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Transition to Open Access – the case of Paladyn, Journal of Behavioral Robotics

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Paladyn is a behavioral robotics journal now published online only. The journal began in 2010 and has already published 4 volumes. It is worth mentioning that behavioral robotics is a relatively narrow and new field, so it was not easy for Paladyn to gain readership. The first three volumes were published in collaboration with Springer and were subscription based, but it was hard to maintain this kind of journal on a low subscription market. That is why its fourth volume was published by Versita (which is now the De Gruyter Open brand) in an Open Access model. The publication costs are currently covered by its publisher. The journal does not charge authors article processing charges but it is going to do so, starting from 2017.

Michał Berent, product manager responsible for Open Access journals at De Gruyter Open admits, “Paladyn, as a new journal, had some difficulties with gaining a sufficient number of subscriptions. The publisher’s revenues from the traditional model were stumpy, thus Open Access was the most reasonable option. The period in which De Gruyter Open covers all expenses is the time to build the journal’s brand. Paladyn has to be first recognized by researchers in its field as a credible source of information and a proper place to publish research outputs. Then, the introduction of article processing charges might be successful.”

Busting the myth of the lower quality of Open Access

The transition to Open Access did not change anything in the everyday work of the editors at Paladyn. Simply, the journal’s content became freely available online. Unexpectedly, researchers working in field of behavioral robotics reacted quite coolly to this change. Natalia Efremova – managing editor of the journal – told me: “I think the biggest change in my work was the attitude of the journal audience. For some reason, certain people instinctively treat Open Access journals differently to subscription-based journals. They tend to assume that you can just pay to be published, regardless of the editorial process. The reason for these suspicions is largely down to the misconceived notion that Open Access journals do not meet the same standards as traditional publications. Our authors undergo the same system of peer-review as before the transition.”

This might be seen as the next proof that people are worried about quality of OA journals, despite the fact stressed by Peter Suber: if the assumption that author-side fees corrupt peer review is true, then this corruption affects the majority of conventional journals since 75% of them are also charging authors (source). I think that we need more quality control both in Open Access and in conventional publishing, which was shown by recent forgery debunking by Cyril Labbé. When asked how to improve researchers view on Open Access, Efremova put it succinctly: “We have to keep our quality intact”.

Openness brings profits

Will the author-side fees income alone be sufficient to successfully maintain the journal? Fortunately, Efremova also told me that when Paladyn announced the introduction of article processing charges no one was especially surprised. Charging authors for publication is not uncommon and a large portion of research institutions and grant funders allow for and cover these kinds of expenses. (The percentage of OA authors who received funding for APCs varies according to different reports and surveys. Peter Suber claimed following SOAP that it is 78%.)

The future of Paladyn depends mostly on authors’ recognition of the benefits of Open Access. “The advantage of Open Access is visibility,” says Efremova. “This factor is good for the promotion of science. Moreover, not every robotic is affiliated to an institution with access to subscription journals. Thanks to Open Access, non-academics can build their own robots based on your paper. It gives us more visibility and more transparency.” Michał Berent adds: “It is easier to promote Open Access articles. The so-called article level marketing is much easier for them. We usually write and promote scientific news on our best articles and when someone spots them, they may read the full text and verify its quality.”

These are well known facts, as is the idea that visibility is followed by citations. It is almost certain that free on-line access increases the number of citations in comparison to toll access articles published in the same journal (source), so Open Access solely has positive impact on citation. That is why when the myth of the lower quality of Open Access is put to rest, we can expect a renaissance of openness.

Competition between green and gold

Paladyn has to be more attractive for authors than conventional journals that allow so called self-archiving (for instance, on personal websites) of some versions of published papers. I recently took part in a few discussions on the differences between green and gold Open Access. Some people believe that green Open Access is better because it provides equal profits at no cost. But traditional publishers have to make profits on subscriptions, so they are not so eager to allow green Open Access without restrictions. I asked Michał Berent what he thinks about Paladyn’s chances in competition with toll access journals that allow self-archiving. His answer was: “Usually, self-archiving is prohibited in the embargo period, so 6,12 or 18 months after journal publication. This is the time when being visible is most profitable for authors. The first months after publication are usually the best for gaining citations. Moreover, traditional journals limit self-archiving to some versions of the article and do not allow to copy or store its content. Paladyn and other De Gruyter Open’s journals use Creative Commons licenses, which gives more freedom to readers and to authors.”

Will Paladyn be able to find its place in a market? I hope so, since its mission is to master a publishing model that will be sustainable and profitable for all parties.

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