AERA Addresses Open Access
AERA Addresses Open Access
AERA Leads on Open Access Publishing in the Social Sciences
December 2012

On November 9-10, AERA held a two-day working conference on Open Access Publishing in the Social Sciences. This working conference brought together representatives from social science associations, libraries, university presses, and publishing houses, as well as researchers, journal editors, and other open access experts to explore issues of central importance in open access publishing and the critical role of social and behavioral science associations in that process.

Attention to open access publishing has increased in recent years, driven in part by rapid advances in technology and requirements from funders such as the National Institutes of Health that research be made publicly available and offered free of charge.  Under open access publishing, the costs of journal publishing shift from a subscription model to an author or research funder model.

The AERA conference was structured to encourage in-depth dialogue among the attendees on a series of issues that relate specifically to open access publishing in the social sciences. Discussions focused on the benefits and costs of open access publishing; economic models for open access publishing; and the potential impact on peer review, citations, public engagement, and the dissemination of scholarly work.

Participants intensively examined the issues and mapped the challenges, consequences, and opportunities associated with open access publishing. Executive Director Felice Levine noted that “the meeting was marked by innovative thinking both about scholarly publishing into the future and about the essential role of scholarly societies in advancing quality research and the very real need for resources to continue to fulfill that role.”

Participants left with both a great understanding of the issues and a shared commitment to collaborate and continue the dialogue to help shape the future of publishing in the social sciences. Although much of the growth in open access publishing has been in life sciences and medicine, the group agreed that the United States is moving toward open access in general, including in the social and behavioral sciences. The attendees reiterated the need for open access if publishers are to be responsive to the cultures and norms of the social sciences; and they emphasized the role of social science associations in seeking creative, financially feasible solutions to the challenge.

The conference was planned and co-chaired by Levine and Nathan Bell, AERA Associate Director of Education Research and Research Policy. The conference built also on discussions of publishing professionals at AERA, the American Historical Association, the American Anthropological Association, the American Political Science Association, and the American Sociological Association.  AERA will prepare and release a report on open access publishing in the social sciences and hold a special symposium at the 2013 AERA Annual Meeting.

On November 29–30, the dialogue on open access publishing continued at a conference organized by the United Kingdom’s Academy of Social Sciences. AERA’s Executive Director Levine attended as participant and presenter. The two-day event was held in response to the UK government’s adoption of the recommendations of Accessibility, Sustainability, Excellence: How to Expand Access to Research Publications, the Report of the Working Group on Expanding Access to Published Research Findings, commonly called the Finch report.

In accordance with the recommendations, all government-funded scientific research in the UK will be made publicly available and free of charge beginning in 2014.  Levine offered a U.S. perspective on the move to open access and highlighted the challenges and opportunities that had been discussed at AERA’s conference earlier in the month. Her presentation and other information on the UK conference are available through the AERA website.
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