Leader - Publications: bright new future or storm clouds ahead?

We have now been with our new publishers, Taylor and Francis, for over a year. The first year’s financial returns are in and I’m pleased to report that the financial return to the OR Society from our publications in 2018 was over the minimum amount guaranteed in the new contract, with expectations of further growth in the future. The OR Society depends heavily on income from its publications to support other activities and developments, so this is very welcome news. There have been some production glitches to overcome, but those problems have been addressed and publications are generally back on schedule.

The 2018 publications included the first issue of our newest journal, the Journal of Business Analytics, and we are looking forward to the second issue being ready for publication soon. Some of the articles that will make up that issue are already available online, such as an article by Tom Davenport on From analytics to artificial intelligence. You can already read it by logging in to The OR Society website and following the publications links to the Taylor and Francis site, where the latest papers accepted for publication are available for all our journals.

Richard Eglese.jpg


At OR60 in Lancaster, we were able to bring together most of the editors-in-chief of our journals to discuss common challenges and share best practice. They joined in a Meet the Editors session at the conference as well as having the opportunity to network with other attendees. We plan to repeat this exercise next September at OR61 in Canterbury. In addition, there are plans for some members of the editorial board of the Journal of Business Analytics to attend to give them an opportunity to discuss how to develop the new journal and to engage with other participants.

In February, we had a special meeting for members of the Publications Committee, with representatives from Taylor and Francis, to start to develop a joint publications strategy. We discussed various themes and how they relate to The OR Society’s mission and vision. We participated in a SWOT analysis and started prioritising a number of areas. This has been followed up at the recent Publications Committee meeting to identify some more specific goals and objectives. For example, we shall be looking at ways to encourage editorial boards and authors to promote their papers on Twitter and other social media outlets.

So far, I have been painting a very positive picture of OR publications activities. However, there is a potential change in the publishing world involving a move to Open Access publication for academic journals. This might be regarded as an opportunity or a risk. For a long time, many have criticised the business models of publishers that require university libraries and other institutions and individuals to pay significant subscription fees in order to read the latest articles. The critics think that publishers are now making excessive profits through the current system. Different forms of Open Access have been introduced in recent years so that authors (or their employers) can pay an additional fee for their article to be freely available without subscription. This hybrid model is used by The OR Society journals.

A recent initiative for promoting Open Access publishing was the launch in September 2018 of Plan S. The plan is supported by cOAlition S, an international consortium of research funders. Plan S requires that, from 2020, scientific publications that result from research funded by public grants must be published in compliant Open Access journals or platforms. You can read the details on www.coalition-s.org. The backers include national bodies from many European countries including UKRI, which brings together the seven UK Research Councils, Innovate UK and Research England. Under the proposals, these funders would not permit papers resulting from research that they had funded to be published in journals that are not fully Open Access.

There are clear benefits to be received from adoption of Open Access publishing, especially for practitioners and others who do not have access to the latest journal papers through a company or university library. However it looks as though currently The OR Society journals would not be compliant with the Plan S proposals, which would mean that authors whose articles were supported by research grants from any of the cOAlition S consortium would not be able to publish their work in OR Society publications. At the moment, such papers form a relatively small proportion of the papers published by The OR Society,
but some would regard them as being among the best or most important papers published.

The society welcomes the principle of Open Access, as it supports the objects of The OR Society to advance knowledge, interest in and education in OR. However, as for many other learned societies, a reduction in the income received through publications could have a major detrimental effect on The OR Society’s activities.

There are also concerns that the Plan S proposals may have some adverse consequences for the support of research and its dissemination. For example, researchers in countries that are not subject to the Plan S proposals may wish their research to be published in journals that do not meet the Plan S criteria, so that they will be seen by the most appropriate audience. This will hinder international research cooperation. In addition, the need for an article publishing charge from the author(s) of a paper means that some researchers may not be able to publish their work where they wish. This could be a particular concern for early career researchers.

We shall be keeping a close eye on developments concerning Plan S. If more funders in countries like the USA and China support it, then it may have a significant effect on our journals. Whatever the future holds, we shall want to produce publications that promote OR and related disciplines and provide benefit to the society.

bright storm.jpg