We recently examined how global and how open the literature on Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is.
Not very global, and not very open.
Only 13% of the publications of 2012 regarded samples in low- or middle-income countries and 58% were behind a paywall.
Today I want to talk about the latter, the paywall part.
It worries me that practicing psychologists can’t access the latest research on therapy effectiveness. Or on how to deal with drop-out from clinical interventions. Or on how children experience trauma recovery.
As you may know, the migration crisis and refugees are on my mind a lot these days. I can’t justify, in any way, why a large part of the relevant knowledge is unavailable to support those who are affected.
Not only practitioners have little access to the latest evidence. The same applies to many scholars in low-resource settings, policy makers, and citizens in general.
Much research is behind a paywall, even though it was funded with public money. This system is lucrative for the publishers of certain ‘traditional journals’, which charge extra-ordinary amounts of subscription money to university libraries.
I have hesitated for a long time to become radical about it, but now I’ve decided to do so. For at least the next 12 months, I plan to submit my first-authored research papers to Open Access outlets instead of traditional journals, and to move to reviewing for Open Access outlets only. When I’m not the first author on a paper, I’ll suggest going for Open Access but I’ll leave the decision with the lead author – for now. I’ll be reflecting on my citation practices and exploring my Open Data possibilities as well.
With Open Access outlets, I don’t mean traditional journals that offer authors the option to make a single article available to everyone. That means paying the same publisher twice and does not change the system.
I’m not sure yet what I exactly do mean. There are some good quality Open Access journals that accept articles on trauma, such as PLOS ONE, PLOS Medicine, and the European Journal of Psychotraumatology. Some of them still charge authors high amounts of money though, which makes publishing in them difficult to afford in the long term. Other disciplines have platforms such as ArXiv, and there is a development of ‘overlay journals’ which may be an option in the long run.
“I can’t do this because I have to publish in top journals”
Many see my move as ‘career suicide’, as I won’t be able to submit my papers to top journals in the field. Even some people with a strong commitment to Open Access felt they couldn’t take the risk of joining me.
It may be risky on an individual level indeed but I feel it’s necessary to help change the system.
And of course I hope and aim to prove the fears wrong :-).
Three options that I think won’t change the system, or not quickly enough:
- Submitting your best work to top traditional journals and ‘the rest’ to Open Access. This will only reinforce the reputation of traditional publishing.
- Submitting work to predatory publishers (see e.g. Beall’s list and ThinkCheckSubmit). They may be quick but we need to ensure quality of the evidence base we develop.
- Publishing in top traditional journals and making the author copies available on your website or university repository. While this is in principle good practice, its scattered nature makes it hard for practitioners and the public to find relevant articles.
Nevertheless, making a move towards open access is much better than no move at all. I hope that, if my plan is a bridge too far for you, you’ll consider publishing more in open access journals.
The fact that people are afraid to take the leap says enough about how entrenched the current system is, and how much we focus on reputation of certain journals in contrast to the quality and accessibility of scientific knowledge itself.
Fodor, K., & et al. (2014). Is traumatic stress research global? A bibliometric analysis European Journal of Psychotraumatology DOI: 10.3402/ejpt.v5.23269
The Global Young Academy and Young Academies of Europe wrote an informative statement on Open Access.
The European Commission recently published their vision on Open Science.