Open access to journal articles of the American Society of Criminology: A little study to illustrate concepts and costs
This is a preprint. Before I publish its version-of-record, I'm looking for feedback. I welcome criticisms, suggestions, etc. on how to improve this Pub. Think of yourself as a reviewer, if you're so inclined.
There can be 100% open access (OA) to criminology articles. It’d increase criminology’s scientificity and impact. Anything less is a social injustice. To advance open criminology, the American Society of Criminology’s (ASC) Scientific Integrity Committee hosted the Green Open Access Webinar. I thank Laura Dugan and Eric Piza for organizing the webinar and inviting me to be a panelist. The advertisement (Dugan, Piza, et al., 2023) makes a bold proclamation:
Is the proclamation true? Now? Legally? How? Who has the power? I answer these questions in this Pub.1 I begin with a review of key concepts. Then I describe my little study of recent publications in ASC’s journals, Criminology (CRIM) and Criminology & Public Policy (C&PP). My findings are meant to give you a rough sense of the concepts before discussing their costs. I conclude with thoughts on how to allocate scarce resources for the greatest good. If you’d like to disagree with me, correct me, or whatever, please do! Among other ways, you can “Post a discussion” at this document’s end or in-line. You’re also welcome to engage me on Twitter/X at @SJacques83.
Imagine you’re the author of a CRIM or C&PP article. After the Proofs stage, Wiley uploads the article to its website. This is theversion-of-record. You expect it to be paywalled, but the publisher, Wiley, makes it “Free to read.” This is bronze OA. Despite its name, this isn’t OA. It’s really closed access (CA). Everyone is prohibited from “reuse.” For example, you can’t post the version-of-record to your personal website; it’d be illegal OA. The other problem with bronze OA is it’s temporary. You realize this, one day, when you discover your “Free to read” article has been relocated behind a Wiley paywall. This hurts your impact; you’re the author of a social injustice. You want the article to be free—permanently and legally. That’s really OA. One option is to make the version-of-record gold OA by paying Wiley an article processing charge (APC). The price for CRIM and C&PP articles are, respectively, US$3,400 and $3,190 (Wiley, n.d., a). If you’re unable or unwilling to afford the APC, the free alternative is to provide green OA to the article’s earlier versions, not the version-of-record. The earlier versions are the files (e.g., Word, Latex, PDF) you submitted to the journal prior to acceptance, not the Proofs.2 The final R&R submitted to the journal is the postprint.3 Each earlier version is a preprint.4Wiley makes clear it’s ok for you to publish the preprint(s) and postprint as green OA, under certain conditions (Wiley, n.d., b, c).5
Returning to our questions, it’s true that all journal articles can be made OA for free, legally. We can do this immediately by contemporaneously publishing each journal submission as a preprint; that is, prior to acceptance. Wiley has an embargo on postprints, which may apply to you, but it doesn’t apply to preprints that’ve already been published. If you’re subject to the embargo, this isn’t an excuse. Embargoes goes away; late is better than never.6 This is all ok with Wiley (n.d., d), which endorses green OA and gives the power to authors and editors:
Wiley believes journals should allow for the submission of manuscripts which have already been made available on … [a preprint] server. Allowing submission does not, of course, guarantee that an article will be sent out for review; it simply reflects a belief that availability on a preprint server should not be a disqualifier for submission.
Wiley (n.d., d) recommends the editors of hybrid OA journals, such as CRIM and C&PP, use this policy:
[Journal] will consider for review articles previously available as preprints. Authors may also post the submitted version of a manuscript to a preprint server at any time. Authors are requested to update any pre-publication versions with a link to the final published article[’s version-of-record].7
Keep in mind that the editors of CRIM and C&PP have a boss: ASC. The society can, and does, tell its editors what to do, who then tell authors what to do.
I did a little study of CRIM and C&PP to help you understand the types of OA and, in turn, their relative costs.8 As a brief recap of the concepts: If there’s free access to an article’s version-of-record that’s legal and permanent, it’s gold OA. If the access is impermanent but legal, it’s bronze OA. If there’s access to the version-of-record that’s not directly provided by the publisher, it’s probably illegal OA. Free access to an article’s preprint or postprint is green OA, if legal and permanent. I collected data this way:
I went to Wiley’s webpages for CRIM and C&PP.
I made a list with every research article in issues 1-3 this year (2023).9
For each article, I determined if there’s gold OA.
If not, I determined if there’s green, bronze, and illegal OA to the article.
The data are in the embedded file. For analysis, I manually calculated the counts and percentages.
For CRIM and C&PP in 2023, issues 1-3, there’s 40 research articles. This is my sample. Among these articles, 16 (40%) versions-of-record are gold OA. Among the other 24 articles (60%), 5 are available as green OA (21%), 2 as bronze OA (8%), and 2 as illegal OA. However, one article has green OA and bronze OA; another has green OA and illegal OA. Thus, for the 40 articles, there’s any OA to 23 (57.5%), but only really OA to 21 (52.5%); see figure 1.
There’s no permanent and legal OA to 47.5% of the sampled CRIM and C&PP articles. This is an improvement on the past (Ashby, 2021), but it still falls short of the ultimate goal: 100% OA. What would this cost? It could be a lot, or free. Recall that CRIM’s APC is $3,400 and C&PP’s is $3,190 (Wiley, n.d., a). Among the 16 gold OA articles in my sample, 10 are published in CRIM and 6 in C&PP. Assuming the standard APCs, this gold OA already cost $53,140,10 an average of ~$3,321 per article.
Imagine you’re a criminologist who gets mega-rich by winning the lottery. You want to fund 100% OA to the sampled articles. How can you do it?
The easiest and surest route is the most expensive: You pay Wiley’s APC for the 24 articles without gold OA.11 You calculate the sum total to be $41,470. If you take this route, almost all the money will go to Wiley, with a percentage passed-on to ASC. Assuming a flat royalty of 10% per APC, the society would get $4,147 of your money. An advantage of this gold-road is you can be sure Wiley will make the articles OA. Based on my little study (see also Ashby, 2021), authors and editors can’t be depended on to provide 100% green OA. Or can they be?
You prefer your money to go directly and entirely to criminologists. You share a passion, more so than with Wiley. You want to incentivize and reward criminologists for doing open criminology. So instead of sending $41,470 to the publisher, you think of alternatives for advancing green OA, in accordance with Wiley’s policies:
Option A: Send the lump sum to ASC, if they help the authors of all 24 articles to publish their postprints as green OA.
Option B: Split the money among the authors, if they provide green OA to their postprints; the authors of each article would receive ~$1,728.
These options have the same price as gold OA, but have better financial return-on-investment (ROI) for criminology. When your money goes to criminologists, versus Wiley, much more stays in criminology’s ecoystem.12 This means we have more money to (re)invest in our shared passion. Not only to advance OA, but to spend on other important things: student stipends; open educational resources; virtual and in-person workshops; all the stuff we want more of but we can’t afford.
Resources are scarce. Not just money. You’re a scarce resource. You have limited time and effort to spend. This is why ROI matters: We need to choose what to support. To be clear, we don’t need more money to provide 100% green OA to our articles in CRIM or C&PP. ASC and its authors could already be doing Options A and B. ASC knows this; I’ve told them. A lot of authors know too, for the same reason. These are amazing criminologists; ditto reviewers, editorial board members, and others. I highly value them. I’m trying to help all of us have more money, not for greed but for the greatest good. I’m solutions-oriented, so let me end with an entirely doable idea for the future, which I’ve already proposed to at least some of ASC’s editors and executive leadership team:
For a submission to be considered for publication in CRIM or C&PP, the author(s) must first publish the exact same paper as a preprint. Each new submission, such as original vs R&R, must be published this way.
This can 100% achieve 100% OA to ASC’s future articles. The price of implementation would approach zero. It’ll take very little time and effort. More OA means more scientificity, impact, and social justice. ASC would get closer to its Purpose & Objectives and Code of Ethics (see Piza & Jacques, 2020). ASC would become a leader in transparency. Short of this, it’s time for ASC’s members and servants to reallocate their resources elsewhere—to defund the ASC. Better ROI is for the greatest good.
Piza, Eric, and Scott Jacques. 2020. ASC Should Make It Legal for Their Journals’ Authors to Immediately, Publicly Share the Accepted Version of Their Manuscripts. Criminology Open. https://doi.org/10.21428/b7013076.d09c41de