Open Access Publishing Funds Available for Authors

Interim Provost Joseph Quinn and University Librarian Thomas Wall have announced the establishment of an Open Access Publishing Fund. The Fund will reimburse payment of article processing fees for Boston College authors who publish in fully open access, peer-reviewed journals. The Fund is established as a pilot program funded by the Provost's Office and administered by the University Libraries.

The Boston College reimbursement policies are modelled on those of the Compact for Open-Access Publishing Equity. The Compact website provides a succinct statement of the circumstances that led to its establishment:

Open-access scholarly journals have arisen as an alternative to traditional subscription scholarly journals. Open-access journals make their articles available freely to anyone, while providing the same services common to all scholarly journals, such as management of the peer-review process, filtering, production, and distribution. Since open-access journals do not charge subscription or other access fees, they must cover their operating expenses through other sources, including subventions, in-kind support, or, in a sizable minority of cases, processing fees paid by or on behalf of authors for submission to or publication in the journal.

Universities subsidize the costs of subscription journals by subscribing to them. Universities and funding agencies can provide equitable support for the processing-fee business model for open-access journals — to place the subscription-fee and processing-fee models on a more level playing field — by subsidizing processing fees as well.

A list of Compact signatories and institutions with COAPE-compatible funds is available on the site.

All Boston College faculty, researchers, staff and currently enrolled students are eligible to apply for funding. The goals of the program are:

  • Support for Boston College affiliated authors who wish to publish open access
  • Support for transition to a more sustainable scholarly publishing model
  • Greater equality of access to information
  • Greater visibility and accessibility of Boston College scholarship
  • Encouragement of authors to retain rights to their work

In discussing the establishment of this program, two important policy considerations emerged:

  • How will we ensure that the journals whose fees we pay are of good quality?
  • Will we fund "hybrid" journal fees? (these journals require a supplemental payment for open access on an article-by-article basis, but are otherwise traditional subscription based journals.)

On the quality question, much has been written lately about "predatory" open access journals – low quality journals which solicit articles and publish nearly any article for a fee. There is no question that the low barrier to entry that internet publishing affords and the anonymity and ubiquity of an internet presence has allowed marginal journals to proliferate.

A highly publicized "sting" resulted in denunciation of these practices recently. The fact that some open access journals are of low quality does not mean that all open access journals that charge an article processing fee are suspect. This is one of several business models employed by open access journals, including journals that are highly respected in their field (PLoS Biology is a prime example).

In order to ensure that the journals whose fees we cover are of high quality, we will take several factors into account: inclusion of the journal in the Directory of Open Access Journals, inclusion of the publisher in the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association, inclusion or absence from the watch list of suspect publishers compiled here, and the general qualitative factors that should be applied in evaluating any journal.

In addition, the funding we provide is for publication of Boston College authors' scholarly output (presumably a measure of quality itself) in journals those scholars have chosen as their publisher. We expect that Boston College authors apply their own high standards and knowledge of scholarly communication in their discipline to choose high-quality open access journals. Subject Specialist Librarians can provide help and advice in identifying fully open access journals in each discipline.

The question of whether to fund "hybrid" journal fees is a difficult one. Some hybrid journals are prestigious. Faculty may well want to publish in them and we encourage that. However, we have chosen not to reimburse hybrid journal fees. These open access article processing fees are charged by traditional publishers who also collect subscription fees to cover their costs. They typically do not reduce subscription fees to account for article processing fees, and are often accused of "double-dipping" – being paid twice to publish the open access articles. Some of these traditional publishers' exorbitant subscription fees gave rise to the open access movement as a reaction to skyrocketing costs.

Although it is a goal of the program to make more content openly available to more readers and to promote availability of Boston College work, funding hybrid articles would not allow us to promote the equity and sustainability of the fully open access publishing model. Boston College, through Library subscriptions, already supports thousands of traditional journals through millions of dollars in subscription and licensing fees. The implementation of the Open Access Publishing Fund allows us to support and sustain a new and innovative business model for scholarly publishing that is in alignment with the University mission.

A small steering group manages the funding award process. The group includes members of the University Libraries' Scholarly Communication Committee and two faculty members, Dr. Thomas Seyfried (Biology) and Dr. Michael James (LSOE). Requests for funding may be submitted as soon as an article is accepted for publication using the Boston College OA Fund application form. They will be reviewed on a regular basis by the steering group.

Authors who receive grant funding that could be applied to open access article publishing fees will be expected to use those funds rather than apply for funding from us. Each author can receive a maximum of $3000/year. We ask that, once the article is made available in the open access journal, the author also deposit it in eScholarship@BC, the University Libraries' open access repository.

A full explanation of the policies applied in approving funding requests is available on the Open Access Publishing Fund Guide. Questions may be addressed to the steering group at any time.

Jane Morris
Scholarly Communications Librarian