UBC Reports | Vol. 49 | No. 2 | Feb.
Putting an End to Expensive Print Journals
UBC group wants them online and free
By Cate Korinth
When scholars wish to gain status among their peers, they
try to publish their work in prestigious academic journals.
For years, publishers of those academic journals monopolized
and charged exorbitant fees for information that researchers
believed belonged to the public.
Some of the journals such as the Brain Research Bulletin
charge individuals as much as US $1,538 for 12 issues and
US $3,383 for institutions.
A group of academics at UBC is out to change all this.
Print journals are doomed, says UBC Education
Prof. John Willinsky. Its inevitable, all academic
journals will be available online in the next five to 10 years.
The move from paper to Internet journals is gaining ground
in all fields of research on campuses across North America.
Of the approximately 20,000 journals published worldwide today,
about 15,000 are published both in print and online and there
are more than 1,000 journals that can only be read on the
Not only will all journals go digital, many will also
be free of charge, predicts Willinsky.
At UBCs Public Knowledge Project (PKP) in the Faculty
of Education, Willinsky and nine graduate students explore
ways to use the Internet to publish high-quality research
at no cost to readers.
The proliferation of free journals reviewed by academics
and posted on the Internet proves that free public access
to research is possible and is already a reality, says
On the Internet, publishing costs are greatly reduced. Printing
and mailing expenses vanish. And because authors own the copyright
for their own research, they can ensure that it remains in
the public domain.
The people who publish journals contend that they need the
subscription revenue, whether publications are paper or electronic,
to ensure the quality of the editorial process.
That is simply not true, asserts Gene Glass,
editor of Education Policy Analysis & Education Review,
a free online journal published in Arizona.
Quality standards for research are higher at Internet
journals because their editorial boards often span cities
and countries, bringing top academics in the field together
on one board. Editors also respond electronically with their
reviews in a matter of days, explains Glass.
To decrease editorial costs, graduate students at PKP wrote
software to automate parts of the editorial process. Dozens
of copies have been downloaded for free since November 2002,
when PKP posted it on the web.
Rowly Lorimer, editor of the Canadian Journal of Communications,
argues that for electronic journals, site licenses or
pay-per-view revenue will still be needed to maintain servers,
pay for copy editing, proofreading and page layouts.
Lorimers paper journal provides back issues for free
on the Internet one year after print publication.
Instead of charging readers or delaying access, Willinsky
suggests authors or their professional associations pay a
small publishing fee.
To sample free journals online, check out www.csci.educ.ubc.ca/publications/insights.