Michigan State University

The Crisis in Scholarly Communication - Alternative Publishing Models

What kind of alternatives to traditional publishing are available to scholars?

Alternative Publishing Models

New publishing models are gaining acceptance as alternatives to traditional publishing practices. This doesn’t mean that any one of them will necessarily solve the scholarly communication problem, but they represent experiments to see what can be changed.

This is a very incomplete list of the new initiatives taking place. See a more complete list of new modes of publishing that allow more access to scholarship without high price barriers.

Open Access

An Open Access Publication as defined by the Bethesda Statement is one that meets the following two conditions:

  1. The author(s) and copyright holder(s) grant(s) to all users a free, irrevocable, worldwide, perpetual right of access to, and a license to copy, use, distribute, transmit and display the work publicly and to make and distribute derivative works, in any digital medium for any responsible purpose, subject to proper attribution of authorship, as well as the right to make small numbers of printed copies for their personal use.
  2. A complete version of the work and all supplemental materials, including a copy of the permission as stated above, in a suitable standard electronic format is deposited immediately upon initial publication in at least one online repository that is supported by an academic institution, scholarly society, government agency, or other well-established organization that seeks to enable open access, unrestricted distribution, interoperability, and long-term archiving (for the biomedical sciences, PubMed Central is such a repository).

There are several publishers of Open Access journals. For a full list see the Directory of Open Access Journals.  A large number of them are sustained by charging authors fees for publishing.  Some others have a different financial model. 

Some traditional journals have adapted a hybrid model, allowing authors to pay a fee to make their article open access, even though the journal as a whole is not open access.  Most of the large commercial publishers now have this option. 

Article processing fees

As an MSU researcher, most of the time you will need to pay the fee for publishing your open access article yourself or from your grant. For the following publishers, the MSU Libraries has paid a membership that provides a discount for authors:

  • BioMed Central. The MSU Libraries is a Supporter Member. This means that the MSU Libraries and the author will split the article processing charges. MSU also gets a 10% discount, so that, in the end, MSU authors pay 45% of the charges with BioMed Central.

Free Access to journal articles

  • Many scholarly society journals and other nonprofit publisher journals allow their articles to be made available free on the Internet 6 months after publication.  This is not technically "open access" because it is not available immediately but it has allowed the development of large archives of research literature.  
  • PubMed Central is a free archive of the biomedical literature containing articles that were contributed by publishers or by authors. The National Institutes of Health Public Access Policy mandates that investigators submit electronic versions of final accepted manuscripts from research that is publicly funded to PubMed Central within 12 months of publication.
  • ArXiv is an archive for preprints that has predominantly been used by scientists in the fields of theoretical physics, mathematics, and computer science.  Very recently, quantitative biologists/geneticists have also been adding their preprints.   It is maintained by Cornell University.
  • Many universities have begun developing an institutional repository of their own faculty and student work.  MSU does not currently have an institutional repository. 

Projects in Affordable Publishing

The following are a few examples of projects:

  • SPARC, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition partners with publishers to develop alternatives and competition to high-priced journals and encourages change in the system of communication.
  • Project MUSE is a partnership of not-for-profit publishers offering essential journals in the humanities, the arts, and the social sciences in a library-friendly and reasonably priced way.
  • Project Euclid is a collaboration of independent and society publishers in the field of theoretical and applied mathematics and statistics to offer quality journals online with low subscription prices.