October 24, 2016 | Mike Smith, Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Maps

Moving to open access: an editor’s view

The Journal of Maps is a peer-reviewed, inter-disciplinary, online journal that aims to provide a forum for researchers to publish maps and spatial diagrams. From September 2016, the journal will be a fully open access journal, meaning all articles will, if accepted, be available for anyone to read anywhere, at any time immediately on publication. But what are the implications of this move to open access? What are the benefits? Mike Smith, Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Maps reflects.

From Mike Smith, Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Maps

Open Access is the on-going buzzword in academic publishing, moving from minority to mainstream as increasing numbers of journals convert from pay-walled subscriptions. It’s worth considering for a moment the implications of this change and the subsequent impact this can have on stakeholders in the process. The bottom-line is that publishing costs money to undertake – it adds significant value through the peer-review process, enables participation from developing nations, improves presentation through copy editing and typesetting, widely distributes the work, and creates a permanent archive in perpetuity.

The key question is who pays for this service. Within the wider publishing industry it’s typically the reader – if you find something of value, you pay to read it and historically academic publishers generally followed this model. However, whilst this generates a revenue stream, it restricts access when most authors would prefer their work to be widely distributed. In addition, grant funders became dismayed at paying for research that they then couldn’t access the final outcomes of. And so open access found advocates that have increased in number over time. The tipping point came when many national funding agencies demanded funded projects published open access papers. This flipped the revenue stream on its head by making published papers freely available, but requiring authors to pay at the point of publication.

The benefit of open access is not trivial – the potential to widely distribute research and the requirements of funding bodies. This has important downstream implications in that publishers no longer have the additional complexity of a paywall and, by making research easier to access, the ability of future researchers to leverage this work for social good is greatly enhanced. However, it should be noted that how the payment burden is loaded ultimately changes the “flow” of research money through the publishing system and, inevitably, will lead to a shift in those who benefit or lose from such a change. For those that can afford article processing chargers (APCs), either through their institution or from a funding body, OA works well. For those that are financially marginalized, then this will potentially create a barrier to publication – developing nations will continue to receive fee waivers from mainstream publishers so should find generally easier access to OA publication routes. But other marginalized communities exist, in the form of countries or regions at the periphery of wealthy areas, or academic subjects that are marginalized by limited funding or universities/institutions where funding is simply not available. Quite how these communities will respond remains to be seen, and this will be an area of ongoing concern.

At the Journal of Maps, OA is undoubtedly the way forward and is demanded by the majority of our editorial board, authors and readers. It is a positive move that will secure the publishing future for the community we serve.

Celebrating Open Access Week

Another year has passed and we’re continuing our tradition of supporting Open Access Week, with a look at how open access research can be put into action.


How can I get involved?

Find out more about Open Access Week here, and tune into @tandfopen and @tandfauthorserv for open access tips, insights and resources throughout the week.

Published: October 24, 2016 | Author: Mike Smith, Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Maps | Category: News and ideas, Open Access (OA) |