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Taking Comfort From Copyright:

An Examination Of Open-Access Peer Reviewed Internet Based Journals

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The axiom “publish or perish” is driving the trend to publish in this format. Scholars provide traditional print media with their articles or studies at no cost. They give up control over how their information is presented. This media has varied that model. Most major word processing programs, such as Word and Word Perfect, are compatible with these journals’ requirements. Many of these journals allow authors to submit their articles ‘pre-edited’ via E-Mail, and require they be submitted in a publishing template provided by the journal. An example is the International Journal of Qualitative Methods (IJQM) , the publication of an institute located at the University of Alberta. Incidentally the IJQM accepts articles in multiple languages and provides electronic translations for them.

Consideration must be given to the delay factor built into the traditional print media as it concerns a number of academics (Mayfield, 1). The new model of web based journals can often accept, peer-review, and publish an article in as little as three months, rather than the two year period some print journals require. The field of computing science, for example, wants new information on an immediate basis. One suspects that the growth in the number of their journals is driven by competitive instincts. There are also times when the medical field wants reliable information on the effectiveness of new treatments as quickly as possible. For example, when there is a severe flu outbreak. Hence, and from their perspective, academics can see their research disseminated in a timely fashion in a competitive world.

There is the issue of public access too. Some academics feel that public grants or taxes pay, directly or indirectly, for their work. Thus, they believe that the public should not have to pay for access to the knowledge and information generated as a result. This appears to be a genuinely altruistic aspiration. Programs initiated by organizations such as International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP) collates and providse Internet linked access to these journals on that very principal. The Creative Commons , an organization of law professors, promotes the concept by providing free, example copyright licences, and generic legal advice (with disclaimers), in this regard. The Provincial Law Societies of Canada provide Canadians free access to every provincial and federal statute and much jurisprudence via the Canadian Legal Information Institute at: Canlii.org.

A measure used in determining tenure and promotion at some academic institutions is the number of times a scholar has had his works cited in other scholars’ works. Dangzhi Zhao’s research has shown that the number of citations improve incrementally when an article is designed to be easily searchable on the web (141). Academics, with minimal experience using the Internet’s HTML computer language, can design their articles to be self-indexing, hence aiming their works at target audiences. They can also include on-line reference links, and allow others to clip and paste directly from their articles. The major word processing programs now allow authors to covert documents into the HTML computer language at the touch of a button, instantaneously readying them for Internet publication. As we have seen, many libraries and institutions are already allowing scholars to self-archive peer-reviewed articles and studies.


There are downsides to open access, exclusively web based, journals. First, the tenure and promotion provisions and attendant publishing requirements of academic institutions lean heavily towards well-established journals. All academic publications share the problem of attracting a high quality of authors and recruiting respected reviewers, however it is harder to do so with this newer media. One should beware of those biases. Anyone with experience in establishing and maintaining a web site knows that they are labour intensive. There are costs involved in the purchase and then maintenance of the computer hardware and software involved. Establishing a self-archiving web site currently carries a capital cost in excess of $500,000.00 Cnd. That does not include the costs of wages, and ongoing maintenance. Cost recovery models for open access journals will be explored below.

There is an on-going debate about the type of display that users will see on their computer screens when they access any journals available via the Internet. Should the display be made in PDF (which is best for printing), or in HTML (which is best for navigation on the web - together with its’ attendant links), or both? There are technical and cost issues involved with all three approaches. The benefits, however, outweigh the problems from a publisher’s perspective. Advances in software compatibility and usability, the support of major institutions and societies, and the building momentum towards the increased use of the Internet all signal that this form of publishing will continue to show growth.

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