Can you explain what prompted the journal to move to open access?
There were several factors behind this change. First, many of our readers come from practice environments (police, community organizations, etc.) and therefore did not have a subscription enabling them to consult our most recent issues even though our issues and our themes are designed in function of this readership.
Secondly, the thematic nature of our issues means that, with each issue, the journal seeks to reach new readers specifically interested in the theme. The fact that the most recent issues were reserved for subscribers limited the impact of our strategies to promote the journal.
Thirdly, the principal objective of our authors is to be read, cited and recognized by their peers. We believe that if we want to attract good authors and good guest editors, we must be able to assure them that their work will have the visibility they deserve.
Fourthly, we have benefitted from grants from major granting agencies (SSHRC and FRQSC) for a number of years. It therefore seemed logical to pass on this financial benefit to our authors, who all work as volunteers for the journal, and to our readers.
“We wanted to send the message that Criminologie, despite the fact that it will be 50 years old in 2018, was able to adapt to the new realities of scholarly publishing.”
Finally, the journal’s operation depends on these grants. Moving to open access seemed to us to constitute an effective strategy to ensure the journal’s sustainability, something to show committees that evaluate us that we innovate and that we seek to share the results of our work. By being among the first of the more traditional journals to make the big jump, we wanted to send the message that Criminologie, despite the fact that it will be 50 years old in 2018, was able to adapt to the new realities of scholarly publishing.
Was there much resistance?
On the contrary! The project was quickly endorsed by our entire team (the editorial committee and the board of directors which has more than 20 members) and its partners (the Presses de l’Université de Montréal and the Érudit Consortium). From the very first discussions, the Presses de l’Université de Montréal were quite enthusiastic and supported us throughout the entire process. And yet, they were the most closely affected by the transition to open access because they received royalties from our digital subscriptions in exchange for their publishing services.
Do you already see the effects of the transition to open access?
The transition to open access is still too recent (January 2017) for us to be able to say much about its effects, but we are confident that we will see an increase in the number of views and downloads of the more recent articles. According to Sarah Cameron-Pesant and her collaborators*, although Criminologie has a high download rate (an annual average of 210 downloads per article as opposed to an average of 80 downloads for other journals in Érudit), the number of times an article is downloaded the year that it is published is particularly low. This goes against the general trend since article downloads in the social sciences and humanities usually undergo a “sudden and substantial growth followed by a decline”. The authors suggest that open access will enable Criminologie to partake in this tendency with articles gaining wide distribution from the outset.
“If we want to attract good authors and good guest editors, we must be able to assure them that their work will have the visibility they deserve.”
How does journal offset the loss of income related to digital subscriptions?
Prior to open access, the contents of the most recent two years (4 issues) were restricted to subscribers. The end of digital subscriptions created a loss estimated at less than $8,000 per year. It was offset by a decrease in the cost of Érudit and by a grant of $3,800 offered by Canadian universities to journals to support them in their transition to a more open-access form of publication. If our conversion allows us to maintain our grants to support scholarly journals in future competitions, then we have a winning strategy.
What is the policy of the journal with regards to the paper format?
Hard-copy subscriptions have always constituted the largest part of our subscription revenues. More than 75% of our long-time subscribers are Canadian or foreign institutions (libraries, governments, etc.) and it is a safe bet that they will keep their hard-copy subscriptions. For each hard-copy issue, more than 300 copies continue to be printed. A little more than a third are for subscriptions. The remaining copies are sold in bookstores or distributed to journal members (authors, members of the administration and editorial committees, etc.), agencies or institutions that may be interested in the theme covered by the issue.
Since the point of moving to open access was to ensure greater visibility for the journal, this change in the digital subscription does not affect the paper edition. On the contrary, the paper edition continues to be an excellent way for our journal to gain visibility, to be read and to enhance the influence of our authors, our guest editors, our evaluators and our great team who all work hard to advance knowledge.
“Since the point of moving to open access was to ensure greater visibility for the journal, this change in the digital subscription does not affect the paper edition.”
* The data come from an article to appear in the next issue of Criminologie that celebrates the 50th anniversary of our journal. The authors have analyzed journal’s article download data which allows one to analyze how readers treat the discipline and its themes.
Translated from French by Peter Keating.