Interpreting Ceramics: Gold before the Gold Rush

A guest post by  Lynette Summers, Information Advisor (CSS & Research) at Cardiff Metropolitan University, who writes about creating a successful gold open access journal with institutional collaboration.

Interpreting Ceramics: Gold before the Gold Rush

The UK is on a course set for gold open access and, to misquote Ralph Waldo Emerson, the transition from subscription-based publishing to a fully open access model is very much about the destination rather than the journey. That said, the journey for research articles has been outlined by the recommendations of the 2012 Finch Report and so we find ourselves in a “mixed economy” of subscription-based titles (traditional journal publishing), hybrid and fully open access journals (gold open access) and open access repositories (green open access). By now, many of you will already be familiar with the various routes to open access, but if you would like a quick refresher then do check out Peter Suber’s very brief introduction to open access.

Everyone that has been involved, in one way shape or form, in making research outputs open access will know that the transition to a fully open access environment will not be an easy one. However, for some, much of the hard work has already been done — I am of course talking about those journals that we can think of as being “born gold” with the first wave of enthusiasm for open access publishing in the 1990s as access to the internet became more widely available and online publishing took hold. I don’t know how many such journals still remain, but I would like to highlight the story of one: Interpreting Ceramics.

Interpreting Ceramics was established by the Interpreting Ceramics Research Collaboration (ICRC) in 2000 as the ‘first refereed, electronic journal for ceramics’. The ICRC were committed to making the journal fully open access from the very beginning and the pronouncement that the journal would be ‘freely accessible, without charge’ has almost become a motto (this can be found on every issue in the ‘About this Journal’ section ). In the beginning the decision to go electric came from the desire to exploit the internet as a means of easily sharing the various formats that the journal’s authors were utilising — primarily video and audio — to record, interrogate, interpret and communicate the practice and history of ceramics. The decision also came down to, in part, the fact that managing a subscription journal would be far more complicated for the ICRC. However, don’t for a second think that all of this came easily or without cost — as we know, the cost of publishing is always absorbed somewhere along the line and, even if a gold open access journal does not charge authors an article processing charge (APC), there is no such thing as free gold. Interpreting Ceramics has prospered due to the time and effort that the editorial team has committed to the journal and because of institutional funding (Cardiff Metropolitan University;  Aberystwyth University; the University of the West of England, Bristol; and Bath Spa University have joint proprietorship of the journal). In recent years the journal has been further strengthened through the support of the Wales Institute of Research in Art & Design (WIRAD).

The fact that the ICRC was approached last year by a major publisher wishing to take over the journal is testament to its success and its importance to the scholarly community. The ICRC politely declined the approach as the publisher wanted to distribute the publication as a subscription print journal. Luckily, the editorial team recognised that this would have been a backwards step in light of the direction the UK is taking with regards to open access. The journal would have also lost its look and feel. Moreover, to use the words of its editor, Jeffrey Jones, the editorial team have become more “idealistic as it has gone along” with regards to the open access principle and, as the journal is read worldwide (this is known because readers are encouraged to register), they can certainly boast that it has ‘anyone, anywhere’ credentials. So, let us hold up Interpreting Ceramics as an example of a successful gold open access journal; may it act as encouragement for those scholars and institutions thinking of embarking on their own publishing venture. Not everybody will be able to make it work, but, in the transition to a fully open access world, let’s explore the options.

This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of Cardiff Metropolitan University.

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