Budget concerns restrict research

Subscriptions to scholarly journals cost the University between $20 and $19,000 per year

Sam Kalb, scholarly communication services coordinator, says the international Open Access Week movement promotes research.
Sam Kalb, scholarly communication services coordinator, says the international Open Access Week movement promotes research.

Due to budget restrictions, the University hasn’t subscribed to every scholarly journal requested by faculty and students.

The decision limits research and studies conducted at the University, says Sam Kalb, the scholarly communication services co-ordinator for the Queen’s Library System.

During Open Access Week — which runs until Sunday — the Library promotes a system whereby scholars submit their work for free into an online database.

Kalb said the system offers an alternative to costly academic journals. A journal subscription can cost the University anywhere from $20 to $19,000 per year.

Scientific journals are generally more expensive, Kalb said, adding that this could be due to the cost of research and the number of images.

A subscription to the specialized chemistry journal, Tetrahedron costs $19,000 per year.

“There are journals, like in medicine or business, that are very expensive that we haven’t been able to subscribe to. Particularly specialized things, where not many people are studying,” Kalb said. “We have to make decisions on what journals and databases will meet the needs of most faculty and students.”

The Library System currently subscribes to over 500 journal databases, including 77 subscriptions to dictionaries and encyclopedias, 74 subscriptions to journals in social sciences and 64 subscriptions to health and life science publications.

Kalb said discipline-specific librarians meet with faculty and staff in each field to make decisions about subscriptions. He said he wants to promote open access at these meetings.

Queen’s currently has two open access services: the Open Journal Systems (OJS) and QSpace.

OJS is a free program offered by the University for faculty, staff and students to publish journals online. They currently have 12 published journals.

QSpace is an online repository for authors to submit their articles, theses or other scholarly works. There are currently over 5,000 entries.

One problem with the open access system is that the journals aren’t seen as prestigious, Kalb said.

He said academic culture needs to shift its focus to account for an article’s merit instead of where it was published.

“In an online environment there is a gradual change because people are focusing on the individual articles they find in indexes rather than going to those prestigious journals in the first place,” Kalb said.

Open access benefits researchers with more available research and graduate students that want their work widely distributed, Kalb said, however the problem is that open journals aren’t commonly used, especially in the humanities.

“There’s still the imperative for scholars to publish in certain journals if they’re going to get a job, promoted or tenure,” Kalb said, adding that the amount of people publishing in open journals will be limited until this system changes.

Usually once an article is published, the author loses ownership of the work. If an author purchases a copyright from a journal, the article can be submitted to an online repository.

Queen’s currently doesn’t have the budget to pay for this copyright fee, Kalb said, adding that this is a growing practice at other Canadian universities such as the University of Calgary.

“I think they can be prestigious in time, the whole field is fairly new,” Kalb said.

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