Most special education journals are published by large academic publishers (e.g., Elsevier, SAGE, Springer, Taylor & Francis, Wiley) that have huge profit margins, often exceeding those of Apple, Google, and Amazon. These remarkable profits traditionally have been driven by the expensive contracts university libraries enter into with large academic publishers so students and faculty can access the articles in the publisher’s journals. Although academic publishers do not pay researchers to conduct studies, write the papers, or peer review the papers, they charge the institutions where many researchers work to access published articles. For others (colleagues at universities who do not subscribe to a publisher, teachers, parents), most articles in the special education research base are behind paywalls, accessible only by paying a fee.
However, different models of open-access publishing that enable all research consumers to access articles freely are increasing in popularity. In one model, authors pay an article-processing charge (APC), which varies by journal but is usually around $3,000 per paper in special education journals (but can be much more expensive; e.g., $11,690 to make an article openly accessible in Nature), and the paper is then made freely accessible to all online. In gold open-access journals (e.g., AERA Open), paying APCs is the only way to publish papers (i.e., all papers are openly accessible in gold journals). In hybrid journals, which most mainstream special education now are, most articles are still behind a paywall, but authors can opt to pay an APC to make their specific article freely available online.
The number of gold open access journals is growing. That is potentially good news for research consumers but may have negative consequences for researchers and the research base. APCs are trending up as publishers seek to maximize profit in gold-access journals. Thus, depending on one’s resources, researchers may be unable to afford to publish in certain journals. Editors are reportedly being pressured to accept and publish more papers in their journals to increase the number of APCs paid to the publisher, which could dilute the quality of the published literature base. These developments have led to the editorial team at NeuroImage and its companion journal NeuroImage: Reports resigning to start their own journal with lower APCs, associate editors of Journal of Biogeography resigning en masse, the senior editors of Nutrients resigning, and the editor of Journal of Political Philosophy being removed (for refusing to publish more papers).
One reason publishers can charge large APCs is that academics must publish in rigorous, impactful journals to be tenured and promoted. We believe it certainly is possible for journals controlled by academics and university libraries to be every bit as rigorous and impactful as the journals that create huge profit margins for large publishing houses, while – because no profits are being generated – making articles openly accessible and not charging authors to publish. And we’ve decided to put our money where our mouth (and heart) is. Supported by the University of Virginia Library and the Aletheia Society, Research in Special Education (RiSE) will publish rigorous, relevant, and open scholarship without APCs. We will also be engaging in other innovative practices (e.g., publishing de-identified peer reviews; facilitating and recognizing open practices; publishing registered reports, studies with null findings, replication studies.) We hope you’ll consider being involved (e.g., as an author, as a reviewer) with this diamond open-access journal (i.e., providing open access to articles without charging authors APCs) run by special education researchers for the special education community.