ICMA Publications Committee Statement on Article Sharing

For several years, the Publications Committee and the Digital Resources Committee of the ICMA have been discussing the challenges of digital open-access and online article sharing for academic publications. This is a complex issue in which at least three parties have differing interests: individual scholars, ICMA members as a whole, and commercial platforms like Academia.edu. Individual scholars may benefit from their scholarship being better known and thereby disseminated through all available platforms, both open-access and commercial (including Academia.edu). ICMA members as a whole, however, are beginning to feel the consequences of these actions by individuals, in that subscriptions and access to Gesta have dropped over the past six years, as an increasing number of scholars have made their work available publicly online, sometimes in contradiction to signed author’s rights statements. When access numbers to Gesta’s official site (through University of Chicago Press) drop, libraries may decide to discontinue subscriptions to Gesta, and ICMA loses income from subscriptions. Despite falling subscription numbers, Gesta’s press and editors have to do the same amount of work to produce a high-quality journal, which means our costs remain somewhat fixed. The situation is complicated by the role played by Academia.edu, which attempts to monetize individual scholars’ work. In the long term, this is not a tenable situation. We need to find some way to balance the needs of individual scholars and ICMA as an organization (including our intellectual and financial investment in Gesta). Finally, many of our members are also committed to open-access scholarship as a concept, meaning that colleagues in all areas of the world can access scholarship without financial barriers.

The issue was brought to our attention by Gordon Rudy, of University of Chicago Press, who pointed out that many ICMA authors contributing to Gesta were in violation of the terms of UCP’s current author’s agreement, specifically: “You may not post a copy of your article on social media or article-sharing platforms including, but not limited to, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Academia.edu, and ResearchGate. You may post the article citation, with a link to the published article on the journal website, and the abstract if one is available.” There had been some confusion over this in the past, and Gordon wished to clarify the situation.

A full account of author’s rights for UCP journal authors is available here: https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/journals/ges/jrnl_rights. Some key points include the following:

  • Authors can reuse and share their articles online without cost ONLY after the 12-month embargo period stipulated in the contract they signed. Appropriate credit should be given (such as a full bibliographic citation).

  • Authors can reuse and share their articles online on non-commercial platforms such as a personal webpage, a departmental or institutional website, an institutional repository, or Humanities Commons. Whenever possible, provide a link to the UCP/Gesta version of the article on the publisher’s website instead of posting a downloaded PDF.

  • UK authors may comply with RCUK Green Open Access policy.

  • In general, pre-print versions of the work should not be publicly available, to avoid confusion.

Although these are the specific guidelines of UCP, they are not unlike those of other presses with which ICMA members may be publishing. Authors should always read the author’s rights statement carefully, and keep this in mind as they disseminate their work.

Many scholars are curious about the rationale for the (quite standard) twelve-month embargo and the ban on commercial platforms. From the publisher’s perspective (both the press and ICMA as an organization), the embargo protects our financial investment in Gesta. While the intellectual property remains that of the author, the press and ICMA have expended considerable resources for the publication version of the work, including, but not limited to marketing, editorial, and production costs. When non-subscribers access recent articles freely, subscription rates go down and we lose money on the publication (data over the last six years from the press demonstrate this).

The ICMA Publications Committee encourages members to use CAA Commons/Humanities Commons to disseminate their work. https://caa.hcommons.org.

Sharing the content of articles that have been published in Gesta on commercial platforms such as ResearchGate and Academia.edu is also problematic. These companies acquire, disseminate, and monetize user data in similar ways to social-media platforms like Facebook; there is a total lack of transparency. Furthermore, these sites, which make money off scholars’ willingness to abrogate their author agreements with presses and share pre-print versions of their work in order to raise their academic profile, are frequently operating in direct infringement of copyright law, and share neither the usage data they collect, nor their business models, openly. They are not true Open Access platforms.

Fortunately, academic institutions and professional associations have invested heavily in creating true Open Access tools over the past decade. Such institutional repositories as Digital Commons (https://www.bepress.com/products/digital-commons) enable the press as well as the institution to track usage data on publications, which can be quite powerful in the context of tenure and promotion, not to mention helpful to librarians seeking to determine which journal subscriptions to renew. Furthermore, CAA recently opened its own sub-site of Humanities Commons (https://caa.hcommons.org), a true Open Access platform where authors can not only share their scholarly work and track data on its usage, but also join topical discussion communities, share syllabi and teaching materials, and access digital tools and resources developed by colleagues. Going forward, ICMA will continue working on solutions to provide free access to academic knowledge for all, while respecting authors’ and organizations’ stakeholder status in intellectual property.

Another thing to keep in mind is that when authors originally obtained permission to reproduce images from rights-holders, the permission was usually quite specific to that journal and its distribution platforms. Posting an article with images to a social media or commercial site (such as Academia.edu) may violate the terms of the agreement with the rights-holders for those images. In some cases, this might also be true of institutional repositories.

Some frequently-asked questions about digital dissemination of scholarly work and of scholarly work and Open Access are as follows.

  • What if I want to share a recently-published (within the last twelve months) article with a colleague who does not have a subscription or institutional access to Gesta?
    UCP does not prohibit the private sharing of your published material with a colleague. If you are sharing another scholar’s work privately, it would be appropriate and polite to ask their permission first. Also, please see the note below about using Academia.edu to publicize your work without violating your author agreement – the press is willing to give you a link specific to your article that will work for a limited number of requests.

  • Similarly, what if I want to use a recently-published article (my own, or another’s) in teaching?
    If teaching at an institution that has a subscription to Gesta, one can give students the UCP link to the published article. Students can retrieve the article through the institutional subscription. If no institutional subscription exists, UCP’s policy states, “You may use your article for teaching purposes in your classes, including making multiple copies for each student, either individually or as part of a printed course pack, provided such course pack will be used solely for classes you teach and provided that such classes are academic and non-commercial in nature (for example, CME courses run by a for-profit organization would not be covered).” If you are teaching a very large class at an institution without a subscription, the press can provide access tokens to the electronic material free of charge. Simply contact UCP.

  • How can I reach a wide scholarly audience without being on Academia.edu?
    Network – be an active and engaged user of truly open-access platforms such as CAA Commons/Humanities Commons and your own institutional repository, if such exists. In terms of people finding your work, Google Scholar is currently the most heavily-used open-access search engine for scholarly work in the world. Experts on search-engine optimization (SEO) suggest that prior to publication, you think carefully about how you title your work and compose your abstract and/or keywords to achieve maximum accessibility. Note that Google Scholar indexes (draws its citations from) most major OA repositories (including institutional repositories) but NOT Academia.edu.

  • What if I am already on Academia.edu, and wish to both publicize my own recently published (within twelve months) work to my followers and to remain compliant with Gesta’s/other journals’ author agreements?
    You can post on Academia.edu the citation and abstract of your article, and include a link to the full article on Gesta/UCP’s website. If you are concerned that some of your followers may lack institutional access to Gesta/UCP, you can also include a short note stating that anyone without institutional access can email you to request a personal copy. If you wish to track such requests for your personal profile, UCP can provide a link specific to your article that will work for a limited number of requests.

  • Aren’t I the copyright owner of my own scholarly work?
    In most cases, yes. HOWEVER, this may not be the case universally. Some institutions claim copyright over work produced by a scholar as part of the execution of their employment contract. Some journals demand that the author surrender copyright of the published work. Read your contractual agreements carefully. • What if I need to give my promotion/tenure committee access to my work inside the embargo period? This falls under the legitimate uses as defined by the UCP Author’s Rights statement, but for other presses, make sure you understand the terms of your author agreement.

  • How can I best keep track of usage data, including citations and downloads, for my published works?
    There are a variety of means by which you can track your impact. If you have an institutional repository, such as Digital Commons, you may receive weekly or monthly reports of activity. If you don’t have an institutional repository (or even if you do and you want to increase your visibility on line), Humanities Commons/CAA Commons offers a library-quality open-access commons called Commons Open Repository Exchange (CORE) which provides similar data- tracking. Alternately, Google Scholar can be somewhat unreliable, but it does offer you a profile in which you can track your citations, your h-index, and your i10-index (but these will be very “low” because they don’t discriminate between humanities and STEM, and our patterns of publication are so different to theirs). Journals like Gesta can also be tracked via the publisher, which collects data from a variety of sources, including JSTOR, Project MUSE, EBSCO Host, etc. Downloads and views on Academia. edu are not reflected in this data.

  • What is Open Access, exactly, and why should I care?
    A generally agreed-upon definition of OA is “The free, immediate, online availability of research articles combined with the rights to use these articles fully in the digital environment.” Not-for- profit organizations such as PLOS and SPARC advocate for a totally open-access climate for scholarly work, on the basis that since public monies support the vast majority of research activities by scholars, their publications should be in the public commons. However, because there remain costs associated with the production of quality, peer-reviewed digital and print scholarship, restrictions on access may exist for established journals associated with scholarly presses and scholarly associations. The impetus for OA came from the STEM fields, where immediate availability of research could change the landscape very rapidly -- in the humanities, our slower, more ruminative process (and the fact that many of us self-finance or are supported by private foundations) makes the economic argument about access less urgent, but one might still consider the moral argument that knowledge belongs to all humanity and should be openly shared irrespective of a person’s economic status, geographic location, or institutional relationships. ICMA is committed to increasing access to scholarship through all legal and ethical means possible.

  • Why isn’t Gesta a “Gold Open Access” journal?
    Gesta, and many other journals in which medievalists publish, is a Green Open Access journal. In Green OA, sometimes referred to as “self-archiving” -- the author can make their content available (after an embargo in many cases) in OA repositories such as a Digital Commons, a personal webpage, or an institutional webpage. In the “Gold” model, also called “author-pays publication,” authors are allowed to make the electronic version of their article freely available on the journal website, in perpetuity, for a fee, which may be paid by the author directly or by an institution or funding body. Essentially, what is happening with Gold OA is that the costs associated with publication are borne by the author, instead of the publisher and/ or subscriber or purchaser of the content. “Gold” isn’t “better” than “Green,” it’s just a different model. Some UCP journals do offer the “Gold” option, but ALL offer the “Green” model.