The title of this blog is inspired by the title of a presentation (https://www.slideshare.net/tomfarrelly37/free-yes-open-no-journal-articles-as-oers) by myself and Eamon Costello at the Cascadia Open Education Summit in Simon Fraser University in April 2019. As part of the editorial team of the Irish Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning, an open access, peer reviewed journal published by the Irish Learning Technology Association, myself and Eamon have a strong interest and commitment to open access publishing.
This interest has manifested itself in a number of ways (including a workshop at OER 19); however, the main empirical thrust of our work is a review of open access publishing from 2010-2017 [Paper submitted and under consideration]. Over the past year we (along with Tony Murphy) have been tracking Gold Open Access (OA) papers across 30 Educational Technology Hybrid Journals. As part of our background research it quickly become apparent that there is a wide range of terms associated with openness. For example, in terms of classification of openness there is Diamond and Platinum, Gold, Green and Bronze OA; all of which confer different degrees of copyright, ownership, cost and ultimately: access. As a consequence there is the potential for misunderstanding on the part of both consumers and producers of articles.
Ostensibly, while the research has examined Gold OA papers in hybrid journals we also tracked the availability of Free or what are sometimes referred to as Bronze Open Access papers. In his article [Bronze, Free or Fourrée] Eamon Costello (2018) describes Bronze in the following terms:
“Bronze shares attributes of Gold and Hybrid; like both, Bronze OA articles are publisher-hosted. Unlike Gold OA, Bronze articles are not published in journals considered open access in the DOAJ. Unlike Hybrid, Bronze articles carry no license information. Although this lack of identifiable license may not be intentional, without an identifiable license, the articles are free to read but do not allow extended reuse rights beyond reading”.
As such, this type of ‘Bronze’ articles certainly fall short of David Wiley’s 5Rs of openness; offering at best a limited and ultimately an unstable level of access. If a journal article is to become a useful and realistic Open Educational Resource (OER) it needs to be available and accessible. Thus, if an article can be withdrawn at any time it makes it very difficult if not impossible to meaningfully incorporate it into a teaching and learning strategy. At least with a subscription journal article you know where you stand, both as a user and an author and can act accordingly.
This begged the question: just how transient are these free Bronze access papers? Perhaps they were more stable/unstable than we imagined? Tracking the Free articles as well as the Gold access journals provided us with the opportunity to answer this question.
The top 30 EdTech journals were selected from the Scimajo Journal Ranking (SJR) website which is powered by Scopus. Individual journals were searched with the number of open access and free access articles per issue recorded. The initial search of the 30 journals was carried out the start of the 2018/2019 academic year in early September 2018 which resulted in over 7,500 articles being identified. Out of this 7,500 articles just over 220 were noted as being gold open access while 161 were recorded as being free. Subsequently the free articles were tracked per issue at three further collection points: the end of the first semester in December 2018; the end of the second semester in June 2019 and again the start of the academic year in the first week of September 2019. At each point in time the number of Gold and Free (Bronze) Access papers was noted and tracked over the year. In terms of categorization, only the number of original articles were recorded – editorials, errata, addenda or book reviews were discounted.
Of the 30 journal titles, fourteen had no free articles at the start or at any time throughout the year:
|Internet Reference Services Quarterly||0|
|IEEE Transactions on Learning Technologies||0|
|Interactive Learning Environments||0|
|College and Undergraduate Libraries||0|
|International Journal of Lifelong Education||0|
|Education and Information Technologies||0|
|Journal of Library and Information Services in Distance Learning||0|
|International Review of Education||0|
|International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning||0|
|International Journal of Distance Education Technologies||0|
|Journal of Global Information Technology Management||0|
|International Journal of Game-Based Learning||0|
|American Journal of Distance Education||0|
|Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions||1|
|Learning Environments Research||1|
|Reference Services Review||3|
|Adult Education Quaterly||3|
|Transforming Government: People||4|
|Internet and Higher Education||5|
|International Journal of Mobile Learning and Organisation||5|
|New Review of Academic Librarianship||9|
|Information Technology for Development||10|
|Government Information Quarterly||13|
|Computers and Education||16|
|Journal of Computer Assisted Learning||17|
|International Journal of Artificial Intelligence in Education||27|
|British Journal of Educational Technology||41|
While it is our intention to publish a full paper shortly with a more detailed analysis of the data a number of issues are particularly noteworthy, not least the dramatic fall in the availability of the free articles over a one year period where we noted an almost 75% drop in availability.
This dramatic drop is very evident when one looks at a number of the individual titles. For example, the British Journal of Educational Technology (BJET) had one of the most dramatic drops; dropping from 41 in September 2018 to 11 by September 2019. The Journal of Computer Assisted Learning went from 17 to 0 during the same period of time. In some instances entire issues that had previously been free were no longer available without charge.
As previously noted, it is our intention to formally publish a more comprehensive commentary piece drawing on the data. However, we consider that the data is of sufficient interest to the OA and OER community that in the interim it will inform and stimulate further discussion.
Please cite as: Farrelly, T., Costello, E. & Murphy, T. (2019) Free? Yes. Open? No. Bronze Open Access Journal Articles as OERs. Available from https://farrellytom.wordpress.com/2019/09/09/free-yes-open-no-bronze-open-access-journal-articles-as-oers/