Social Work’s (Very Few) Gold OA Journals

First, let’s define “Gold” Open Access: Gold OA is when the journal makes all articles freely available at the time of publication. In contrast, “Green” OA is allowing a version of the article to be deposited in an institutional or disciplinary repository, often after an embargo period.

12 of 281

I pulled together a list of 281 social work journal titles by collating the “universe of disciplinary journals for social work” by authors Aubele and Perruso, the list of journals on SocialWorkEducation.net, and a couple newer journals which did not appear on either (Radical and Critical Social Work and the Journal of Comparative Social Work). I then checked each title against the Directory of Open Access Journals. The following 12 titles from the journal list are Gold OA journals:

  • Advances in Social Work (English)
  • Critical Social Work (English)
  • Cuadernos de Trabajo Social (Spanish)
  • Janus (Finnish)
  • Journal of Comparative Social Work (English)
  • Journals of Family Strengths (English)
  • Latin American Review of Social Sciences, Childhood & Youth (Spanish)
  • Ljetopis Socijalnog Rada /Annual of Social Work (Croatian)
  • Servi√ßo Social e Sociedade (Portuguese)
  • Servi√ßo Social em Revista (Portuguese)
  • Social Work/Maatskaplike Werk (English)
  • Social Work & Society (English)

So What?

The problem with there being very few Gold OA journals in social work is multifaceted:

  • None of these journals are high impact, and none of them are indexed in Web of Science. This means that a researcher’s desire to publish in one of these journals is going to be pretty low, especially if they are pursuing promotion or grant funding;
  • Immediate OA in social work is therefore dependent on Article Processing Charges (APCs) paid to “hybrid” journals (more on hybrid journals below);
  • Or, authors must use Green OA (deposit of preprint or postprint in a repository, and there is demonstrably low engagement with repositories in social work, and journal archiving policies and long embargo periods can be discouraging.

Hybrid journals charge authors an APC (often ranging between $3000-5000 in the social sciences) to make their individual article OA, while also charging libraries the standard subscription fee. So, the journal capitalizes on two revenue streams. Meanwhile, any institution with a subscription and financial support for faculty APCs is paying twice for access, or an unreasonable burden is placed on individual authors to pay the APC independently. Sometimes grant funded research allows for APC costs in the budget, but, anecdotally, this is not consistent across funding agencies. Also, social work research might very well not be grant funded.

Possible Solutions

APCs are problematic, particularly in the social sciences and humanities, and recognition of this has grown significantly over the last few years. Hopefully, new OA funding models will replace APCs entirely at some point. To learn more, read:

It would be great to hear that some of the social work journal publishers are exploring new OA publishing models. Imagine if NASW made all their journal content available to *all* social workers around the world, not just members. I recognize that journal access is often seen as a key feature of association membership, but extending that access to all would seem to be in the spirit of social justice and social work ethics. (Please note, I’m not trying to pick on NASW specifically, but it’s easy example.)

Another solution is to simplify journal archiving policies and encourage deposit in a repository like SocArXiv.

Overall though, it feels like something needs to happen from inside the professional associations in order for there to be a meaningful increase in social work’s engagement with Open Access.

Published by kpendell

Social Work and Social Sciences Librarian at Portland State University

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