Research Remix

July 13, 2012

Concrete options for a society journal to go OA

Filed under: Uncategorized — Heather Piwowar @ 10:59 am

AMIA‘s society journal, JAMIA, is considering going Open Access. I’ve been invited to be part of the OA explorations task force. JAMIA=Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

All taskforce members agreed I could blog our process. In fact, they look forward to hearing suggestions from all of you! So here goes, first installment. Our report is due in September.

My main job on the task force is to outline the available alternatives. Below are my getting-started notes.

What options am I missing? Does anyone already have details for any of these options? Advice for JAMIA if you have been here, done this?


well-defined alternatives:

Three major options seem to be: publish JAMIA with an existing publisher of OA journals, run it independently through a self-hosted journal management system, or run it through a third-party hosted journal management system.

For reference, a SPARC review of scholarly OA journals in 2011 found that Springer published 9 society OA journals, Copernicus published 15, WASET published 21, BioMed Central published 33, and MedKnow published 64. I’m not sure what proportion ran on a self-hosted or externally hosted platform, but OJS lists many journal users.

Links are to the “contact us about your society journal” pages:


We were told to think out of the box.  Excellent!  So, perhaps JAMIA could publish in an OA megajournal within a JAMIA Collection or tag, or ask for modification of terms of a well-defined option?

perhaps out of scope:

related issues


  • license that facilitates most reuse is CC-BY.
  • compromises would decrease use but potentially facilitate reprint revenue (ie BMJ)


  • immediate access facilitates most reuse.
  • compromises would decrease use but potentially facilitate subscription revenue (ie RUP)

editorial content

  • editorials available as OA facilitates most reuse
  • compromises would decrease visibility but potentially facilitate subscription revenue (ie BMJ)


  • could host advertisements and get partial revenue (ie BMC)
  • could charge readers to view without advertisements


  • many OA journals have an automatic waiver or subsidy for authors from low-income countries (ie BMC, BMJ Open). Some also offer a subsidy or waiver upon request (ie BMC). At least one offers a guaranteed waiver for those who cannot afford to pay (PLoS).
  • the majority of society publishers do not charge any author-side fees


  • many OA journals are online-only.  JAMIA is currently available online and print.  Is print needed? Are there options available for print-on-demand?

publishing-charge subsidy

  • as an AMIA membership benefit, could offset article processing charges (ie BMC)

other related revenue possibilities

  • could release openly, have HTML available for free, but charge per-article or membership fee for PDF access (ie JMIR)
  • could charge for expedited peer-review (ie JMIR)
  • could charge submission fees in general
  • could charge for iphone apps, etc

info so far



  • OJS, includes hours/week survey results

open questions

Many. A few:

  • How much of the back content could become OA? Is the copyright currently AMIA’s or BMJ’s? Answer: AMIA’s.

thoughts and observations

  • The OASPA resources section is a little light, and the blog was last updated in 2011. I’d say there have been a few OA events of note since then :) Upcoming conference in Hungary in September.
  • This is a less well trod path than I thought… I’ve made an initial contact to most of the organizations above, and none of them immediately zoomed me a how-to sales package (one or two were quick, but for most of the publishers I’ve contacted it has been 4 days and no response yet).
  • AMIA could join SPARC as an affiliate society. $5,710 annual contribution per calendar year. SPARC is active in advocating for funder mandates for OA, which would likely bring about  greater funder support for processing charges.
  • this is timely: two recent blog posts about OA and societies.  One by Mike Taylor, one by the Scholarly Kitchen.  There are other white papers etc also.  I’ll hopefully get a chance to recap them in a future post.

Edited July 16 to add a few things


  1. Related, by Micah Vandegrift a response to the Scholarly Kitchen article. At

    “engagement should not begin from a place of fear… but from a place of opportunity; opportunity to continue to provide high quality service to members, and also to interact openly across disciplinary and access lines. This seems like a great time to be at the head of a small scholarly society. Limited access means limited use, limited impact, and limited benefits for scholarship and for society at large.”

    Comment by Heather Piwowar — July 13, 2012 @ 12:02 pm

  2. There is another option for the software needed to run the system:

    Haven’t decided which system to use myself yet.


    Comment by Dale Reardon — July 13, 2012 @ 8:52 pm

    • Dale, good pointer, thanks. Looks a little too early for JAMIA at this point… no automated way to register DOIs yet for example. But worth noting for sure.

      Comment by Heather Piwowar — July 16, 2012 @ 6:04 am

  3. The case here presumably is that the journal already exists, and understands its editorial costs. This is important because I think these are generally under-estimated in “start up a journal” actions. By editoril costs I mean the article solicitation, submission management, peer review management (and editorial board relations), author correspondence and the actual copy-editing to journal standards… and more! This isn’t cheap, but I guess the society aready know this. Some of this can be improved by automation, so whether there are gains to be had here depends on the nature of systems already in place, versus those available.

    One place to start would be a strong analysis of the financials of the journal. Is the journal supporting the society, or vice versa? This has to be a brutal look, rather than a surface skim, because the decisins will affect the society’s financia health. I feel that societies made a serious error (in the past) in getting their journals to support their activities, rather than the journals being a cost-neutral part of their value proposition, but then, hindsight is a wonderful thing!

    There are inefficiencies in going it alone, and also risks (dependence on key individuals, especially where these are volunteers). Jumping in with a provider will reduce those inefficiencies and risks but also bring extra real costs.

    One option jumped out at me from some of your paragraphs: charge publication and/or submission fees but rebate these for members. That way you’re building your brand and loyalty, and serving your membership in three ways: by supporting the real costs, by getting the widest possible appropriate submissions, and supporting members.

    I hope this helps, and do keep reporting it! Thanks,

    Comment by Chris Rusbridge — July 14, 2012 @ 3:53 am

    • Hi Chris. Yup, great points. There are others in charge of the financial part of the discussion, and of course these options will feed data into those decisions.

      I think your question “is the journal supporting the society, or vice versa?” is spot on.

      Comment by Heather Piwowar — July 16, 2012 @ 6:05 am

  4. Pensoft is currently listed as “perhaps out of scope”, but I don’t think it is. Pensoft journals have been publishing semantically enhanced articles for two years now, with references, taxa and geolocations marked up on a routine basis – perhaps a good prerequisite for publishing a medical informatics journal.

    The online editorial and hosting system is integrated with several data publishers, the published content is distributed to various aggregators and archived in both PubMedCentral and CLOCKSS. More about Pensoft services for journals: .

    Pensoft hosts society journals (example article: ) and currently is in the process of launching a new publishing platform that will include, e.g., collaborative authoring tools, options for public peer-review, and data publishing.

    Disclaimer: I am consulting Pensoft on publishing and dissemination.

    Comment by Daniel Mietchen — July 18, 2012 @ 8:15 pm

  5. Regarding Print vs Online – the new journal(s) Forum of Mathematics (CUP) is/are online, with a once-per-year print on demand option for those who want it.

    Comment by David Roberts — July 23, 2012 @ 8:38 pm

  6. […] Concrete Options For A Society Journal To Go OA […]

    Pingback by Open and Shut: #OpenScience #OpenAccess #OpenData around the web | Open Science — August 10, 2012 @ 2:48 am

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