KU Libraries host journals in open access space, making scholarship available worldwide

LAWRENCE – The world of academic journal publishing can be tenuous. Anything from an editor’s untimely death to a loss of funding to a professional society’s changing priorities can terminate even highly respected journals.

Journals from around the world have found new partnerships — sometimes an ocean away — with University of Kansas researchers and  KU Libraries, allowing them to continue producing high-quality scholarship and preserve archives.

More than 50 academic journals are now hosted via KU Libraries and available online. In almost a dozen cases, those journals switched from a paywall model to an open access format.

A new home 

Olga Pombo of the University of Lisbon is editor of Kairos: Journal of Philosophy & Science. The research center in which she created the online journal dedicated to the philosophy of science could no longer support it. 

However, Pombo had worked with Irina Symons, multiterm lecturer of philosophy at KU. Symons offered to speak to Marianne Reed, digital publishing and repository manager in KU Libraries’ Digital Publishing Services program, and the journal became the most recent to be hosted and preserved via KU’s open access format. 

For the past several years, KU Libraries have added 3-5 journals per year to its Journals@KU offerings. Last year, those journals had more than 1 million downloads. The result is access to knowledge created by scholars around the world and high-quality research that is available in a more open and equitable system that costs nothing to journals, authors or readers.

“You have these journals behind paywalls, and what that does is make the work less visible because only those readers or institutions that can afford to pay can see it,” Reed said. “Essentially, this program is one more way KU Libraries is making excellent research more available to the world.”

Journals become collaborators through a number of ways. If a faculty member or KU researcher is an editor, on an editorial board or connected to the journal in some way, KU Libraries is open to conversations about potentially hosting the journal, and if the journal has the rights to previously published material, hosting archives. 

If those conversations result in a partnership, the parties sign a memorandum of agreement, and the journals have a new home.

“Each situation is different in terms of why journals want to do this,” Reed said. “Funding can play a big role. There is a dirty little secret in academia that, sometimes if you’re publishing commercially, the journal has to pay the company to publish. In those cases, the journal is publishing excellent research, but it just isn’t a model that all journals can afford. In a lot of fields, that content is foundational to the discipline and can be the basis for ongoing research, or is an important part of its history, so journals where funding is precarious are often motivated to try new models of publishing to survive. The Libraries’ model allows journals to transition to open access publishing without cost to the journals, authors or readers.”

Serving "citizen scholars"

When a journal partners with KU, it has access to Open Journal Systems (OJS), open-source software designed to support the workflow of academic journal publishing from submission through peer review to publication. OJS is designed to make journals more visible through Google and other search engines. 

This enables people all over the world to discover the research, Reed said.

“People who find this information are not only academics. There are a lot of armchair herpetologists, for example, who are fascinated by snakes or turtles,” Reed said about readers who can find information in the journal Reptiles & Amphibians among the offerings. “I like to call them ‘citizen scholars.’”

The open access aspect was appealing to Pombo when considering how to continue the Kairos: Journal of Philosophy & Science.

“We live today in a world where science becomes more and more open each day. Openness inside and outside academia. Openness inside scientific communities who are increasingly international and globalized, openness between disciplines that increasingly need to establish interdisciplinary crossovers,” Pombo said. 

“Now, open access of publishing, by approaching distant readers and removing financial barriers, is a fundamental way of promoting the scientific exchange between researchers from the same discipline, from different disciplines, from areas of diverse human activity, as well as an essential means for disseminating the scientific objectives, problems, methods and results among all interested people outside academia,” Pombo said.

Open access

Academic research is often funded by government grants or other forms of public money. A central argument of open access advocates has long been that findings of any research supported by public money should be available to everyone, not only those who can afford a journal subscription. Symons, who is also a vice editor of Kairos: Journal of Philosophy & Science, said that was an important factor in deciding to publish the journal via KU Libraries.

“I think that it is very important to have open access to quality research in all fields because the people who most need access to this kind of knowledge, more often than not, do not have resources to pay for it. I’m thinking primarily of students, be they in the U.S. or otherwise, and of academics who don’t live in wealthy countries,” Symons said. “I grew up under Communism and then went to college and joined academia in a country where libraries and universities could not afford to subscribe to prestigious journals or to purchase the latest academic books. 

"To be a successful student, or scholar, nowadays is to meet global standards and be competitive in the global research and academic world," Symons said. "To put the results of research behind a paywall amounts to setting up unequal opportunity to knowledge, and securing an unfair path towards success for the affluent.”

While the Journals@KU program is now home to many existing journals, it can also host journals as they are created. Reed encourages any member of the KU community with interest in a journal to contact her if they feel it might be a potential fit. 

For her part, Pombo said she is looking forward to the new arrangement and all that will come with it with its next issue, the first published under the agreement.

“We don't hesitate to say that KU Libraries are offering the scientific communities a fantastic service. And the journal Kairos is going to benefit from the accurate and generous KU Libraries policy of scientific support. ‘Kairos’ is the ancient Greek word for timely time, right time, good time, appropriate opportunity. And I believe that KU Libraries constituted the ‘Kairos’ for our journal.”

Tue, 02/13/2024


Mike Krings

Media Contacts