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Why open access can offer different possibilities for societies

10 February 2021

By Libby Plummer

Jacelyn Hemmelgarn and Poultry Science journals collage

A Poultry Science Association leader explains why the organization's journals were flipped to open access and the benefits that brings

Pictured above: Jacelyn Hemmelgarn, Executive Director of the Poultry Science Association, talks about why her society’s journals have switched to open access.

In 2020, the Poultry Science Association (PSA) decided to change from a subscription model to open access for its journals and is already seeing the benefits. The new model adopts the full gold open access approach to publication, where the article publishing charge (APC) is paid by the author so the research can be viewed by everyone.

This was a significant move for a long-established association and its journals, but moving away from the traditional subscription approach has already proven successful for the PSA.

"Both for the authors in your journals and also for your members, open access really does open up a world of possibilities," said PSA Executive Director Jacelyn Hemmelgarnopens in new tab/window:

At the PSA, we've seen steady submissions to the journals as well as an increase in readership. We've also gotten inquiries from people in countries that we haven't normally been able to reach.

On January 1, 2020, both of the PSA's journals — Poultry Scienceopens in new tab/window and  the Journal of Applied Poultry Researchopens in new tab/window — switched to a gold open access model while moving over to Elsevier from their previous publisher. Authors can now publish in the journals for a fee of $2,000, or $1,500 if the corresponding author is a member of the PSA. In addition, both journals now have an open archive with all articles freely accessible under a creative commons license on ScienceDirect.

Opening gates to collaboration

The decision to switch to open access was made after a long and detailed discussion at the PSA. It was eventually decided that with their loyal readership and strong heritage — Poultry Science turns 100 in 2021 — the two journals could benefit from the move. Jacelyn explained that for 99 years, the audience for the research in Poultry Science was limited to people who were members of the PSA or researchers at subscribing institutes. Now, it’s open to all:

We wanted to encourage the idea that scientists should work together across all disciplines around the globe to share ideas and build upon their own learnings.

Overcoming challenges to going OA

The shift to open access is a trend that is set to grow in the coming months and years, though there are potential barriers for societies thinking of making the jump. One of the key challenges is the fear that opening journals to everyone takes away the benefit of access for society members. While societies offer many other benefits for their memberships, journal access is often the primary draw. However, Jacelyn believes that the benefits of open access and the importance of the research being publicly available outweigh this issue.

The key here is convincing members of the wider benefits of open access. In the months leading up to the move to open access, the PSA took the time to introduce  seasoned members to the concept and explain the advantages to them, easing them into the idea gradually.

How members can benefit from open access

Before the PSA started publishing with Elsevier, the journal Poultry Science operated a “page charge” model, charging authors a per-page fee to cover the costs associated with publishing the article. The open access route now gives researchers mode flexibility and scope, with the benefits of sharing research widely plus the PSA's reduced member APC.

“When you're looking at a subscription model with page charges, you're trying to condense your research," Jacelyn said. "Open access really frees you up."

After crunching the numbers on what people paid with the page-charge model versus the flat open access fee, the conclusions were obvious, she said:

We truly felt that it also benefited the author to move to open access because now their articles could be of any length — they weren't restricted by page number. They could include as many tables or graphs as they wish as they weren't restricted by limitations like size and color.

Compared to the page charges model, open access also makes it much easier for researchers to apply for funding, because they already know what it's going to cost them to get their research published.

How societies can benefit from open access

The general benefits of the open access approach are clear, but what about the specific benefits for the PSA and its journals? Jacelyn explains:

For the journals, it opens us up to more readers. It’s also a way of creating collaboration. For example, somebody in India who may never have seen one of our journal articles because they weren't a member of the PSA or a subscriber now has access to that information, knows who the authors of those papers are, and can reach out to them.

Changing publishers

For the PSA, the shift to open access went hand-in-hand with a change of publisher. Elsevier was chosen because of its proven ability to make the open access model work, with more than 450 fully open access titles already on its roster. As Jacelyn explained:

We chose Elsevier not only because of its reputation but its reach. And we were very impressed with the individuals that came and spoke with us as they were very knowledgeable about open access. Since then, face-to-face meetings have obviously been impossible, but we do have a monthly call to go through outstanding issues. Elsevier really had a dedicated plan for how we went about the transition and what to tell our members.

Jacelyn described the move as an "incredibly smooth process" despite its complexities. Naturally, there were a few hiccups, which are to be expected when moving from one system to another, but Jacelyn said Elsevier did a fantastic job of making sure everyone had dedicated time to learn the system. Along with communicating the benefits of the new approach to association members, Elsevier took on the challenge of training all of the reviewers, section editors and associate editors on Elsevier’s Editorial Manager submissions system.

"We felt very comfortable going in on January 1st when that switch was flipped on the back end because we truly felt that everyone had received the training they needed and were well equipped to begin this new process," Jacelyn said.

So, what advice would Jacelyn give to other societies considering following in the PSA's footsteps and moving to a gold open access model?

"I would say it is completely worth the switch," she said:

Elsevier ensured that the transition went amazingly smoothly, and we have really seen the benefit of our research going open access. We only hope to capitalize on that more in the future — and to benefit the poultry industry as a whole by sharing this research globally.