NASIG and open access

Today, NASIG announced pursuit of a partnership with its sister organization, UKSG, to publish its conference proceedings in their open access (OA) journal, Insights, starting in 2021. Personally and professionally, this gives me enormous satisfaction, as it is something NASIG has been trying to move toward for a long time.

The latest iteration of the move toward OA began with a conversation with UKSG’s Interim Executive Director, Bev Acreman, during a Skype call in late 2017. That call was arranged for the two of us to talk about ways NASIG and UKSG might collaborate more closely together. The idea crystallized further in a followup meeting in February 2018 between Bev, Andrew Barker (soon to be elected UKSG chair), Angela Dresselhaus (then NASIG Vice President/President-Elect), and me, followed by further discussions with UKSG leadership while I attended the UKSG annual conference in Glasgow in April of last year. I invited Andrew to formally present the UKSG Insights proposal to the NASIG Board at its June 2018 meeting in Atlanta, and we had a very good discussion. NASIG Board members were generally in favor of the proposal, but concerned about how to fund it.

The funding aspect is crucial and kudos go to NASIG’s current president, Angela Dresselhaus, for keeping the whole idea moving forward during her term, and for thinking creatively about how to fund this transition. People commonly assume that OA means “free” and it does for readers, but that does not mean there is no cost to it. As mentioned in the announcement linked above, the cost for NASIG to move to OA in partnership with UKSG is estimated at $25,000 per year. The Board is  considering ways to redirect funds toward this amount and to identify new funding sources as well. Part of the stumbling block for moving to OA in the past has been the fact that OA costs money, but also it is because our current publishing arrangement allows for income from the commercial publisher (Taylor & Francis) who currently publishes our proceedings within the journal, Serials Librarian.

In spite of the funding challenges, I firmly believe this is the right move. I’ve long believed that moving to OA for its proceedings aligns with NASIG’s values, mission, and vision, and positions the organization well for where the broader scholarly community is headed. For example, UKSG switched their journal to OA some time ago, as did the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) for their flagship journal, College & Research Libraries, and the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS) for their journal, Library Resources and Technical Services.

The move announced today is the culmination of years of effort by many people. For example, as far back as 2008/2009, explorations were made during Jill Emery’s NASIG presidency about transitioning to OA, and a task force report on this topic was reviewed the next year. More recently, good progress in moving NASIG toward OA was made in negotiations with Taylor & Francis (the most recent agreement allows for OA after a six month embargo). If all the details are worked out successfully, the partnership with UKSG will provide full, immediate OA with continuous publication via Ubiquity Press.

This approach is not only good news for OA, but also represents an important strengthening of collaboration between UKSG and NASIG. NASIG was founded in 1985 based on UKSG’s example and with significant input from UKSG’s founder, John Merriman, among others. The relationship has been strong ever since, with leaders of each organization attending the others’ annual conference and more recently, with establishment of the John Merriman Joint NASIG/UKSG Award.

Strong collaboration between similar scholarly/professional societies like UKSG and NASIG is smart and the right thing to do. I look forward to seeing how this relationship will continue to thrive and produce even more benefits for members of each organization as well as the broader library and information sciences profession.

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