Journal of Library Administration editorial board resigns over author rights

The Journal of Library Administration is published by Taylor & Francis, a big publishing conglomerate. According to Brian Mathews, while he was in the middle of putting together a special issue on the future of libraries he received notice that the editorial board was resigning due to conflicts with the publisher around what kind of author rights regime the journal should use. Here is the note he received from the board:

The Board believes that the licensing terms in the Taylor & Francis author agreement are too restrictive and out-of-step with the expectations of authors in the LIS community.

A large and growing number of current and potential authors to JLA have pushed back on the licensing terms included in the Taylor & Francis author agreement. Several authors have refused to publish with the journal under the current licensing terms.

Authors find the author agreement unclear and too restrictive and have repeatedly requested some form of Creative Commons license in its place.

After much discussion, the only alternative presented by Taylor & Francis tied a less restrictive license to a $2995 per article fee to be paid by the
Author. As you know, this is not a viable licensing option for authors from the LIS community who are generally not conducting research under large grants.

Thus, the Board came to the conclusion that it is not possible to produce a quality journal under the current licensing terms offered by Taylor & Francis and chose to collectively resign.

Bravo to the editorial board of JLA for taking such a principled stand.

For a bit more background, Jason Griffey gives the perspective of an author approached by Mathews who strongly disagreed with T&F's current author rights regime. From the other side, Chris Bourg gives the perspective of someone on the JLA editorial board and a bit on how they came to their decision.

Along with many others in the comments on the various blog posts, Peter Suber suggests the board take the next step and launch their own new journal. Suber also helpfully points to a list of journals that have done just that.

My take?

First of all, I think it's a bit unfortunate that Mathews took his rather forward-thinking project to a rather backwards-thinking traditional toll access journal. The way to envision the future is to be the future to want to happen, and it's hard to imagine T&F embodying the future of scholarly communications in a way that anybody but the big commercial publishers would like to see.

That being said, I do sincerely hope his project finds a more suitable home and that one of the themes it explores is the library's role in a fairer, more open scholarly communications ecosystem.

As for the future of JLA, I hope T&F is able to move into the future and create a author rights regime that is more in sync with what authors in the LIS fields are looking for. For the resigned editorial board, I wish for them a way forward, a new partnership with an institution or society that will allow them and the authors they recruit in the future to openly envision and create the future.

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I'm sorry about this (Brian's issue theme sounds wonderful). I am using this as a teaching tool with my faculty colleagues, as it's a great example of the problems in current scholarly publishing. It's also a great example of why it's useful for us librarians to do the same thing that our faculty peeps do -- so we understand their concerns AND so we can share some of our concerns with situations like this.

By Stephanie Brown (not verified) on 25 Mar 2013 #permalink