Open access scholarly work in the addictions: Yes we can!

While I’m waiting for my phd to be examined, I’m (naturally) attempting to publish in reputable academic journals as this is the best way for me to continue my academic career by winning a fellowship. Without those publications, my fellowship chances are nil. Academic publishing, through peer review by my colleagues, is essential for me to get anywhere. The peer review system also improve the articles I write and acts as a filter so I can’t just publish any old ‘crap’, like I can to this blog 🙂 The skills of my peers in this field are really valuable. Of course I also want people to read my work and respond to it. However, now that we have the internet and I have this blog and twitter etc., the role of ‘reputable academic journals’ in this process is somewhat less important.

The main problem with this system in my opinion is that I want *everyone* to have access to resulting journal article. Why should my work be behind a paywall? Why should the readers be restricted to those with institutional connections in the academy?

To get an idea of the lunacy of academic publishing as it stands today, check out this animation:

What do publishers actually do? I don’t need my article printed. I can take care of the formatting. I provide the content. A group of colleagues can provide the peer review and I will and do peer review for my colleagues. The skills to run a website and an online system for reviewing and submitting are not difficult, although there is an element of time involved. Even then, most of the work is done by academics, not by the publishers. What exactly is my university paying the publisher for?

And if I want to publish in the small number of so-called Open Access journals in the drugs/alcohol/addiction field, myself or my university is asked to pay a publishing fee, which is in many cases over $1000. This is prohibitive. Governments and universities already pay once for the production of research through issuing grant moneys and salaries through fellowships and the like. Then they are asked to pay again to publish the article OR the reader is asked to pay.

To top off the lunacy of this system, I sign away the rights to my article when I publish in a traditional academic journal. So the publisher can make more money and restrict access to the content in order to do so. Yet, without any of us, the publisher would have nothing to sell and no profit to make.

So, can we create a truly open access journal for the drugs/alcohol/addictions research area? I say, yes we can!

And the NHMRC CEO thinks so too.

What do you think? Let’s keep talking and see what we can make happen!

Also see the Open Access Week and the Open Access Pledge.

9 thoughts on “Open access scholarly work in the addictions: Yes we can!”

  1. Hi Monica
    a brilliant animation – count me in on any developments
    open access isn’t just about the absurdity financially – crucially (and especially in the drugs field) getting our work in the public domain rather than closed expensive subscription-only journals would help to open debate, knowledge, innovation, ideas and critical thinking to the public, drug users, drug workers, policy makers, managers, politicians, as well as students and academics!
    I think we may already have such a Journal
    Best of luck with your PhD and publishing

  2. Thanks Julian. I just checked out Harm Reduction Journal and unless you are a member of their list of institutions, you have to pay to publish there (even though readers do not have to pay). My university, it turns out, is not a member. And even if they were, I assume that costs them. Why? What are they paying for?

    I agree that it’s not just about financial incentives and I want my work to be accessible to all kinds of people, not just others in academia in the ‘first world’.

    The only experience I’ve had with truly open access journals (no cost to any of the players) is with the International Journal of Internet Research Ethics, see — it has been great to be able to easily send links to this article to anyone/everyone, yet it still went through a proper review and is still formatted appropriately. I don’t need it to be in print 🙂

  3. Well done for checking – I never realised authors had to pay to be published in HRJ.
    It’s a brilliant little animation but it emphasises the financial issue – when as you say its accessibility, dissemination and distribution that are most important. Free all round peer reviewed open access e-Journals the way to go! Print and paper is always at the end of a printer cable for those that want a hard copy.

    With your techy skills and interest maybe you can lead the way?

  4. Hi Monica, nice post. Have you signed up to the boycott of Elsevier that’s campaiging on this issue? It’s at There are efforts to cheapen the costs of open access publishing, such as in economics by But the career costs to academics (especially new ones) of not publishing in high impact factor journals is a real barrier.

  5. Hi Alex, thanks for coming to my blog! I have now signed up to boycott Elsevier although right at this tender moment in my career, I do feel uneasy about agreeing not to publish in their journals, as much as I hate their practices. Especially in this field where there are currently no alternatives to standard publishing in standard journals or paying top $ to publish open access. As one of my mentors said, you need to be in the game to fight the game, and if I dissist from all attempts to publish my work in standard publications, I won’t survive to create an open access one.

    I support the boycott, but still will indeed have to submit some content to standard journals, maybe Elsevier or maybe others like Wiley – however, if I can bring together a hundred or so drugs researchers from across the world that are willing to support a new open access free e-journal, the first in our field, and we all commit to submitting one article and reviewing one article – well then we would make a good start and have a crack at overthrowing the old model.

    I checked out many of the truly open access systems available to people – I was impressed. Yes there are some costs associated with web hosting but they are really quite minimal. I even have editors around me who may lend a hand for the cause.

    Any thoughts on a simple title like:
    Drugs in Society ? or Journal of Drugs in Society
    There is a book called ‘Drugs in Society’ but doesn’t appear to be a journal as such…
    Or something alluding to how drug use / drugs need to be understood in their social and cultural context. Hopefully leading to articles that are framed in this way.

  6. Hi Monica

    great animation! I think its an excellent idea to set up an open access journal aslong the lines you are discussing. re titles: how about “drugs, alcohol and society” “subtance use and society” or just “people and drugs”????

    I’d be delighted to contibute to any future work with an open access journal – I have experience in jounal reviewing and editing, so happy to help.

    Best of luck!

  7. In the past, the ISSDP board has discussed the possibility of setting up a new journal on drug policy (with open access as an option), but has decided not to, for two main reasons:
    1. The field is already well served, with IJDP, Addiction, Journal of Drug Issues, Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy and several other drug and criminology journals to choose from. There has also been a semi-open access journal, the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis, although this has recently moved behind a paywall at De Gruyter.
    2. The costs to entry are high. To compete for high quality papers and readers, a journal needs prestige and (increasingly) an impact factor. These take time and a lot of effort to build up.

    Nevertheless, I still see an important role/gap for open access publishing in the drug policy field. The International Journal on Human Rights and Drug Policy ( ) could be a model, but I’m not sure how this is funded.

    I would be happy to discuss this in Canterbury. Shall we convene a meeting after the close of the second day (the Thursday evening) and see if anyone wants to join in?

  8. Alex, it would be fantastic to convene a meeting in Canterbury. I would very much like to understand the arguments for and against, and it would be ideal to run a journal through a society like ISSDP. Close of the second day would be fine with me (just booked accom and flights, definitely coming!).

    I have some contacts in publishing, editing and library systems. I’m planning on just having chats with them around the broader issues of open access journals in order to gather more information on our options in the current technological context.

    Thanks for the link to IJHRDP. This was one journal I had not yet heard of. Cheers.

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