Scholarly journals are increasingly being published as open access or with optional open access (OA) content within a subscription journal (hybrid OA). This migration is prompting many journal editors to investigate what they can do to help transition their own journals from subscription, paywalled access to completely open access. Sometimes this conversion of a journal from closed to open is called “flipping.” Flipping is not an easy thing to pull off — it requires buy-in, planning, and engagement.

Hosting a gathering of journal editors at your institution to talk about open access flipping considerations can be a useful way for stakeholders to come together and learn about what a flip to open access would look like, and to provide resources and support to those ready to take a lead in transitioning journals. Editors and editorial board members are very knowledgeable about the running of their journal and are in an ideal position to influence their publisher or to engage them in discussions about the feasibility of doing a flip. We’ve used the term “roundtable” in this document to signal the bringing together of individuals to conference or discuss a topic of interest, though other terms (e.g, workshop, focus group) could also be substituted for those types of gatherings.

This document serves to guide libraries and institutions seeking to host a roundtable event for faculty and other personnel with journal editorial roles.

Know your journal editors and editorial board members

In order to bring together a group of editors, you’ll need to have a reliable list of them collected at your institution. Unfortunately there is no comprehensive source for editorships by institution, so this list will have to be assembled through active seeking and word of mouth. The scholarly communication librarian is a good resource for tracking these individuals, as they are likely to interact with faculty who are editors or editorial board members. A list of editors can be a very useful resource for other purposes like peer review workshops and for understanding contributions to publisher portfolios. Indicate editors who are involved with open access journals as well.

Building a list of editors:

  • Faculty OA champions can probably identify journal editors, and may have already been approached by fellow faculty about OA issues.
  • Check journal editorial boards when reviewing journals for OA subvention funds or other scholarly communication activities.
  • Libraries can sometimes gets lists of editors at their institution from publishers, either through the process of e-journal package negotiations or by simply asking the account representative. Not all publishers though are willing to provide this information.
  • Many publishers with large corpuses of journals follow a consistent pattern for data point HTML tages (for editor type, name, and affiliation) on their journal editorial board web pages, as well as a predictable pattern for URLs for these pages (e.g. https://publishername/journaltitle/editorialboard). Scripts can be written to scrape data from these pages and search for editors with a local affiliation (for example, the rvest package provides most of the tools necessary to do this in R).
  • Academic profiling systems such as VIVO or Profiles can be searched for editor titles as a term in overview statements.
  • A simple Google search on your institution name and “journal editor” or “editor in chief” will turn up some results, in particular high profile editorships that have issued press releases.

Documents for reference: spreadsheet template with example institutional editors

Outline objectives

It’s important to identify what you hope to achieve by hosting a flipping roundtable on your campus. While the roundtable will naturally be about open access publishing, it’s best to avoid framing the event as an OA call to arms, which may alienate editors and shut down debate. Our suggestion is to focus the purpose on clarifications, practical guidance, discussion, and surveying.

As such, possible objectives include:

  1. Updating faculty and other editors on the state of OA publishing and what efforts the library, faculty, and institution have made to advance OA
  2. Gauging the level of support for OA publishing amongst a spectrum of editors, journals, and disciplines
  3. Gauging the appetite for flipping journals to OA and the need for an OA flipping consultation service at your institution
  4. Providing resources and expertise to support flip efforts
  5. Gaining insights from participants about ownership, fees, and journal operations, and identifying questions and concerns to be addressed in supporting flips
  6. Providing an opportunity for editors to connect with and learn from other editors
  7. Identifying editors who are ready to take steps toward flipping their journal
  8. Demonstrating commitment to institutional, library, or faculty goals to transition scholarly publications to OA

Facilitators and planners

Ideally you want two to three facilitators, including a faculty OA champion with expertise in scholarly publishing and/or a publishing expert/consultant who’s knowledgeable about OA, and a library scholarly communication expert. If your library offers an OA flipping consultation service (or is preparing to), the person(s) who provides consultations is an ideal facilitator. Inclusion of the Library Director/University Librarian or another high level library or administration leader (at a minimum for the welcome or opening remarks) will convey the importance of the roundtable to the editors.

Having facilitators with strong publishing expertise is crucial in order to walk through flipping considerations and address editors’ questions and concerns. For the sake of economic survival, not all journals can or should be flipped, and so the facilitators need to be sensitive to editor concerns about how a flip would impact their journal’s impact and bottom line. This role could be filled by somebody from the university press, a publishing consultant, or faculty or librarian with a publishing background.

Determine who will coordinate the planning for the event and send invitations to faculty editors (for invitation-only events). Limiting to invited guests only is a good way to get your feet wet with this kind of event, and is more likely to get a response from editors you’d particularly like to be present. While an event open to all editors could draw a larger crowd and increase diversity, it could also introduce unpredictable viewpoints. Library staff are primed for handling this kind of planning as they are accustomed to booking rooms and promoting events. The library scholarly communication expert or faculty facilitator may both contribute to selecting which editors to invite and sending out the email invitations.

Roles case study: The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) hosted a roundtable for journal editors on transitioning to OA in August 2018. The idea for the event was sparked by Rich Schneider, a faculty member who has championed multiple OA initiatives at the University of California, and who had been approached by several faculty editors at UCSF and beyond wanting to know more about how to flip their journals to OA. Schneider and the library’s scholarly communication librarian, Anneliese Taylor, laid out the plan for a roundtable based on the objectives of bringing together about a dozen invited UCSF editors to talk about the OA and flipping landscapes. They invited Dan Morgan, then Journals Publisher at the UC Press and part of the UC Office of Scholarly Communication, to facilitate a discussion of guidelines for transitioning journals to OA. Morgan and Schneider were the two primary facilitators, and Taylor and the University LIbrarian, Chris Shaffer, both gave introductory remarks and participated throughout the event. Taylor coordinated the planning, with help from two library support staff who reserved the library event room and arranged for audiovisual and table set-up and for catering. Schneider, Morgan, and Taylor conferred on the event format, content, and length and compiled the preparatory questions and resource documents. Taylor sent the invitation messages, preparatory questions, and follow-ups, and Morgan answered additional questions from editors after the event.

Event format & schedule

Keep in mind the likely range among the editors of familiarity with open access publishing and business models. We recommend starting with brief introductions or an icebreaker to familiarize the editors with one another, followed by an overview of the OA landscape. Incorporate key OA activities, values, priorities, or initiatives that your institution is engaged with. Next, provide an overview of what’s entailed with flipping journals to OA and why and how journal editors have become involved in these efforts. Include key points from OA transition resource guides such as those prepared by the UC Office of Scholarly Communication (OSC), Transitioning Society Publications to OA (TSPOA), and SPARC, and encourage editors to share about the structure at their journals. Provide next steps for editors ready to take them.

A small, invited editors roundtable will feel more effective when participants are seated around a table or in a U-shaped setup for easier engagement with one another and the facilitators. Be prepared for some content to spark questions or debate and elongated discussion. Your facilitators should be prepared to determine to what level it’s ok to let the discussion ‘sway’, when to redirect the conversation, and what prepared content is essential to cover.

Two- to two and a half hours is the sweet spot for a roundtable event – enough time for a productive discussion to take place, but not so long as to be unfeasible for a faculty member to participate. Holding the event over lunchtime can enable more people to join, and offering coffee/tea and lunch offers another incentive for editors to partake. Finding a time that works for everybody is impossible, especially when it involves busy academics. Identify the best date(s) and time for your facilitators and if possible for the key editors you’d like to be present.

Documents for reference: sample agenda | OA landscape slides (Rich Schneider) | OA transitioning slides (Dan Morgan)

Selection of journal editors

Once your facilitators and event details are set, you’re ready to invite some editors. Those who hold titles such as Editor, Editor-in-Chief (EIC), Co-EIC, Deputy Editor (DE), or Associate Editor (AE) will have the most knowledge of the operations of the journal, and are in a good position to decide if a transition to OA is of interest to the journal. You will find, however, that there are far more faculty on editorial boards than in editor positions, and these board members should not be overlooked. Editorial boards (EB) can have influence and play a role in journal policies, and there are cases where entire boards have collectively decided to start up elsewhere to enable publishing as OA (e.g. Journal of Informetrics / Quantitative Science Studies). A good rule is to prioritize invitees in the order of EIC, AE or DE, then EB. Sometimes, EICs have a paid Managing Editor on staff at the academy. These individuals are very knowledgeable about their journals and may also be considered.

To ensure journal structure variation in your gathering, include editors for journals owned and/or independently published by societies, from different publishers, and in different disciplines within a field. Because there are major differences between STEM, social sciences, and humanities fields when it comes to research practices and funding, we recommend you hold separate roundtables by field where possible (though interdisciplinary areas such as public health and medical humanities can contribute valuable viewpoints to multiple fields). To ensure diversity amongst the individuals in your grouping, also consider editors of different genders/gender identities, ethnicities, ages, and nationalities.

Anticipate lots of invitation rejections due to schedule conflicts, and identify two to three times as many invitees as you hope to have at the roundtable, in priority order. To appeal to the editors on your list, send bespoke invitations (use mail merge for a large number of invitees), and keep track of responses, including for example each invitee’s name, editorial role(s), journal(s), publisher(s), date contacted, and availability.

Editor selection case study (UCSF): UCSF’s invitee list was comprised of a couple of editors who had expressed an interest to Schneider in flipping their journals, several who are known OA supporters and who’d served on the faculty senate committee on the library, and a selection of EICs, AEs, and EB members from a range of journal disciplines and publishers, including representation by female and non-white editors. One AE for an OA journal was invited but unable to join. Otherwise the journals were all toll access/optional OA. The selections were made from Taylor’s list of journal editors, which had been built from multiple sources and methods over several years. Additional research was required in order to increase the diversity of the invitees, since the “yes” list was shaping up to be not very diverse. The majority of invitees responded in one way or another, so follow-up was only required for a handful of faculty. Several people who had to decline expressed their disappointment at not being able to attend, and told us they thought this was a very important topic. In the end there were a dozen editors who RSVP’d “yes” (including one Managing Editor who worked with an EIC), and of those, nine attended on the day of the roundtable.

Documents for reference: sample email invitation

Logistics & preparation

As with any event, there are several logistical considerations for hosting a journal editor roundtable. These include securing a budget for expenses such as catering, room reservations, and audio/visual setup; coordinating the scheduling; booking the venue; and making arrangements for catering and location set-up.

Additional preparations:

  • To ensure all facilitators are on the same page with regards to the schedule, content, and who’s doing what, schedule a facilitator videoconference check-in a few weeks in advance.
  • Knowing more about the journal structure of the participating editors in advance can help facilitators guide the conversation and cut down on time spent during the roundtable to collect this information. Send journal information questions to participants a couple weeks in advance, and provide them as a print-out day of for those who don’t provide the responses ahead of the event.
  • Provide participants with documentation to answer their questions during and after the event. Gather everything in a shared folder on Box, Google Drive, or the shared server sanctioned by your institution. Examples of documents to include:
    1. Agenda & participants
    2. Facilitator slides
    3. OA transition resources
    4. Preparatory questions for journal editors
    5. Event notes
  • After the event, send a follow up email to participants with thanks for being part of the roundtable, a link to the file location, and an offer to respond to any questions that come up or to consult with editors wishing to move forward with steps to transition their journals to OA. Share about the event via your library or campus newsletter and blog (see the UCSF Library’s blog post).

Documents for reference: sample prep questions about journal structure | OA transition resources

After the event is wrapped up, reflect on how it met your objectives. Every gathering will bring together individuals with unique experience and perspectives that can help the organizers understand how to continue to engage with these communities, and how to support OA transitions. Keep the conversation going – if the event was fruitful for your institutional editors and the planners, consider building on what you learned and hosting another roundtable for another group of journal editors.

The University of California Office of Scholarly Communication would love to hear about your experiences! Contact us at