Just 9 months after it was originally conceived, the UK gold open access publisher Social Sciences Directory launched in September 2012. Publishing articles in a range of disciplines in online-only form, the Directory has rapidly established itself as a landmark open access publisher in the UK. Publishing both peer-reviewed research as well as "value-added content" (including presentations, case studies, reports and conference proceedings), it has simplified the navigation of academic material and removed individual journal titles in favour of a large repository (in the style of the Public Library of Science's successful flagship publication PLOS-One). The Directory charges low article processing charges (APCs) (GBP100/USD150/EUR120) and also offers very low institutional subscription fees (GBP2,000/USD3,000/EUR2,400).
Social Sciences Directory can already claim two success stories. Since launching in September 2012 its first 5 published articles have already received in excess of 16,000 fulltext downloads – an astonishing figure which should be read as a significant win for open access publishing and irrefutably indicates the reach of gold open access journal articles in the social sciences. This is also significant in terms of academic impact and suggests that the "megajournal" approach to gold open access publishing has the potential to transform the dissemination of research in the social sciences and humanities – as has already been demosntrated in the sciences. The second success story for the Directory is its first institutional subscriber – the University of Nottingham. As Dan Scott, the Founder and Director of the Social Sciences Directory, commented:
This is a landmark agreement and I am very pleased that a university as prestigious as Nottingham has become the first to support this initiative. Having worked in subscription publishing for years, I heard academics and librarians complain about its flaws and cost but say there was no viable alternative. Open access publishing provides significant benefits for authors and readers alike in widening access, allowing author copyright retention and providing better value-for-money for taxpayers. Core to our thinking is that Social Sciences Directory provides a platform for published research across a broad range of disciplinary areas and from a wide international catchment. We hope this agreement will act as an example to other universities and that they will follow suit.”
As Dan revealed in a conversation with the Open Library of Humanities, the impressive downloads figures for the Directory's first issue of articles is indicative of a broader shift in research publication and in the user behaviour associated with reading, disseminating, and discussing academic work online:
90% of the scientists that have ever lived are alive today. We believe this means that the exponential growth of worldwide research is going to continue and the chances of getting into the niche group of top ranked journals is going to become less, not more. At the same time, user behaviour is changing, with academics and students today doing their research online using keyword searches, which bypasses the journal title in the search results. […] That our first, peer-reviewed papers have received over 16,000 fulltext downloads is a major achievement and demonstrates both the quality of the papers and the response to being able to access them without a subscription barrier”.
For more information on the Social Sciences Directory visit their website.