Diamond Open Access: Connotations and recent encounters

Diamond Open Access: Connotations and recent encounters
Diamond Age” by jurvetson is licensed under CC BY 2.0

This week, I had some encounters with Diamond Open Access that got me thinking, especially about the connotations of “Diamond Open Access”. These include invoice-like payment requests from a Diamond Open Access platform, editors switching their journal from Hybrid to Diamond Open Access, purchase offers for Diamond Open Access journals and the intention of the German Research Foundation DFG to set up a service centre to further develop and consolidate the Diamond Open Access landscape in Germany.

First, (in my work as an Open Access administrator at my university) I received a payment notice that looked a lot like an APC invoice (and could have been easily mistaken for one at first glance), but was not. The invoice was sent by a non-commercial Diamond Open Access platform, which requested payment because a scientist from my university had published an article on this platform.

I understand Diamond Open Access as Open Access that does not require unit payments (like an APC). If you label a platform as Diamond, but then send out an APC-like payment request (including payment terms etc.), you are

  • not transparent about your business model/pricing, which is always blamed on legacy publishers
  • you pretend that the Diamond Open Access service is sustainable, what it is not
  • you totally water down the term Diamond, because then all Gold Open Access publishers like MDPI can also label themselves as Diamond, as long as the APCs are not paid by authors, but by libraries.

Second, I learned that the editorial board of the Hybrid Open Access Journal The Journal of Political Philosophy (JPP) resigned and now publishes the Journal Political Philosophy on the Open Library Humanities platform as Diamond Open Access. It was not the desire for pure open access that drove the decision, but Wiley’s desire to publish more hybrid articles to generate higher revenues: “Wiley’s decision was reportedly prompted by a dispute with Goodin [the editor] over whether the journal should accept more articles. Wiley had been pushing the journal to publish more articles per year because of the turn towards open-access publishing agreements, which generate fees for the publisher on a per-article basis. Goodin resisted this, and he and the other members of the editorial team refused to stay on because they were unable to get assurances that they’d have “requisite editorial control and discretion to maintain the quality and reputation of the JPP in the face of Wiley’s desire to boost significantly and indefinitely the number of articles published by the JPP.” This highlights a clear advantage of Diamond Open Access – given it is sustainably funded (which might not be the case for a)), there will be no interest in boosting the publication output as this will not generate higher revenues, whereas Hybrid Open Access benefits financially from more published units. Thanks to Najko Jahn for the hint on the IP OA mailing list.

Third, I learnt (again via postings on the IP OA mailing list, on this occasion from Thomas Gerdes/ Armin Günther) that operators of Diamond Open Access journals sometimes receive purchase offers for these journals. Armin Guenther suspects in the linked post that “some journals are then continued on dubious journal platforms and are supposed to generate money via APCs, with largely no quality control (i.e. the predatory journal model). (…) But there are also sometimes serious purchase offers from publishers who are obviously interested in marketing a journal.” This financial interest in Diamond Open Access implicitly refers to the fact that the term Diamond Open Access is loaded with connotations. Some (not explicitly Armin Günther) equate it with non-profit Open Access (or define it as a subset of it) and find it difficult to label Open Access for authors not paying APCs as Diamond if the journal is published by a commercial publisher. Others implicitly claim that Diamond Open Access must be Scholar-Led per se (a term that is also vaguely defined). I would consider Society Journals (I am thinking here of publications by learned societies such as the Royal Society of Chemistry RSC, Association for Computing Machinery ACM, American Psychological Association APA, American Chemical Society ACS) to be Scholar-Led, which are often not Open Access and certainly not offered at low subscription costs. If they are published in Open Access they are also not necessarily published under a Diamond model (e.g. the society journal of the European Sociological Association ESA, European Societies, is published by Taylor & Francis) in the Gold Open Access model.

Fourth, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft DFG (German Research Foundation)  invites proposals for the establishment of a Service Centre to further develop and consolidate the Diamond Open Access landscape in Germany. The DFG also seems to understand Diamond Open Access to mean non-profit services: “With its non-profit-oriented approach, the Diamond model offers considerable potential for establishing a publication system that is oriented towards the needs of science and the humanities.” One of the main goals seems to be the much-needed consolidation of the fragmented non-profit Diamond Open Access landscape, in which many organisations with limited resources offer Open Access journals: “The tasks of this Service Centre will include the provision, clustering and arrangement of basic services and also developing advisory services. Other objectives include the subject-specific and international networking and coordination of decentralised services and the promotion of innovation.” This call is in line with the DFG’s support for the Action Plan for Diamond Open Access as proposed by Science Europe, cOAlition S, OPERAS, and the French National Research Agency (ANR) and in line with the idea of a federated global community of Diamond Open Access as discussed by Pierre Mounier (OpenEdition, OPERAS) & Johan Rooryck (cOAlition S). However, it is not really in line with the German DEAL contracts, which include Transformative Agreements (at least in a transitional phase), Hybrid Open Access and Gold Open Access.

4 thoughts on “Diamond Open Access: Connotations and recent encounters

  1. I don’t see actives for diamond in conflict with having transformative agreements. Both are in my eyes reasonable approach to an OA world. The TAs take rights away from the publishers which is already helpful. OA publishing in some
    Journals, which are highly liked by scientists, can be only aforded by an agreement which avoids double dipping. Diamond journals have also to be financed eg via S2O agreements. I see my role as a service provider to support all approaches which make OA easy for the scientists and therefor supporting Diamond platforms is also part of that. For quite some time it will not be an either or but a both and.

    1. Do S2O journals count as diamond OA? There is an optional subscription fee in the model, and, if not enough take-up from previous paywall subscribers, the paywall is re-instated.

        1. I agree because somehow cost of a journal have to be covered. This could be by sponsorship of an institution or association or type of crowd funding models like S2O or other seminar initiatives. Certainly a journal could be fully run by volunteers but most of the time they do it not in their spare time so this would be also an indirect sponsorship (and I talk not only about doing the peer review but also for example organize it)

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