP only charges € 400 where other publishers may charge up to € 1,000 or even € 4,000.
Q: Surely you cannot simply move a journal to a different platform? Isn’t the commercial publisher the owner?
- It is true that in many cases the publisher owns the title of a journal. Of course that does not mean that they also own the editorial board and peer reviewers. These parties can decide to leave and launch a journal under a different title elsewhere. LingOA takes the view that the quality of a journal is determined by the quality of its editors and peer reviewers, and not necessarily by its publisher.
Q: If a journal changes its title, it will become impossible to find for researchers. So how do you ensure that linguists will actually subscribe to the new journal?
- Open Access has done away with the subscription model. It involves free access to journal articles, meaning that users no longer need subscriptions. In some cases the title of the journal will continue to be used, in others it will change. In the case of the latter, LingOA will inform the entire community of linguists of the change. Linguistics is a relatively small discipline that involves approximately 26,000 researchers, who are all gathered on a single portal site called The LINGUIST List (http://www.linguistlist.org/)
Q: In that case, what will happen to the old journal?
- Nothing at all, if the title of the journal moves to Ubiquity Press along with the journal itself. One example of this is LabPhon, which will simply continue under the same name at Ubiquity Press.
If the current publisher refuses to let go of the title, it could try to set up a new editorial board under that title. One of the actions we intend to take is to try and convince the entire community of linguists (of whom there are approximately 26,000 worldwide, who are all connected through the portal site, The LINGUIST List) that it would not be in the interests of linguistics research to submit articles to the old journal with its new and less experienced editorial board hastily thrown together by the publisher.
Q: Will the full editorial boards of the five journals join the move to the new platform? Are there any linguists who prefer to stay with the present publisher?
- In answer to the first question: yes, all the editorial board members will join the move. The first journals to do so are LabPhon and Journal of Portuguese Linguistics. Another three highly prestigious journals are renegotiating their collaboration with their incumbent publishers. When that will happen will become clear in the weeks ahead: either they stay with their publisher who has then accepted their conditions, or they will also migrate to Ubiquity Press and the Open Library of the Humanities.
Q: How do you know that this is a widely supported initiative?
- We know that it is because we have already talked with the editorial boards of many of the 90 most important journals on linguistics and seen that practically all of them are enthusiastic about LingOA. The only thing that made some of those boards slightly hesitant was the situation after the first five years, when the VSNU’s guaranteed financing and the NWO’s subsidy come to an end. However, we have now reached an agreement with the Open Library of the Humanities that will guarantee the continued existence of the journal after those initial five years. This means that we can also resume our talks with the hesitant boards.
Q: What will happen to the quality of the journals that make the change?
- LingOA will ensure that the editorial boards and their networks transition to fair Open Access while retaining the peer review system of quality control. This is because the quality of peer reviews largely determines the reputation of the journals concerned. The only thing that will change is the business model.
Q: What exactly will change in the business model?
- Traditionally, academic journals depended on expensive subscriptions for their income. Open Access however means that a fee is paid for each published article. In the case of LingOA, those fees are paid from the financial guarantees provided by VSNU and NWO. In the longer run, university libraries will pay for published articles rather than through subscriptions. This approach will ensure a successful transition from an expensive subscription model to a more affordable published article fee model.
Q: When will the five editorial boards have made the transition, and how much time will it take for them to to so?
- LabPhon has already made the transition, and the Journal of Portuguese Linguistics will probably publish its next issue on the UP platform by the end of this year. The editorial boards united in LingOA have hired a lawyer who offers them legal assistance during the course of the project. The other journals will make the change as soon as they have completed negotiations with their current publishers – or they won’t, if their publisher accepts the conditions.
Q: How will the readers/subscribers be informed?
- That depends. In the case of LabPhon, whose title moved along with the journal itself, the previous publisher (De Gruyter) informed the subscribers. If a publisher is unwilling to cooperate, the state of affairs is announced on The LINGUIST List (a list of all 26.000 linguists) and in the media, and Ubiquity Press will alert all university libraries to the fact that the journal will continue in Open Access format.
Q: Does the transition of editorial boards also mean that the peer review system is safeguarded?
- Indeed it does. The editorial boards are absolutely essential to the peer review process. In fact, such a process is unthinkable without a high-quality board. So the editorial boards arrange and supervise the peer review process, in which each academic article is critically examined by a number of fellow experts.
Q: Who will pay the transition costs, and what exactly do those costs consist of?
- The transition costs are fairly straightforward and are largely paid by Ubiquity Press. UP will offer each journal the infrastructure that it needs to get started under the UP banner. The costs of legal assistance incurred by transitioning journals during the negotiation process have already been included in the budget. In addition, Radboud University Library has hired an assistant editor to support the editors-in-chief.
Q: Is it really possible for journals to leave now under the actual terms of their contracts?
- Although each contract has its own terms and conditions, we repeat that the publisher does not ‘own’ the editorial boards and peer reviewers. Of course some editors will be bound by a contract that includes a mandatory notice period. This means that in many cases a transition period of six to twelve months is a realistic assumption.
Q: Why do the Dutch universities that offer a degree programme in linguistics need to provide a guarantee?
- It seemed an obvious choice to obtain financial guarantees from the institutions that actually offer programmes in linguistics. The new situation involves payment for Open Access publications by the authors, which, especially in the humanities, is an entirely foreign model for which no budgets have yet been made available. The commitment undertaken by VSNU, KNAW and NWO with respect to the first journals means that their authors will not have to pay those publication costs themselves for the first five years. It is expected that after this initial period, the publication model worldwide will have shifted from subscription to Open Access. In that situation, funds will become available from libraries to cover the costs of Open Access, as the model the Open Library of the Humanities already shows.
Q: How do you know whether other editorial boards will follow suit?
- This is very likely to happen, as we are already conducting negotiations with a large number of editorial boards of linguistics journals whose response, overall, is decidedly positive.
Q: To what extent does LingOA also involve international linguists? Or is it a purely Dutch initiative?
- The journals concerned are entirely international, so this really is an international initiative. The editors of the first journals to join are researchers employed in various EU countries and the United States.
Q: How do you intend to involve the rest of the international linguistics community in this initiative?
- These are international journals with international audiences, which means that the international community of linguists is covered automatically.
Q: If this initiative is feasible in the field of linguistics, is there any reason why it should not work in other disciplines too? Why does it appear to work particularly well for linguistics?
- Linguistics is a relatively small and tightly organised discipline. Typically, linguists are highly opinionated people and prefer to set their own course. Incidentally, it wasn’t always easy to convince the editors. However, by offering the VSNU/ KNAW/ NWO LingOA fund we made it clear that the authors will not have to cover the APCs themselves. That was enough for some to support the initiative, and the rest soon followed. Another very important factor that made them decide to join the initiative was the long-term solution offered by the Open Library of the Humanities.
Of course LingOA hopes that this initiative will convince many more disciplines that making this move is both feasible and desirable – in the humanities and social sciences to begin with, but possibly also in the natural and medical sciences.
Note, finally, that the EU is also greatly interested in our approach. LingOA will be presented during a workshop on 12 October which will also feature a speech by Gerard Meijer.