Why SEDA publications should go open

In John Naughton’s recent article in the Observer he gave some persuasive arguments why academic journals should become ‘open source’.


The subscriptions to journals is a massive cost to university libraries and in turn the taxpayer, ”the average cost of an annual subscription to a chemistry journal is still $3,792 and many journals cost far more. The result is that unconscionable amounts of public money are extracted from our hapless universities in the form of what are, effectively, monopoly rents for a few publishers”. Surely this money could have alternative uses.

Academics are setting up their alternative freely available journals. There is even advise on the web on ‘How to run an open access journal’; http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/pamphlet/2012/03/06/an-efficient-journal/

This in turn is being supported by lecturers promoting their own research articles via Blogs and Twitter. The evidence is beginning to grow that this is a very effective way of getting these articles read by people that matter. See for example, ‘The verdict: is blogging or tweeting about research papers worth it?’: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2012/04/19/blog-tweeting-papers-worth-it/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+ImpactOfSocialSciences+(Impact+of+Social+Sciences)

SEDA publishes Innovations in Education and Teaching International (IETI) and Educational Developments plus numerous special publications….which are fantastic!!I think Seda publications should follow ALT’s lead and become ‘open access journals’ http://www.alt.ac.uk/researchinlearningtechnology2012. This would lead to better access to SEDA publications, substantially reduce publication fees, speed up the publication process and increase the influence and relevance of SEDA ideas in education.

Chris Rowell


  • I agree Chris. Open access would enable the dissemination of research to reach a much wider audience and as you mention the technological affordances of social media encourage such sharing. This sharing culture then opens further potential for future collaborative research. An open online journal could also be linked to the SEDA conference with calls for short and long papers.

    Steve Wheeler’s post ‘The open case’ http://steve-wheeler.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/open-case.html includes a growing list of open journals as does the Directory of Open Journals http://www.doaj.org/.


    • I think this is somehting we shoud seriously consider


    • Hard to be against open. Some things to think about.
      1 Publishing costs! The committee, copy editing, marketing, print, distribution. New publication models can change and reduce these. But they won’t all go away .
      2 Open needn’t mean free. Some open journals charge the author. This would be an interesting transition for SEDA.
      3 I am sure SEDA will soon experiment with e-publication, print-on-demand and other new good stuff. Publication partners such as JISC will want us to use Creative Commons.
      4 But this is all producer-led. We need to talk and listen to current and future members and customers. “What do you want?” would be a good first question.
      5 Let’s experiment. We’re small and agile enough.
      6 And whatever we do we have to at least cover our true costs, and make a
      modest surplus to invest in new products and services.
      7 And keep on producing excellent stuff that our customers want, including new topics and formats.
      Thanks for raising this, Chris. I agree it’s important.


      • For me David raises the three key questions:
        4 But this is all producer-led. We need to talk and listen to current and future members and customers. “What do you want?” would be a good first question.
        5 Let’s experiment. We’re small and agile enough.
        6 And whatever we do we have to at least cover our true costs, and make a
        modest surplus to invest in new products and services.

        At the current time and given SEDA’s ethos, I think we should be presuming that OA is the way to go unless point 4 or point 6 above indicate otherwise.

        There are factors to investigate relating to direct and indirect costs, such as:
        a. Can we still use the same (or similar) publishers with a changed access and cost model?
        b. Should we experiment with publishing in-house (using Free / Open Source software tools like OJS – Open Journal Systems – see a webinar I organised on this at http://www.eifl.net/news/themed-week-open-journal-system-ojs)
        c. By making IETI and EdDevs OA are we reducing the value of SEDA membership? Do we receive income from paid subscriptions to these journals that we would be losing?

        There are many more considerations to be made, but for me this should not be a barrier to going OA but rather a means to ensuring that we find a way to make it work.

  • I agree with David that publishing costs will need to be considered. Personally, I’m not comfortable with charging authors, as that leads to all sorts of questions about the type of person/organisation that can afford to pay for their research to be published; financial means does not seem to be an appropriate measure for deciding which papers get published.

    The problem with scholars simply publishing their research on their own blogs is quality control. As I am forever telling my students, the difference between a peer-reviewed journal and ‘Joelle’s blog’ is that, in theory, the editorial decision for a peer-reviewed academic journal is made on research quality, while anyone can publish any old rubbish on a blog (see my blog for proof of half-developed ideas and reflections).

    If we can find a way to offset costs, I think that an open-access, peer-reviewed journal with Creative Commons licensing would be a welcome asset to the SEDA community, and beyond.

    So, how to offset costs? Advertising? Charging authors? Charge more for other SEDA events and services? Volunteer editorial committee, reviewers and copy-editors paying their own travel and subsistence?



1 Comment

Filed under Open Educational Resources

One response to “Why SEDA publications should go open

  1. Lots of interesting comments, and lots to think about.

    I’d like to pick up on Chris’ comment around how SEDA could increase the influence and relevance of their ideas by ‘going open’.

    At a recent event here at Edinburgh Napier, our staff were discussing the status and relevance of educational research in relation to the upcoming Research Excellence Framework. Some of us were making a distinction between education-related research that could be considered ‘high impact’ in relation to the REF, and the kind of research, evaluation and practice-based work that focuses on innovative and effective approaches to education and educational development that potentially has a ‘high pedagogic impact’. By ‘high pedagogic impact’ we were thinking about work that would be of strong interest to a range of practitioners, have immediately recognisable benefits, clearly explain and exemplify how the interventions being described can be implemented, and have good cross-disciplinary potential.

    Exactly the kind of work often reported in Educational Developments, for example.

    However the potential for this work to have ‘high pedagogic impact’, and to “increase the influence and relevance of SEDA ideas in education” (to quote Chris) is clearly watered down if the work isn’t easily and more immediately accessible.

    I realise the open availability of SEDA publications has to be considered alongside important factors like generating income that can cover costs and help sustain SEDA, but picking up on Joelle’s points perhaps there are different models to be explored?

    SEDA has a widely spread membership, and perhaps there is scope for SEDA to organise workshop ‘tie-ins’ (hosted at contributing authors’ institutions) that would provide participants with opportunities to further explore particular approaches and interventions reported on in Educational Developments? By hosting workshops at the authors institution costs could be kept down (the authors don’t need travel or accommodation), and by charging a reasonable fee that would cover costs with a litte extra to spare maybe we would have an alternative stream of income to replace what subscription to SEDA publicatons brings in? In terms of member benefits, then perhaps events of this kind could offer a reasonable ‘members discount’ and charge more for non-members?



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