REMINDER | An Important and Urgent Update on the Future of SSHRC Funding of Journals


Subject: An Important and Urgent Update on the Future of SSHRC Funding of Journals

The CALJ Executive is very concerned with recent proposed SSHRC changes to the journal funding program. We urge our members to carefully review this update. 

In July 2017, SSHRC formed an Advisory Committee to review the Aid to Scholarly Journals (ASJ) funding opportunity. Members of the Canadian Association of Learned Journals (CALJ) Board of Directors (BOD) were invited to participate in an Advisory Committee.

The Advisory Committee covered a number of topics of interest including: the definition of a “Canadian” journal; the definition of an “article” and the funding model; the maximum funding amount available per year; the term of the grant; Open Access requirements for funded journals; and eligibility of journals published by commercial publishers.

Significant Changes

The consultation process is now drawing to a close, and CALJ’s BOD would like to draw attention to two changes proposed by SSHRC to the funding opportunity that will have a significant impact on some CALJ members:

·         In order to be eligible for funding, all journal content must be fully Open Access (OA) with either no embargo period (i.e. Gold OA with or without APCs) or have a moving paywall of no greater than 12 months allowing access to the article of record. Journals will be asked to make their content OA on their respective digital platforms. For journals that do not currently make use of one of these models, a one-year transition period will be permitted. Such journals will need to submit a plan outlining how they will transition within 12 months of the grant start date.

·         A financial incentive of $5K will be made available to journals that make use of a Canadian non-commercial publishing/distribution platform to cover associated costs.

Additionally, there is continued discussion at SSHRC of a mandate that funded journals must deposit content on the Érudit platform.

At the same time that these changes are being proposed, the maximum annual grant will remain unchanged at $30,000 per year for a maximum of three years and the funding formula will remain unchanged: peer-reviewed articles being funded at $850 per article with no additional funding available for other manuscript types, such as book reviews, Review Essays, etc.

How These Proposed Changes Will Affect You

The CALJ Executive is very concerned with these changes as they will pose a significant threat to many of our journals that operate on different models, such as subscription, partnership with international for-profit and not-for-profit aggregators (e.g., ProQuest, EBSCO, JSTOR, Project MUSE), and partnerships with commercial publishers.

·         The TOTALITY OF THE CONTENT OF ALL FUNDED JOURNALS, not just all SSHRC-supported research, be made open access, including content not covered by the ASJ funding formula such as book reviews and discussion fora;

·         Green open access (deposit in an OA repository) no longer qualifies as open access and thus SSHRC is moving beyond the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications

·         Maximum funding is being reduced to $25K / year unless a journal signs on with the non-commercial Canadian OA platform Érudit

·         The $5K / year incentive of participating in Érudit is tied to costs for platform transfer and access and therefore supporting the platform and not the remaining journal operations

·         These proposals penalize successful journals that have found ways of earning revenues outside Canada on their own or via platforms and aggregators, including not-for-profit organizations such as Project Muse or JSTOR.

·         These proposals redirect support away from journals and place it with Canadian platforms and aggregators. This will reduce international income that is necessary to the journals’ operating budgets.

·         The discussion underway of mandating participation in Érudit interferes with journals’ abilities to pursue online digital strategies best suited to their operations and removes the journals’ option of working with the platform vendor of their choice. This also prevents journals working with commercial publishers from access to SSHRC funding irrespective of other considerations.

·         The OA requirement forces Canadian journals that rely on other revenue streams to select between the loss of the grant and the loss of other revenue streams, both of which may be necessary to the journals’ operating budgets.

·         The OA requirement could encourage some journals to change their business models to an OA-APC model. The APC model, however, presents a significant challenge for Canadian SSH researchers, and could drive researchers who are unable to raise the necessary funds to opt to submit to journals outside Canada. Notably, SSHRC funds account for approximately 25% of research published in Canadian journals (The entirety of the content of ASJ recipient journal’s, however, would be required to be OA without the presence of alternative funds to help finance the publishing of non-SSHRC supported content).

·         No funding will be provided for innovation at the level of individual journals or among journal groups.

CALJ’s position is that diversity in business models is crucial to the Canadian scholarly communication ecosystem. CALJ represents over 100 journals, each of which is unique in its circumstances and business models. SSHRC now feels it has the mandate to limit the business models that have been developed to successfully sustain our journal publishing community. While Open Access is an important consideration for Canadian journals, the proposed changes to the ASJ funding interfere with journals’ abilities to pursue the business models best suited to their unique needs and circumstances. The proposed OA requirement of the SSHRC ASJ application as well as a mandate and/or incentive to enter into a partnership with a specific platform combined with the lack of additional SSHRC funding to offset the loss of revenue from closed access content presents a threat to the sustainability of Canadian journals. We feel that the pressure to flip too many journals to open access without proper consideration of the financial requirements needed to do so nor a guaranteed level of revenue to support the journals will put many journals in precarious positions, including a risk of discontinuing.

Urgent Action Required

Given the impact of these proposed changes to the ASJ application and that SSHRC is moving quickly, we believe it is important for SSHRC to hear directly from the journals’ community. CALJ calls on its members to:

·         Carefully consider the proposed changes and the impacts they will have on their journal operations.

·         Contact SSHRC directly with your questions, concerns and opinions on the impact of these changes.

·         Contact your association or parent organization’s executives and let them know your concerns.
CALJ Letter

Please send your impact statements to:

Kirstie Duncan, Minister of Science :
Ted Hewitt, SSHRC President :
Mona Nemer, Canada’s Science Advisor :
Dominique Bérubé, SSHRC Vice-President Research Programs :
Tim Wilson, SSHRC Executive Director, Research Grants and Partnerships:
Lorraine Anderson, SSHRC Manager, Research Grants and Partnerships :
Guy Laforest, President of the Federation) :