Astute paleontologists are likely aware by now of major changes ahead for the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology's Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, announced in July and detailed in this blog post. The journal has grown at a tremendous rate, and something needed to be done in order to ensure continued high quality, timely publication, and financial viability into the foreseeable future. After extensive research, the decision was made to partner with commercial publisher Taylor & Francis.
Of course, many questions remained for those of us who follow issues of academic publishing and access to publications. What would happen to copyright of articles? Who gets the profits from sales of the journal? Would authors still be able to post a PDF on their website? So, I drafted an email and sent it along to the relevant folks in SVP's leadership.
I am now happy to say that an extensive list of FAQs, responding to questions from me and other folks, is now posted at SVP's website [link to PDF]. Every single one of my questions (and others) was addressed, in detail. My sincere thanks goes to the individuals at SVP who put this together! Major points (and some commentary) follow:
Copyright will stay with the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (as appropriate - publications produced by many government workers should be exempted), as has been the case in the past. This is a Good Thing.
Is This Forever?
The contract lasts five years - so, SVP has the option to find another publisher or renegotiate at the end of this period. Again, a Good Thing. This also means, however, that those society members with an interest in commenting on or influencing the renewal process have about three (or at most four) years to wait before springing to action. Mark your calendars for SVP 2012 and 2013. Given the rapid pace at which academic publishing is changing right now, it will certainly be worth taking a close look at the conditions of journal publication in a few years.
In the new publishing arrangement, authors will benefit from faster publication (by going from four issues a year to six). This is, of course, a major plus. Other benefits are, in my opinion, slightly more mixed. Gone are the days when we can (legally) pay an affordable fee for the right to post the PDF of our published work to a personal web page. We will, however, receive a PDF that can be emailed to colleagues and those who request it. This unfortunately represents a step backwards for the (legal) distribution of paleontological information. As a consolation prize, though, we get 50 free paper reprints of our articles! [editorial note: I had a rant written on this topic, but decided against including it here in the end. Suffice it to say that I personally find paper reprints less than useful in this day and age, recognizing that others may not share this opinion]
It is probably no surprise that JVP will not be going to an open access model, even a delayed open access model. On a small positive note, authors now have the option of purchasing complete open access for their article (presently, to the tune of $3,250) through Taylor & Francis's iOpenAccess program.
It's still far too early to know for sure how JVP's transition to Taylor & Francis will work out. As mentioned above, the world of academic publishing is changing. Only time will tell if the switch is a Totally Good Thing or not.