Of the fifty-seven biomedical faculty recruited for this study, fourteen interviews were granted and completed. Eleven of the participants were from UNC-Chapel Hill and three from Duke. Six (43%) of the interviews were conducted in-person, two (14%) over the phone, and six (43%) were filled out by the participant and returned via email. Four interview participants were assistant professors, four were associate professors, and six were full professors. Affiliated departments of the faculty participants included Medicine (7), Biology (4), and Public Health (3). The primary communicated response for declined participation was lack of free time to participate.
Each of the participants were presented with seventeen interview questions and asked to elaborate as much as appropriate for each response.
Q1: How do you decide where to submit your articles for publication? (see Table )
Authors discussed the factors important to their personal decision making process. Some respondents simply listed factors while others ranked the factors in order of importance. It appears that when making decisions on where to publish, authors rely heavily on their own perception of specific factors.
Impact factor and audience were mentioned most frequently across participants. Many of the factors listed above can be sorted into some common categories. For example, the overall quality of a publication relates to the perceived impact factor as well as level of prestige and general quality. Target audience, topic of the published work, and visibility refer to publication readership. In addition, there are logistical issues such as author fees and the speed of the publication which affect publishing decisions.
Deciding factors in order of frequency
Q2: Does speed of publication influence your choice of journal? (see Table )
As mentioned, the speed of a publication appears to be an important factor for active authors, especially those in competitive fields of research. An explanation of "speed" was not provided to participants. Responses indicate that speed is often related to the submission, notification, and peer-review processes.
The majority of authors reported that speed is in fact important when selecting journals for publication submission. From participant responses to this question, it appears that in the past there was significant variation in speed across publications. The online environment, regardless of "openness" of publication, seems to help alleviate some of the problems that occurred in recent years.
Q3: How important is impact factor? (see Table )
When considering the importance of impact factor, one respondent acknowledged that it can be used as a crutch to help weed through the increasing amount of literature that is published. Another argued that the impact factor of a publication correlates with the level of exposure an article will receive.
Reponses to Q1 and Q3 indicate that impact factor is often a point of consideration in publishing decisions for biomedical faculty at both UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke. If impact factor continues to strongly influence author perception of journals, open access publications will have to establish credibility through this measure and remain competitive with the more traditional high impact publications.
Q4: Are you influenced by the number of subscribers/readers that a journal reports? (see Table )
Many of the respondents acknowledged that they did not know how to go about finding this kind of number or report. Another acknowledged that this may be a more generational factor and that the newer generation of faculty may not be as interested.
Overall, the number of subscribers and readers reported by a journal does not seem to sway decisions on where to publish. The impact factor of a journal appears more influential to these authors.
Influenced by reported subscribers?
Q5: What is your general attitude towards open access publishing models?
For this question, participants were provided with a brief description of how open access has been defined within this study. Those who filled out questions via email were provided with a definition along with the set of questions. Twelve of the fourteen participants specifically noted that they were in favor of the open access approach to scholarly publishing. Respondents cited increased visibility, information dissemination, and free access as positive aspects of open access. While some of the participants revealed that a positive attitude towards open access does not actually influence their publishing decisions, awareness of relevant issues and an articulated favor towards open access models is promising.
Additional participant comments regarding their attitude towards open access:
"It will increase visibility of research findings."
"I think they're good if the journal is good, but it largely doesn't influence me one way or another."
"I think of it as a highly beneficial development with wide-ranging impact on the practice of science."
"It is the best way to disseminate scientific information in an equitable manner. Not everyone can afford site licenses or subscriptions that are required if you don't have open access."
"If I had a choice between publishing in an open access or a non-open access journal that were roughly equivalent, I would choose open access."
"I publish all my articles in open access when I can."
"I think things should be open, but I also understand that journals have to survive. I think the policy of a 6 month embargo is fine, but it is mostly an irrelevant issue at UNC because they virtually have open access to everything through the library."
Q6: Is publishing in an OA journal an important part of the "where to publish" decision? (see Table )
While all participants were previously identified as OA authors, it was unknown whether each had made a conscious decision to publish in an open access journal. A majority of the UNC-Chapel Hill authors and all of the Duke authors reported that at this time the open access status of a journal does influence publishing decisions. Two participants noted that open access had not been much of an influential factor in the past, but has recently become more important to them as authors. Based on comments from these two authors, it seems an increased awareness of open access as a publishing consideration may be a result of the evolving online publishing environment.
OA part of publishing decision?
Q7: If so, what is your motivation for publishing in an OA venue? (see Table )
Of the participants answering "yes" or "increasingly" to Q6, the five factors were listed as reasons for considering open access when making decisions about where to publish.
Similar to other reports on author attitudes towards OA publishing, a majority of the UNC-Chapel Hill authors (55%) and all of the Duke authors identified free access as a motivation associated with open access. Speed and visibility were mentioned by a minority of participants.
Motivating factors of OA in order of frequency
Q8: Are there any incentives for you to publish in an open access venue? (see Table )
In an attempt to identify possible points for open access promotion, participants were asked to list any incentives for OA publishing.
Four UNC-Chapel Hill authors could not come up with any incentives to publish in an open access venue. Some of the four mentioned that instead there are disincentives present (see Q9). Audience accessibility, in terms of free and/or easy online access, and broad exposure were most often noted as OA incentives. Three of the responses to Q8 included copyright retention as an incentive of open access publishing. While copyright retention was not reported as a motivating factor for OA publishing (Q7), it is important to note that it is viewed as an incentive for some.
Open access incentives in order of frequency
Q9: What disincentives are there for you to publish in an OA venue? (see Table )
Many of the respondents noted that these factors are known perceived disincentives and are not reflective of their personal feelings towards open access. However, some authors reported few venues and lower impact as disincentives directly affecting their own publishing. Four of the five participants who mentioned author fees acknowledged that cost is also an issue in traditional publishing models. While only three of the eleven (28%) UNC-CH participants mentioned author fees in their response to Q9, two of the three (66%) Duke participants noted cost as a disincentive for OA publishing. Two additional participants mentioned that there are no disincentives, specifically since the cost ends up being similar for faculty who use color images or otherwise incur page charges in traditional journals.
Open access disincentives in order of frequency
Q10: Does your department make a statement for or against open access publishing? (see Table )
Only one respondent reported that his department has made a statement regarding open access publishing. In this case, the noted departmental statement was pro-open access. Three respondents from the same academic department at UNC-Chapel Hill mentioned that while there is no formal departmental statement, specific individuals within the department are vocal and encourage open access publishing amongst their colleagues.
Q11: Are you aware that there was an open access convocation on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus? (see Table )
In January of 2005 UNC-Chapel Hill hosted a one and a half day long campus-wide Scholarly Communication Convocation. Issues addressed at the convocation included copyright, institutional repositories, and open access publishing. This question attempted to identify whether the faculty participants were aware of and/or participated in the Convocation.
Only one out of the eleven respondents was aware of the 2005 Convocation. The one author who answered "yes" to this question attended the conference and noted that he did not believe that there were many actively publishing authors in attendance. This question was specifically targeted at the UNC-CH participants, but was also presented to Duke participants. All of the Duke participants responded No.
Aware of the UNC-Chapel Hill Convocation?
Q12: Have you published in any open access journals? (see Table )
Q12 and Q13 were asked in order to determine if the authors made conscious decisions to publish in an open access venue.
The large majority of UNC-Chapel Hill authors and all of the Duke participants were aware of their OA publications. In some responses, authors indicated that they chose a publication specifically based on the OA status. Open archive publications with policies to release items as freely available after a specified amount of time were also included in the recruitment. It is likely that some of the authors were unaware that they had published in an open access or open archive venue because the articles were not freely available at the time of publication.
Published in an open access journal?
Q13: If so, were you responsible for selecting the publication? (see Table )
All but one author indicated responsibility for selecting the open access journals where their work had been published. Two of the "not that I know of" respondents from Q12 answered "yes" to this question, indicating that they were responsible for choosing the publication but were unaware of the OA status of the journal.
Q14: If not, do you know why the decision was made to publish in an OA journal?
There were no responses to this question. All but one participant responded "yes" to Q13, making Q14 irrelevant. The one of the participants who submitted the interview electronically via email, did not respond to this question.
Q15: Were you or any of the other authors responsible for paying author fees? (see Table )
As discussed earlier, some open access journals require authors to pay fees for each publication. In addition to finding out whether or not participants were required to cover author fees when publishing in OA journals, Q15 and Q16 attempted to identify whether or not the author fees associated with open access publishing are a concern for UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke University authors.
The majority of UNC-Chapel Hill participants and all of the Duke participants were responsible for paying author fees. Two of the authors acknowledged that for some of their open access publications, author fees were fully or partially alleviated because of UNC-Chapel Hill institutional memberships with BioMed Central and PLoS. Two of the three authors who answered "no" to the question "have you published in any open access journals?" (Q12), answered "yes" to this question (Q15). These responses indicate that author fees are not limited to open access publishing venues.
Q16: If so, where did the funding come from? (see Table )
All respondents answering "yes" to Q15 reported that author fees were covered by grant funding. It appears that when author charges are required for either open access or more traditional publications, biomedical faculty at UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke University have no trouble covering the costs with grant funding.
Q17: What else do you have to share about open access and publishing?
This question was an opportunity for participants to provide additional commentary on open access issues. They were not asked to provide solutions or possible next steps for the open access movement, but rather to identify areas of the open access conversation that were not covered by previous interview questions. A few of the most interesting comments are listed below.
Some commentary was consistent across multiple participants. For example, three individuals mentioned that they hope open access will become the "norm" within publishing. While some respondents stated that they think this will happen regardless, others believed OA should be encouraged and championed by progressive faculty. Two suggested the maintenance of a rigorous peer-review process as the key to the success and progression of the open access publishing movement. Along the same lines, open peer review and the inclusion of reviewer comments with article publications was noted as a helpful feature found within some open access publications.
Two participants mentioned that while they encourage and promote open access, they also understand the business side of publishing and the coinciding factors requiring consideration. The open access business model of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), requiring authors to pay $1,000 to make an article freely available from the date of publication, was criticized by one author who believed the six month embargo period was sufficient to satisfy the desire for free access to the public.
A number of participants brought up issues concerning copyright and copyright retention during the interviews. For example, copyright retention does not appear to be a high priority for publishing authors. Instead, author participants openly discussed sharing copyright protected material when they have received requests for copies of their own publications from interested individuals. Such comments match with those from other studies.
An additional point of view presented within Q17 was concern regarding possible consequences for junior faculty publishing in open access venues. As tenure and promotion is a serious subject within academic institutions and open access publishing is not yet a widely accepted activity, it is reasonable to question the effect it will have on new faculty. While this is a legitimate consideration, when asked about open access publishing disincentives (Q9), only one participant mentioned concern for career.
Additional participant comments regarding open access and publishing:
"If it were up to me, I would only publish in open access journals."
"I understand that we have to preserve peer-review and that the key to the success of open access is to keep it paired with peer-review."
"Although this may not be a feature shared by all open access journal, I am appreciative of the identifiable peer reviews. In my experience these have been considerably more thorough and thoughtful than the de-identified reviewer critiques we typically get from "conventional" journals."
"Journals like PNAS confuse me when they try to charge authors $1000 to have it immediately open."
"Embargo does not mean much to me because most of the people that will be reading my work are at institutions that have access to the material. Sometimes people will contact me for copies of the articles, so I end up breaking copyright a lot."
"I send pdfs to those who need access...I receive a reasonable amount of these request, mostly from foreign countries."
"I initially got interested in open access because of requests for pdfs from researchers and students in Eastern Europe and Russia who could not afford subscriptions to journals."
"I have never paid to have my research published, but I also have signed over all copyright to the professional journals...which seems to be the tradition for medical journals."
"Another issue that has been brought up is with junior faculty. Is it a good idea for them to publish in open access journals? It could be dangerous."