SAGE Open: Celebrating 2 years of open access publishing in the Social Sciences

Guest post by Lucy Robinson, Executive Publisher, SAGE UK

Last month we celebrated the second birthday of SAGE Open, the world’s first broad-spectrum open access journal for the humanities and social sciences. This coincided with a breakout session I convened at this year’s UKSG Annual Conference in Bournemouth to share SAGE’s experiences of open access publishing in the social sciences.

Why SAGE Open?

Since opening for submissions in December 2010, and launching with 6 published papers just a few months later in May 2011, a huge amount has been happening in open access publishing in the UK and around the world. In particular, the challenges the social sciences face in finding funds to cover Article Processing Charges (APC’s) for gold open access publishing remains subject to important ongoing debate.

As a leading independent academic and professional publisher, and the foremost publisher of the social sciences, SAGE is uniquely placed to launch and develop the premier open access destination for the social sciences. Founded as a social science publisher, for nearly 50 years we have championed research across the social and behavioural sciences. In SAGE’s already long-established history, the development of SAGE Open has an especially natural fit in nurturing and creating new fields of international and interdisciplinary research. A core vision in launching SAGE Open was to continue to support new research, and the connections and discoveries between and within disciplines that will serve to shape and enrich our understanding of society for future generations to come.

What have we achieved so far?

SAGE Open has had a fantastic first two years. Not only has it attracted nearly 1,000 article submissions in the first year of launch alone, but it has now been recognised with an APEX award for excellence . We are currently projecting to reach 3,000 submissions by the end of 2013. Authors are submitting from around the world with papers from over 75 countries, demonstrating SAGE’s outreach around the globe. Our fundamental commitment to quality is reflected in a high rejection rate (around 70% of submitted papers are rejected).To date, we have published just over 180 articles and are currently publishing on average 10 new articles per month which we expect to grow significantly over the longer term.

What have we learnt?

Launching a broad based open access journal in the social sciences that spans all disciplines, inevitably requires a large amount of support from the academic community it is seeking to serve, all the more so when open access remains very much in its relative infancy in the social sciences and humanities. While open access awareness has increased dramatically in the last 12-18 months, driving submissions and delivering quality, high volume open access publications requires significant editorial and marketing investment. Different research cultures in the social sciences and humanities often present very different evaluative measures in establishing quality research. In the more established open access publishing fields of the natural sciences, an open access journal is able to accept a high percentage of papers on technical scientific criteria alone.

We are indebted to SAGE Open’s Advisory and Editorial Boards and the hundreds of article editors and reviewers now supporting SAGE Open. Only through their time and commitment in ever increasing numbers have we been able to significantly improve our turnaround times since launch, for example, and to attract more authors to an open access alternative. We are also proactively working with our social science editor and society partners to partner with us in referring authors to SAGE Open.

The future?

We are excited about the research we are publishing for a future generation of social scientists and humanities researchers and the world at large in SAGE Open. There remain, however, very real challenges in building sustainable open access alternatives for the social sciences and humanities compared to STEM subjects. From our own research, we know, for example, that less than 15% of our social science journal authors received any form of direct funding for their published research article. As an independent publisher SAGE is able to take a long term view in supporting the development of open access publishing for existing and new fields of research in areas long core to our vision and mission. We will continue at the same time, however, to lobby against a one-size-fits all approach and remain a passionate defender of the social sciences, mixed business models and the need for increased, not less, funding for social science research.

To learn more about SAGE Open please visit the SAGE Open homepage


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