Judith Winters

Cite this as: Winters, J. 2015 Editorial, Internet Archaeology 38.

This is my first editorial since Internet Archaeology switched completely to open access.

Neon sign. We are open

Image credit: Photofunia

Over the last 4 years, we had been making active efforts to achieve our open access goal, by changing to a default CC-BY licence, by opening up our back issues with an annual rolling wall, and by adjusting our subscription charges accordingly. During this time, we also witnessed a marked increase in quality, funded submissions, including several themed issues. Internet Archaeology has always tried to be more than just a journal. We explore the possibilities of the web and have delved into many different publication formats. This flexibility extends into everything we do. Being a small operation has meant we could be responsive to changes in the wider scholarly landscape, and last year, the journal had simply reached the tipping point.

The start of our open access journey can probably be pinned back to 2004 (IA had only been a subscription journal for about 3 years at that stage) when JISC first contacted us. They had been asked by "someone working in the education community" (we never found out who) to consider licensing journal content for the UK community as a whole. This tentative enquiry was followed up by a consultation across the UK academic sector and given the overwhelmingly positive feedback, JISC awarded us some transitional funding to help the journal transfer to an open access business model. As a result, the journal backfile was opened up to the UK's Higher and Further Education community in 2006.

Skip forward to 2009, the discourse surrounding open access was more mainstream and our hitherto unspoken policy to make articles freely available when their publication costs were covered was made more formal and soon after, we published our first author-funded open access article. This heralded the start of our truly hybrid phase with pockets of open access in most subsequent issues where authors had been able to secure funding. We never intended the hybrid phase to be anything other than transitional and continued to demonstrate our intent through various events such as Open Access week. For me though, the real turning point was in June 2012 when I attended a Repositories Support Project day in London on developments in open access. Delegates got a preview of the soon to be published Finch report and I came away feeling that the move to open access was actually inevitable and that the issue was really only about the length of the transition period. With text and data mining also being another driver for open access, I felt this put the journal, along with ADS, in an exceptionally strong position and that we should capitalise on it.

In tandem, I was aware that a lot of my time and effort was being spent on keeping people from reading material and maintaining access-restriction mechanisms for the journal, rather than on other technical developments such as improving the search mechanism. Surely there was a better course of action? I also questioned what the benefits really were in keeping the barriers down on content when we might actually benefit more from lifting them. So a significant step at the end of 2012 was to make the first 21 issues totally open. This was our clear demonstration of intent to readers and to authors - our commitment to the end point. The reason for doing it in stages was really very pragmatic. The journal needed to rely on the income from subscriptions to the remaining recent issues but this gave us a buffer, allowed us to test the water properly and aid the push for author contributions (which were on the increase). The cost of subscriptions was reduced accordingly and, following on from recommendations made in the Finch report, we also switched our default licence to CC-BY.

A further two issues were opened up in January 2014 which made more than 50% of content open access. With the rapid changes happening all around us, I felt that this took us to the tipping point. It was the time to take the final leap. I contacted JISC about our plans and once again they came to our aid. Not financial this time but in terms of supporting the management and promotion of an institutional open access membership model. The summer was spent unpicking the authentication system and developing details of the membership scheme for both UK and overseas institutions and the journal's transition was announced in September 2014.

I am pleased to say that since September, I have never been so busy. Switching to open access has definitely been the right choice for a data-rich, multimedia (and sometimes experimental) journal like Internet Archaeology. It was the right choice too because open access is good for scholarship and it is good for our discipline and its profile, especially in these stringent times. There are significant academic, professional and social benefits that come with opening up access to archaeological research and it is the most effective way of ensuring that that research can be read, integrated and built upon.

Internet Archaeology remains an independent, not-for-profit journal and our income derives solely from article charges, along with a bit of advertising and occasional project involvement. The journal's income stream has always been and will continue to be a mixed one. Don't think we've reached publishing nirvana just yet - there are still risks. There's been a fundamental shift in that we have rejected what was a steady subscription income that more or less covered our running costs for a less predictable income from funded articles, monographs and themed issues, albeit to content that now everyone can access. Much that encircles us is still unchartered territory and the production costs don't go away even when the toll barrier does (especially for a journal like IA that is so open to publishing and presenting a wide range of data). Financing may always remain a little messy and come from a combination of sources.

We've come a long way but we still need your help. So, when you are setting out on your new project and applying for funding, don't put off thinking about the end of your project just because it feels too fuzzy and far-away. The reality is, if you don't think about this and its associated costs from the outset, then it will be even more difficult to find funds later on. Internet Archaeology experiments with all sorts of different publishing formats but open access demands that we all need to be experimental, creative and bold with our publication funding models too.


Internet Archaeology content is preserved for the long term with the Archaeology Data Service. Help sustain and support open access publication by donating to our Open Access Archaeology Fund.

Internet Archaeology is an open access journal based in the Department of Archaeology, University of York. Except where otherwise noted, content from this work may be used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY) Unported licence, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided that attribution to the author(s), the title of the work, the Internet Archaeology journal and the relevant URL/DOI are given.

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Internet Archaeology content is preserved for the long term with the Archaeology Data Service. Help sustain and support open access publication by donating to our Open Access Archaeology Fund.