Utilitas Becomes Open Access


At the end of October, Utilitas, one of the leading journals in moral philosophy, converted to an open-access publication.

The journal states: “all research articles accepted for publication in Utilitas from 24th October 2023 will be ‘open access’; published with a Creative Commons licence and freely available to read online.”

The level of “open access” provided is referred to as “Gold Open Access.” This allows anyone to “access and redistribute the content and, depending upon the licence, re-use the content in new or derivative works with attribution.”

Utilitas is published by Cambridge University Press.

Note: See the comment from “Accountant,” below, about the funding of the open-access publishing.

 

Use innovative tools to teach clear and courageous thinking
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

34 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Accountant
Accountant
5 months ago

The article should include the information about how the shift to open access open access is funded. According to the Utilitas website, someone will have to pay the APC (author publishing charge) or the author will be able to apply for a fee waiver. The site says, “Cambridge’s standard APC for 2023 is £2,110 / US $3,255 (plus any applicable taxes).” The site says, “The costs of open access publication will be covered through agreements between the publisher and the author’s institution, payment of APCs by funding bodies, or else waived entirely”, and the open access page also lists an option of a discounted APC for researchers based in certain countries. On the open access page, it says, “this journal also grants discounts and waivers on a discretionary basis for any authors not covered by the options above”.

The question is whether the discretionary waivers will be granted very easily and whether they will be full fee waivers rather than mere discounts. Is anything being done to ensure that full waivers will be granted for the foreseeable future?

Richard Y Chappell
Reply to  Accountant
5 months ago

The homepage does specify that “The costs of open access publication will be covered through agreements between the publisher and the author’s institution, payment of APCs by funding bodies, or else waived entirely, ensuring every author can publish and enjoy the benefits of OA.”

So it does sound like they’re appropriately committed to ensuring that no fees fall on authors.

Accountant
Accountant
Reply to  Richard Y Chappell
5 months ago

The journal home page does include the quotation provided. The open access page says the following.
“In other cases, this journal also grants discounts and waivers on a discretionary basis for any authors not covered by the options above. Authors can request a discount or discretionary waiver by filling out a waiver request form after their article has been accepted.

Prospective authors should submit with full confidence, knowing that no author will face a financial barrier to publication in this journal.”

The home page and the OA page say authors won’t bear the costs, but the OA page is very explicit that the waivers are granted on a discretionary basis and must be applied for. So, the message is a bit mixed. The editors are not involved with granting the waivers, which presumably falls to CUP. The worry is that discretion will be exercised differently if too many authors are not otherwise covered by funding agreements and grants.

Richard Y Chappell
Reply to  Accountant
5 months ago

Hopefully someone involved will clarify this for sure, but if they ever failed to grant a “discretionary” waiver (when the author lacked institutional coverage for the fees) that would be in clear violation of the commitment on their homepage.

Arun
Arun
Reply to  Accountant
5 months ago

Why all this rigmorale? CUP could simply adopt the S2O model followed by all 51 Annual Reviews Inc. journals and by several other publishers.

David Sobel
David Sobel
5 months ago

This is fantastic! Congratulations and thanks to all those that made this happen.

Gorm
5 months ago

I share the accountant’s concerns. This is the same sort of model that Springer uses. Open Access is open for the rich. I am dismayed that so many colleagues are excited by this sort of development. Lower tier academics – I am sure you know what I mean here – will just have to look elsewhere to place their articles, or pay from their own money (not their institution’s)

Aeon J. Skoble
Reply to  Gorm
5 months ago

Agreed. This seems insane, compared with the old days when all you had to worry about was getting the article accepted. And to continue in grumpy-old-man spirit, “open access” was always the case when printed journals were in the library.

Kenny Easwaran
Reply to  Aeon J. Skoble
5 months ago

I think this thread is missing the point. In the old days, the *author* didn’t have to worry about anything once the paper was accepted – because the author doesn’t care about readers. The *reader* is the one who used to have to pay.

You say that “open access was always the case when printed journals were in the library” – but that was only ever the case for people who were members of academic institutions whose libraries paid for journal subscriptions.

If we think of publishing as a service that journals provide to readers, then open access means that the service is provided much better. It’s only if you think that publication is a service to authors that this focus on publishing fees is an issue. (And in any case, Utilitas seems committed to the idea that authors affiliated with major research universities will have their institution pay, just like readers affiliated with major research universities used to have their institution pay for the library subscription – but authors not affiliated with such institutions seem likely to have their fees waived, unlike the case in the past for readers not affiliated with such institutions.)

Aeon J. Skoble
Reply to  Kenny Easwaran
5 months ago

So I’m supposed to go to my dean and say “I had a journal article accepted, can you please pay them 3000 bucks?” I can tell you right now what the answer would be. On the reader end, who exactly is reading philosophy journals other than people with access to univ libraries?

Nicolas Delon
Nicolas Delon
Reply to  Aeon J. Skoble
5 months ago

You’re supposed to check on the OA page if your institution already has an agreement with the publisher or is part of a consortium that does. This is becoming ever more common. If your institution does not have such an agreement then you can talk with the journal. No one is asking authors to negotiate with their institution on a case by case basis.

Colleen Cressman
Colleen Cressman
Reply to  Nicolas Delon
5 months ago

The truth is somewhere in between for most APC-based publishing.

If the author is not from an eligible country where an automatic discount/waiver is provided, and the author’s institution does not have a publisher-institution agreement, then the publisher may still require the author reach out to the library to see if there is an individual-APC fund at the institution. (And these funds come with their own application requirements and process due to limited budgets and the inability to cover every request in full or in part.)

Only when authors can confirm they’ve exhausted alternatives (and sometimes need to produce some sort of proof) do many publishers begin the discretionary waiver/discount process.

All this takes time and reasonable certainty away from authors. And the more journals that adopt compulsory APC models (where the journal only publishes such content), the fewer publishing options authors will have.

Hopefully this won’t be what CUP does under this new program for its APC-based OA journals.

Last edited 5 months ago by Colleen Cressman
Nicolas Delon
Nicolas Delon
Reply to  Colleen Cressman
5 months ago

Sure. But “reaching out to the library to see if there is an individual-APC fund at the institution” is not like asking the Dean for money. That’s annoying, maybe, but then either of two things happen. The library can help you get your article get published OA, great, or they can’t, and if they can’t it seems like Utilitas/CUP will do what it can to waive the APC.

It seems like people are talking past each other here. We have a journal very clearly stating that in the (decreasingly few) cases where neither grant nor institution cover the APC, they are basically guaranteeing a waiver. But people keep raising objections as if that last part was never there. Others haven’t even checked in their institution had an agreement before complaining. It’s very odd.

Last edited 5 months ago by Nicolas Delon
Colleen Cressman
Colleen Cressman
Reply to  Nicolas Delon
5 months ago

Respectfully, you’re going by the “guarantee” language used in what is essentially advertising for the journal. If you look at the actual discretionary policies, you will see no such guarantee.

I want to be wrong about CUP’s new implementation. But compulsory APC-based models simply do not grant sufficient discounts or waivers for all those who need them (to say nothing about how opaquely expensive the publisher-institution agreements are and that would absorb these costs). The problem lies with the publishing model altogether.

I’d rather have seen a declaration that CUP will make publicly available, on a regular schedule, the full waiver statistics and full discount statistics (amounts, denials, approvals, and actually-applied) for each journal that has adopted this model.

If there is a guarantee, then CUP should be proud to be the first APC-based journal to demonstrate its discounts are meaningful (not just 10%-20%) and, together with full waivers, means it truly doesn’t turn anyone away who can’t pay. That wouldn’t solve all problems with the model, but it would help address the author-side issue.

Last edited 5 months ago by Colleen Cressman
Nicolas Delon
Nicolas Delon
Reply to  Colleen Cressman
5 months ago

Whether the journal is misrepresenting reality is a conversation we can have but it’s a different one than the one that started this thread.

Colleen Cressman
Colleen Cressman
Reply to  Nicolas Delon
5 months ago

I’m not sure what you mean. I haven’t drifted off the point of this thread, which began with Gorm raising concerns about the exclusionary nature of compulsory APC-based models. I was responding to your comment to Aeon with more information about how these models actually work; what you said was not quite right. My second comment in reply to you was disagreeing with your confidence that the banner on the journal’s page amounts to “very clearly stating” any real guarantee against discretionary exclusion of authors who would be relying on the discretionary waiver/discounts.

I’m not making wild speculations, though I grant I am speculating about this case — but based on a range of fully analogous cases. I have experience with publishers regarding publisher-institution agreements (from the institution side), individual-APC funds (by having run one), and publisher policies concerning automatic geography-based waivers/discounts and discretionary waivers/discounts (by helping authors navigate them and make the case for receiving them).

If we’re that far apart as to what counts as germane to the topic of the thread, I’ll leave it there.

Nicolas Delon
Nicolas Delon
Reply to  Colleen Cressman
4 months ago

My only point really was that Aeon probably doesn’t need to go talk to his dean. You’re writing (interesting) commentary that belongs in a different part of this comment section. I’m going by what the journal says, that’s all.

Matt Dean
Matt Dean
Reply to  Aeon J. Skoble
5 months ago

You might be surprised at how many people want to read academic articles but lack access to a university library with a subscription. There are several very active websites and Facebook groups to coordinate such access.

Daniel Nagase
Daniel Nagase
Reply to  Aeon J. Skoble
5 months ago

Well, I have access to a university library, but not all libraries are equal. My library does not grant me access to the PDC, for instance.

Mahmoud Jalloh
Mahmoud Jalloh
Reply to  Daniel Nagase
5 months ago

PDC delenda est.

JDRox
JDRox
Reply to  Kenny Easwaran
4 months ago

You say that “open access was always the case when printed journals were in the library” – but that was only ever the case for people who were members of academic institutions whose libraries paid for journal subscriptions.

I’m usually hesitant to disagree with Kenny, but it is pretty easy to go to a different library, and libraries have interlibrary loan. And there are Facebook groups etc. for those who are having trouble accessing something. I’ve never had a fancy job (definitely not a job that pays open access publication fees!), but I’ve never had significant trouble getting access to something I wanted to read unless it was the sort of thing that’s hard for pretty much everyone to access. (I don’t count driving to a different library, putting in an ILL request, emailing the author, posting on Facebook, etc., as “significant trouble”.) So, by my lights, the change of models causes a significant increase in “trouble” for authors without leading to a significant decrease in “trouble” for readers. Perhaps there are other reasons to change models, but I don’t think “overall hassle for authors and readers” is one.

Dr. Lothar Leidernicht
Dr. Lothar Leidernicht
5 months ago

Open access is the latest capitalist trick – let the author do the work of research and writing and then let her pay for publishing too (I.e., let’s have the profit upfront, so we don’t even have do marketing – the authors will do it themselves too). Authors who do not have money – get grants from taxpayers….or just don’t get published, suckers.

Kenny Easwaran
Reply to  Dr. Lothar Leidernicht
5 months ago

Wait, what? I would have thought that asking *readers* to pay was the capitalist trick. And in this case, it sounds like Utilitas is committed to ensuring that authors who don’t get grants from their institution will have their fees waived. That seems much nicer than the old situation where readers who weren’t affiliated with universities still had to pay exorbitant prices to get access to an article.

manny
manny
Reply to  Kenny Easwaran
5 months ago

The trick is that journals no longer perform the role that justified the millions of collective dollars that they siphon from the universities, the departments, and the philosophers; yet they keep taking those dollars; and, all the while, people are applauding them for it when they superficially change where the dollars come from.

Jamie Dreier
Jamie Dreier
Reply to  manny
5 months ago

I’m not sure which role you mean.
But the money to publish the journals has to come from somewhere, and it’s not going to come from anywhere outside the academic community. So superficially changing where the dollars come from is almost the only option.

manny
manny
Reply to  Jamie Dreier
5 months ago

The role of distributing philosophy in an analogue world (printing, binding, shipping journals, etc.). That’s no longer needed. What else do they provide? Reviewers and editorial boards (the money doesn’t go towards, since it’s unpaid), and typesetting (certainly not worth all the money charged).

Jamie Dreier
Jamie Dreier
Reply to  manny
5 months ago

Univ. of Chicago Press has a paid employee who serves as Managing Editor of <I>Ethics</I>. That’s pretty typical for a large academic press philosophy journal. JESP has a grad student working part time in that role, which might be more typical for open access online journals. Besides the typesetting (which actually is pretty expensive) that would be the main cost for a journal.
Chicago makes no money at all from <I>Ethics</I>, by the way. The Managing Editor told me all of the journals there (that he knows about) operate at a loss, subsidized. Maybe Cambridge is different, I don’t know.

Brian Weatherson
Reply to  manny
4 months ago

Copyediting and archiving in a way that won’t lead to link-rot.

Printing binding and shipping is very cheap, and has been for years. Here’s a sense of how much that costs.

https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G201834340

joao
joao
Reply to  Kenny Easwaran
5 months ago

I think the point is that it’s not really “open access” at all. It’s just let’s move the revenue stream to a more reliable source given that libraries and individuals are dropping subscriptions and sales are tanking. But since the careers of people who publish depend on publishing (so then cannot not publish), let’s charge them and secure steady income. We do not have to do any marketing even to the libraries or anyone. Actually wait, we can add some advertisement on (and have additional income) on the websites where we will “publish” stuff… wow what a deal. The provisos are temporal meaningless details to look like it’s friendly.

Colleen Cressman
Colleen Cressman
5 months ago

The OA publishing model is, indeed, important to note. Not all OA is the same. Look at no-fee OA publishing models that do not levy expensive, extractive APCs, such as Ergo and others in philosophy. Costs — and not costs as in APCs — are covered in smaller-dollar increments by libraries and institutions. (In this way, no-fee OA publishing models encourage multi-institutional support of the journal’s entire operations, not just for a journal’s research outputs.)

That CUP encourages authors to check with their institutions for institution-publisher APC agreements as the primary way of providing partial or full coverage of the APC is just shifting the ever-ballooning, opaque “cost” to the libraries. (These are often called ‘read and publish’ or ‘transformative agreements.’)

I say “cost” because it’s not at all clear APC price-setting in general avoids or reduces sneaking in perceptions of prestige alongside what APCs are generally understood to do (recoup costs associated with producing the articles). (An exception to this could be low-price compulsory APCs by society publishers, though membership fees may be a better way to cover publishing costs.)

I am skeptical that any discount/waiver program could sufficiently lower economic barriers for enough authors to offset the unfairness APC-based publishing has introduced and perpetuates. In scholarly publishing, it’s now the case that readers are priced out of access (in the case of subscription-based, non-OA publishing) and authors are priced out of participating in the scholarly conversation (in the case of fee-based OA).

For all that fee-based OA publishers encourage authors to contact their librarians about institution-publisher agreements to reduce or fully cover the APCs, authors ought also to ask their libraries:

  • What no-fee OA initiatives they are supporting (no-fee OA journals and publishers, institutional rights-retention policies), especially in the humanities.
  • Whether faculty interest in no-fee OA initiatives could help make the case for their funding at the library, institutional, or multi-institutional levels.
  • How authors can make their scholarship OA, whether by publishing in no-fee OA journals or, for traditional subscription routes to publishing (i.e. subscription journals or hybrid journals), by self-archiving under institutional rights-retention policies or by negotiating individual author agreements for better self-archiving terms if the default terms disallow sharing or embargo the accepted MS.
  • How to help early-career authors, graduate-student authors, NTT authors, and tenure-stream authors find no-fee OA opportunities (such as those mentioned in the above point).
  • How tenured faculty who elect to publish in new no-fee OA journals can help raise their visibility and establish them as viable publishing venues, so that tenure-stream faculty who are beholden to restrictive T&P standards will feel more confident in pursuing these options.

As a librarian working in open access, it is so important for us to hear from authors about their publishing needs and interests, especially as regards alternatives to APC-based OA. Libraries and academic departments have harmonious interests and can (and do) do a lot make real improvements to scholarly publishing.

Daniel Weltman
5 months ago

Unfortunately this looks like the end of my ability to submit to Utilitas (unless I have a co-author at a rich institution). I am at a university in India and my entire research budget for the year would not fund the open access fee (and my university is unusually generous with its research funding!). I could pay for it myself but that would be a huge chunk of my yearly income (and my university is unusually generous with its paychecks!). It is true the fee can be waived, but you can only apply for a waiver once your paper has been accepted. If the waiver is not granted, then I’d be forced to withdraw my accepted paper and start over at a journal I can afford.

Sergio Tenenbaum
Sergio Tenenbaum
Reply to  Daniel Weltman
5 months ago

Unless I am misreading something many universities in India seem to have an agreement with CUP. This is a list of some of them:
https://www.cambridge.org/core/services/open-access-policies/read-and-publish-agreements/oa-agreement-e-shodh-sindhu

Daniel Weltman
Reply to  Sergio Tenenbaum
5 months ago

Wow, this is good news! As of 2020 my university wasn’t a member of the agreement, but apparently at some point since then, they joined it without informing the faculty. Looks like Utilitas is back on the menu!

Eric Steinhart
5 months ago

Open Access is for the rich and only the rich. And yes, it does place an undue burden on those from less-privileged colleges and universities. The end result will be a two-tier system: Open Access for the wealthy, everybody else just posts to Phil Papers.

In the end, that might be a good thing. The journal system as we know it is a useless relic from the days of paper. It’s increasingly just a vast system of extractive injustice, gatekeeping, privilege hierarchies, etc. Philosophers (unlike those in the sciences, health, business, etc.) rarely get grants to cover these expenses. As budgets get cut, universities will cut funds for philosophy open access first. Fewer and fewer philosophers will be able to pay the fees. Eventually, publishers themselves might realize that philosophy journals don’t make enough money. Open access comes with its own business pressures on editors.

And the saddest part of all is that we can implement extremely low cost open access all by ourselves. There are several models for this (like embedding peer review into Phil Papers, etc.). But it’s a collective action problem that might be impossible to solve in practice. And that’s too bad.