Open-Access Publishing and EPAA
Sherman Dorn, University of South Florid
When the first editors of well-known open-access journals began publishing approximately two decades ago, the term “open-access” did not exist, nor did a coherent argument about how open-access scholarship can promote better research and the spread of ideas. But several scholars in different fields in the late 1980s realized that the use of email in their disciplines had made their professional lives easier and more interesting and decided to extend that to journal publishing by email. In fall 1990, North Carolina State University faculty members Eyal Amiran, Greg Dawes, Elaine Orr, and John Unsworth produced the first issue of Postmodern Culture, distributed as an email and formatted using the conventions of fixed-font ASCII characters (Amiran & Unsworth, 1991). Later in the same fall, Bryn Mawr College classics professor Richard Hamilton produced the first in a series of reviews that became the Bryn Mawr Classical Review, also originally distributed by email (Bryn Mawr Classical Review, n.d.). A little over two years later, Gene V Glass published the first issue of Education Policy Analysis Archives, also through email. The first issue was a discussion of action research written by Stephen Kemmis, then the director of the Deakin Institute for Studies in Education in the state of Victoria, Australia (Kemmis, 1993).
This focus on the early 1990s is in part an artifact of recognizing email distribution as an early channel for some of the older open-access journals published today; offprint and cheaply-produced publications have a long history, with open-access publishing as the younger, somewhat cleaned-up cousin. Within the field, Education Policy Analysis Archives was not the first education journal that was publicly available in a way we might today call open-access. In the Directory of Open Access Journals (doaj.org), EPAA is the eighteenth education journal in order of first publication date. Table 1 (below) shows the first-publication date for 477 education journals listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals. Centre de Recherches et d’Applications Pédagogiques en Langues (at the University of Nancy, in Lorraine, France) owns the “first” claim in this set of journals, having started producing a series of papers called Mélange CRAPEL in 1970 (CRAPEL, n.d.). But the establishment of publicly available journals was a slow business until the late 1980s and early 1990s. The first year of publication for EPAA was the first calendar year that five or more listed open-access journals began publication, and a few years later, the establishment of new open-access journals accelerated in education and other fields. The bulk of open-access journals in education became established in the last 15 years, the majority in the last ten. A number of years before it became fashionable, Gene Glass demonstrated that publishing an open-access journal was feasible and could distribute important education research worldwide.
Table 1. Start dates for education-subject journals listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals, initial dates 1970-2009.
Beginning publication date
Source: Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ; //doaj.org). Six entries removed from counts when titles changed (which are listed in DOAJ as two entries, with a note about the continuation title).
Ad Hoc Open Access
A number of practices early in the run of EPAA were the result of improvisation characteristic of many early open-access journals, from the question of copyright and permissions to submission and reviewing. The copyright notice at the top of the first issue looks similar to the lay description of the Creative Commons CC-BY-NC (Attribution–NonCommercial) license (Creative Commons, n.d.): “Copyright 1993, the EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES. Permission is hereby granted to copy any article provided that EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES is credited and copies are not sold.” The second condition—no selling of copies—separated Gene’s informal “license to copy” from the GNU General Public License, which allows selling of GPL-licensed software and which was the primary alternative model of distribution of intellectual work in the 1980s (Free Software Foundation, n.d.).
In addition to improvising distribution permissions, for its first decade EPAA was a relatively lonely pioneer in education in accepting electronic submissions, usually by email. Long before back-end reviewing support by journal packages such as the Open Journal System or Berkeley Electronic Press, Gene Glass accepted articles by email and used a loose email “call” to board members to solicit reviews as quickly as he could to make a decision. This process gave reviewing access to prospective authors who did not need to duplicate hard copy manuscripts. Today, online submissions and reviewing processes are the norm; twenty years ago, Glass had to compose an ad hoc electronic system that removed significant friction from manuscript submission and reviewing.
This informal pathbreaking towards open-access is a hallmark of the last few decades in innovations in scholarly communications (Willinsky, 2005), and one of EPAA‘s lasting contributions to education research was demonstrating the viability of open-access peer-reviewed publications. Willinsky calls EPAA an example of a zero-budget journal, which is reasonably accurate but not entirely true. Arizona State University has supported the journal through server space and through the time of its faculty serving as editors, first Glass and now Gustavo Fischman. The University of South Florida gave me time to edit the journal’s English-language side for five years, and the USF library staff converted years of HTML articles to PDF for a back-run archive. In addition, at various times both ASU and USF supported graduate students who assisted in the journal’s production. However, these subsidies are a very small proportion of the subsidies that many universities provide for editorships of other journals or that are supported by subscription-based journals. For twenty years EPAA has essentially been a “skunkworks” journal surviving in the interstices of several research universities.
A continuing dilemma of open-source publishing in education is the need for a viable long-term business model. Willinsky highlighted the low-subsidy nature of EPAA, but there are significant choices to make for any open-access journal with no revenues. While both Gene Glass and I devoted time out of our schedule to operating the reviewing process and preparing accepted manuscripts for publication, there are inevitable tradeoffs when there is not the same type of logistical support other journals have. Gene published more English-language articles per year than I did (e.g., 73 articles published in 2004), and the tradeoff was less time in the review process (the “all-call” email requesting reviews from the editorial board was very different from a standard process of identifying reviewers for requests) and less time per article composing the manuscript. I spent more time on revise-and-resubmit letters and pondering reviews, as well as in turning accepted manuscripts into article PDFs, but authors occasionally complained (with justification) at the pace of reviewing and article preparation. Other open-access journals have made other choices, such as a much less ambitious publication schedule. In the sciences, open-access journals commonly charge authors; for example, the current PLOS One publication charge for authors is $1350 per article. In the absence of significant research funding, most education researchers cannot afford such charges and a journal cannot rely on them for sustainability. In the absence of significant subsidies from learned societies, universities, or other benefactors, open-source journals in education have consequential choices driven by the lack of revenue.
The first two decades of Education Policy Analysis Archives‘ publication have influenced education research in several ways. The most important is the direct readership of published articles. EPAA is widely read and a number of its articles highly cited. According to the SCImago Journal and Country Rank (SCImago, 2011), EPAA‘s three-year citation/document ratio has ranged since 2000 between 0.29 and 0.80. According to Google Scholar, Darling-Hammond (2000) has been cited approximately 2000 times; Becker (2000) and Haney (2000) cited more than 400 times; and a number of other articles cited 100 or more times. EPAA‘s first article (Kemmis, 1993) has several dozen citations noted in Google Scholar, a remarkable achievement for any first issue of a journal, let alone one in a new format. According to SCImago (2011), of the 1312 articles published in the 2000-2009 years, 372 (28% of all articles) were cited by other publications, a skewed and reasonably common pattern among research journals. My own most-cited publication was published in EPAA, and that statement may well be true for many authors of EPAA articles. Open-access publication increases readership.
Beyond citation statistics, potential readers on every continent can EPAA articles when they cannot read articles in subscription-based journals. The availability of EPAA articles to potential readers without institutional journal subscriptions facilitates participation in scholarship beyond wealthy institutions. A critical component of active scholarship and teaching is keeping up with research in one’s field, and that is much more difficult if one is an independent scholar or a student or researcher at a college or university without the resources to subscribe to journals and electronic databases. Limited access to journal and database subscriptions is probably more common around the world than extensive access, and open-access journals and other non-subscription research publications provide an entree to current scholarship regardless of their access to institutional journal subscriptions.
More generally, the continuing publication of EPAA has modeled the viability of open-access for others in education research. With a continuous publication history over 20 years and a sufficient density of publications per year, EPAA has a higher measure of articles with high citations (the H-Index; SciMago, 2011) than open-access journals starting publication before 1993. Its editors have maintained a commitment to an international, multilingual peer-reviewed journal that makes research accessible to the world. Both its authors and readers have benefitted as a result.
 Gene’s immediate successor shifted to a more traditional solicit-reviews model of screening manuscripts, and was notably much slower in returning manuscript dispositions.
 This process also gave disproportionate influence on the reviewing side to the journal’s board members who responded quickly to Gene’s call for a review.
 Citation statistics using Google Scholar, which are a rough and imperfect indicator of use.
 Skewed citations and a surprisingly small proportion of ever-cited articles is the rule for most academic journals. Of the 918 Educational Policy articles published in 2000-2009, 305 (33%) had acquired citations recorded by SCImago (2011) at the time of this manuscript’s writing.
 Access to online journals are not entirely free, since they require internet access, often troublesome in poor countries even at universities.
Amiran, E., & Unsworth, J. (1991). Postmodern Culture: Publishing in the electronic medium. The Public-Access Computer Systems Review, 2(1), 67-76.
Becker, H. (2000). Findings from the Teaching, Learning, and Computing Survey. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 8(51). Retrieved from //epaa.asu.edu/ojs/article/view/442
Bryn Mawr Classical Review. (n.d.). About BMCR [webpage]. Bryn Mawr, PA: Author. URL: //bmcr.brynmawr.edu/about.html
Centre de Recherches et d’Applications Pédagogiques en Langues. (n.d.). La revue Mélanges du CRAPEL [webpage]. Retrieved from //revues.univ-nancy2.fr/melangesCrapel/articleCrapel.php3?id_rubrique=1
Creative Commons. (n.d.). Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 unported [webpage]. Mountain View, CA: Author. URL: //creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/
Darling-Hammond, L. (2000). Teacher Quality and Student Achievement. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 8, 1. Retrieved from //epaa.asu.edu/ojs/article/view/392
Free Software Foundation. (n.d.). Overview of the GNU system [webpage]. Boston, MA: Author. URL: //www.gnu.org/gnu/gnu-history.html
Haney, W. (2000). The myth of the Texas miracle in education. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 8 (41). Retrieved March 15, 2006 from //epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v8n41
Kemmis, S. (1993). Action research and social movement: A challenge for policy research. Education Policy Analysis Archives,1 (1) (entire issue). URL: //epaa.asu.edu/ojs/article/view/678/800
SCImago. (2011). SJR — SCImago Journal & Country Rank [website]. Retrieved from //www.scimagojr.com/journalsearch.php?q=14193&tip=sid
Willinsky, J. (2005). The access principle. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
A. G. Rud, Washington State University
I first met Gene Glass, appropriately, online, through the EDPOLYAN list in the early 1990s. I recognized immediately someone committed to new ways of disseminating educational research and ideas. Gene’s idea for EPAA was simple: Solicit good research with the promise that it would be reviewed quickly by peers unencumbered by slow review procedures, and then immediately distributed worldwide. Out went the customary request for two or three reviewers. Gene asked his entire editorial board to weigh in, and he often got more than enough responses within a few days, thus cutting down the review timeline drastically. EPAA was a place one could go for detailed analysis of important policy topics, particularly work on charter schools and educational reform that helped shape my thinking and work as a professor and dean. I am pleased to have been on the review board of EPAA since its inception. Gene Glass, and subsequent editors Sherman Dorn and Gustavo Fischman, have led and continue to lead the way in providing online, peer-reviewed, high-quality educational research.
Linda Darling Hammond, Stanford University
For twenty years, EPAA has set the standard for the publication of timely, relevant, and fully accessible policy research. When EPAA was launched, the idea of an on-line, rigorously reviewed journal was new and untested. Today, it represents the state-of-the-art in open access publishing.