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Paying to publish?

The Diamond Open Access publishing model promotes inclusivity and equity, argues Clare Bond

24 May 2023

The importance of Diamond Open Access is equity in publishing at all levels

Diamond Open Access (DOA), a model for publishing with no fees to either author or reader, has seen a surge of activity in the past few years with a plethora of DOA journals launching in the geoscience space. While other subject areas have led the way – the Open Library of Humanities, founded in 2015, is a prime example of scholars and academic institutions working together to create a sustainable and inclusive publishing practice – the extent of engagement in the last year with DOA across geoscience subject areas recognises the underlying frustrations of many academic geoscientists with previous publishing models.

DOA journals are community-led, owned and operated, which is no small undertaking. Volcanica for example, was an early mover with the first volume of this volcanology journal published in 2018. Led by Jamie Farquharson, Fabian Wadsworth and a team of editors, Volcanica is sustained by enthusiastic, altruistic academics who are willing to volunteer their time and energy to a journal that is accessible for all, with some financial support from Strasbourg University (all journals have some costs, such as subscriptions for digital object identification, web hosting and storage). 

At the end of 2021, Tektonika was launched by the structure and tectonics community, along with Seismica, shortly followed by Sedimentologika. The pre-print server EarthArXiv, while not a DOA journal, added to the move within geoscience toward open-access science.

In traditional publishing models, scientists commit to editing and reviewing roles, mainly without renumeration, for a mixture of commercial publishers (such as Elsevier, Springer Nature, and Wiley) and not-for-profit publishers (such as learned societies like the Geological Society). These scientists also write the papers, pay for them to be published and often sign-over the associated publication rights. In return, the publishers provide services that include archiving, editing, typesetting and the associated indexing and IT systems to make all this operational. While not-for-profit publishers like the Geological Society invest any surplus back into the community, the commercial publishers reap substantial financial benefits: Elsevier reported more than £980 million of profit in 2019 (from a mixture of academic institution subscriptions to read, academics paying to publish, and other online indexing services). The current publishing model seems to
be broken.  

For me, the importance of DOA is about equity in publishing at all levels – be that the ability to publish, or the ability to read. This equity in turn enables a greater inclusivity and diversity within our subject. The ‘pay-to-publish, pay-to-read’ models exclude those not able to pay; these are often people from less well-represented groups within our community and those who traditionally have not had a voice. 

In a simplistic way, those with a greater ability to pay are typically in the global north, at well-funded world-renowned institutions resulting in an over-representation of white men; followed by white women (like myself). Established academics working in well-known establishments. With DOA, the ability to publish and read is unrelated to the ability to pay (although other barriers, such as English as the global scientific publishing language, reviewer and editorial biases, and access to funding for science, may remain).

I encourage all those engaged in publishing to think about how they interact in the publishing space. Where do you give and how? Do you review more than you publish? If each paper you publish has at least two reviews, then you should be giving back similarly. Are your values represented in your publication and reviewing choices? With the ability to use social media and other fora for promotion of your work, do you really need to publish in high-citation journals? When you do review, or edit, you are giving your limited and precious time to support others in your community. Could you maximise this support and encourage diversity and inclusion by reviewing for DOA journals? Or for learned societies that will reinvest profits for the benefit of the geoscience community? 

For many of us, the truth is that we will support a mixture of journals and publishers. However, it is worth thinking about and actively engaging in the decisions we make, and considering DOA and not-for-profit publishers in our choices. Think about those who do not have the privilege of paying to publish or to read our science.

Clare Bond

Clare Bond is a Professor within the School of Geosciences at the University of Aberdeen, UK, and a founding member of Tektonika.

Further reading

  • EarthArXiv; www.eartharxiv.org
  • Farquharson, J.I. & Wadsworth, F.B. (2018) Introducing Volcanica: The first diamond open-access journal for volcanology; https://doi.org/10.30909/vol.01.01.i-ix 
  • Tektonika; www.tektonika.online
  • The Open Library of Humanities; www.openlibhums.org
  • Sedimentologika; https://oap.unige.ch/journals/sdk/index 
  • Seismica; https://seismica.library.mcgill.ca/
  • Volcanica; www.jvolcanica.org

To learn more about the Geological Society’s journey towards open access publishing and the vital contribution that publishing makes to the Society’s mission, including a breakdown of how our publishing revenue is spent and the generous range of discretionary Article Processing Charge waivers available, please read our recently released report, The Society’s journey towards Open Access publishing, available at https://geoscientist.online/sections/news/the-societys-journey-towards-open-access-publishing/

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