The London Mathematical Society is launching a new open-access journal, to be called the Transactions of the London Mathematical Society, to stand alongside their Bulletin, Journal and Proceedings.
Apart from the obvious reason (that nobody knows what is going to happen in academic publishing and it is best to have all options covered), there are a couple of other reasons that emerge from reading their leaflet.
The new, purely open access journal will provid a place for authors whose funders, such as those institutions who have signed the “Compact for Open Access Equity”, insist that the papers they fund may only be published in purely open access journals, which would exclude being published in our hybrid journals.
I didn’t know about the Compact for Open Access Equity before, so I looked it up. A quick glance shows that it is a document to which universities, not research funders, sign up; it commits universities to
the timely establishment of durable mechanisms for underwriting reasonable publication charges for articles written by its faculty and published in fee-based open-access journals and for which other institutions would not be expected to provide funds.
This appears to address one of the major concerns about open-access publication funded by page charges, that the distribution of the money provided to fund this would be subject to bureaucratic decisions within individual universities.
But the LMS document suggests that something much more worrying is going on. Can anyone explain why an open-access publication in the LMS Bulletin is less valuable than one in the new LMS Transactions, simply because some other papers in this journal might be behind a subscription paywall? The LMS are good guys: they already offer a reverse moving wall (so that free access to articles is granted for the first six months); their publications are free or reduced price to “low income countries”; and they permit publication of a pre-publication version on the arXiv. So who is driving this?
Their own explanation is that they are not trying to encourage a move to open access, since they feel that existing journals already offer a good service. Indeed, after mentioning that the page charges are currently 1925 pounds per article (with a special introductory offer of 500 pounds for the Transactions), they say,
Of course, mathematicians who do not have access to funds to cover the APC are not obliged to publish in open access journals and they still have the other three journals, offering an identical peer review service. Authors will still be able to post pre-acceptance versions of their paper on the math arXiv.
I wish I found this reassuring.
The leaflets had been left on the table in the common room. In a teatime discussion, one of my colleagues pointed out that, although at present only UKRC-funded research is subject to the open-access requirement, there will be pressure to widen this to all research. The general principle is that all research receiving public funds should be open access, and all universities receive public funds.