Monday, June 4, 2012

A broken promise

I am afraid I have to admit I have broken a promise that I made a couple of years ago.

Exactly two years ago I promised that I would only submit articles for publication in open access journals. The reason for this was that I am very committed to making research openly and freely available to everyone, especially colleagues who live in resource-poor countries. But the reality has been more difficult that I thought it would be.

Over the last nine months I have submitted five articles to six journals for publication. One was flatly refused, so I submitted it to another journal.
  • One article has just been published in the Australasian Journal of Educational Technology:  On the MUVE or in decline: Reflecting on the sustainability of the Virtual Birth Centre developed in Second Life. This journal was chosen because it is open access, and because it was calling for articles about Second Life, so the timing for submission was fortuitous.
  • One article has been published in the International Nursing Review: International networking: connecting midwives through social media. This journal is not open access, but the article is freely available at the moment. 
  • Another article about the Virtual International Day of the Midwife has been accepted by the Nurse Education in Practice, subject to changes - we're still waiting to hear what the outcome is about this article. This is not an open access journal, but was chosen because it best suited the article.
  • The fourth article about my e-mentoring project with aged care has been submitted to the Health Informatics New Zealand journal. I am waiting to hear if this has been accepted or not. This is an open access journal.
  • My last article has been submitted Women and Birth, and I am waiting to hear if it is accepted or not. This is the only "quality" open access midwifery journal that I am aware of.
Why it is difficult to publish in open access journals
There are several reasons why it has been difficult to publish in open access journals. The main reason is because there are so few suitable, quality open access journals for midwives and nurses to publish research. This is concerning for me as a midwifery academic, especially in view of the pressure put on me to publish in "top rated" journals. I want to support open access journals, but at the same time, I have to think about my academic career progression, which highly driven by publications, as far as universities are concerned.

I have also turned down requests to write opinion pieces in magazine-type journals, which  are not open access. But I do wonder if I have shot myself in the foot by taking this decision. If the greater midwifery audience reads these types of journals, how can I get any message across if I do not engage with them? How do you balance deeply held beliefs with every day pragmatics? 

The future?
For all my angst, I think the future is looking very good for open access journal publication. Only the other day, Harvard announced it is encouraging its staff to publish in open access journals because it cannot afford the incredibly expensive journal subscriptions it pays. Another glimmer of hope is the Australian Health Research Council has mandated that any research it funds must be made freely available within a year of publication, as from July 2012.

As for nursing and midwifery, the time is ripe to start exploring how to support open access research publication. Any ideas?

Image: 'Broken Rusty Lock: Security (grunge)'


healthskills said...

I'm with you 100% Sarah - it's a difficult balancing act: publish in so-called "quality" journals that might not get read by the very people you want to inform, or publish in accessible journals that don't rate, or rate very poorly. As for many health researchers, our journals don't hit the headlines, unlike Science or Nature or those biggies, and yet we're measured by the same yardsticks as researchers who are researching popular topics - popular at least to the publishers. Funny thing is, I heard the same comments from my orthopaedic colleagues, and yet their journals rate far more highly than ones I'd publish in.
I don't think it's a broken promise, just pragmatics, but I feel a similar sense of angst about trying to meet two different values.

Sarah Stewart said...

Healthskills: For this year's PBRF I have included a lot of my "open access" work. I shall be really interested to see how that is viewed by the panel. This will give a baseline to compare against, say, in 5 years when I think the academic publishing landscape will have changed...with more of a swing to OA.