Scicomm Accessibility: Accessing Scicomm Journals

Photo credit: Nevit Dilmen
Photo credit: Nevit Dilmen, via Wikimedia Commons

Science communication researchers aren’t the only people interested in science communication research. Reporters, bloggers and researchers from various fields interested in sharing their work (among others) are interested in learning what “scicomm” can tell us about conveying scientific information to various audiences. But reaching the relevant research findings can be difficult.

I doubt that most people expect scicomm research to give us a specific prescription for how to communicate effectively. Research doesn’t work that way, and most of us know it.

However, I do think that learning as much as possible about how people find, process and react to information improves our general understanding of the various processes involved in science communication. And for that reason, staying abreast of the peer-reviewed research on science communication can be both helpful and interesting.

That said, there are a couple of obstacles that can make this somewhat difficult. One, which I’ve written about recently, is that the language many scicomm researchers use in their journal articles can be challenging to non-experts. The second obstacle, which I’ll touch on here, is that much of the scicomm literature is behind a paywall, and inaccessible to the public.

There are open access journals that publish scicomm research findings – the Journal of Science Communication, for example, and some multi-subject journals, like PLOS ONE. But many scicomm-specific journals (such as Public Understanding of Science [PUS] and Science Communication) are for paying subscribers only.

In an email last month, Susanna Priest, editor of Science Communication, told Communication Breakdown that the journal has discussed ways to improve access to its articles, but notes that “many open access models are author pay models – which does not work well for a field in which most researchers have no significant grant funding, and other sources of funding are not so easy to develop.”

Priest notes that SAGE Publications, which publishes Science Communication, is experimenting with OA models. “The one I find appealing is the one that allows authors to open up their work for free access if they choose to pay,” Priest says.

However, Priest adds that “any change will be evolutionary, not revolutionary,” and that Science Communication is unlikely to make any major shifts in its publishing model.

“On the large scale of things, open access is clearly an important policy, in particular with regard to medical and other life-and-death research,” Martin Bauer, editor of PUS, told Communication Breakdown in a recent email. “It’s also important because of the obscene profits made by some publishers. However, a one fits all solution cannot be the future business model for academic publishing. Niche markets like PUS might require a different model.”

Bauer noted that PUS – which is also published by SAGE – is holding on to the “wait and see” position it took on open access in 2010. However, Bauer said that authors may make an article open access for a fee.

To this point, however, Bauer says that very few authors have chosen to make their articles open access – only 3-5 papers per year (out of around 80) are OA.

So, the good news is that scicomm journals have definitely been thinking about OA. The bad news is that they don’t see a financially viable way to pursue an OA model.

PS: The OA journal F1000Research has announced that it is waiving its publishing fees for all science communication papers in 2014.


6 thoughts on “Scicomm Accessibility: Accessing Scicomm Journals

  1. Paige Brown

    Ben Lillie has a good point, but I think part of this is a problem of culture. I think while we’ve done a great job increasing awareness of the need to make ‘hard science’ open access, mass communication and science communication scholars – especially young scholars on the tenure clock, in my experience – aren’t embracing open access.

    Part of this is also a problem of funding – yes, I imagine that science communication researchers don’t receive the funding that other science researchers do. BUT I think this is where more mass communication researchers should be joining science researchers in interdisciplinary grant proposals. Talk about broader impacts!

    I’m now a science communication researcher (PhD student) myself, and have received advice in several instances from other young scholars on the tenure clock to avoid open access journals, and frankly any journals that aren’t the core journals that receive recognition in the field. I think this is a big problem. For instance, why aren’t more science communication scholars (and mass communication scholars) blogging about their work and including pre-prints or self-archived post-prints of their manuscripts on their blogs??

    Another problem is a lack of awareness that most of the scicomm journals you list above are VERY friendly to ‘green open access’ and self-archiving. When researchers don’t have the money to publish ‘gold’ open access, they could be depositing pre-prints in places like FigShare, PeerJPreprints, etc. They can also typically deposit post-prints in their institutional repositories or own their personal websites (which Google Scholar can typically find) with no embargo period! (See Sage and Taylor&Francis open access policies). I will be blogging about this soon.


  2. Paige Brown

    These are the author re-use polices for SAGE journals (including Science Communication and PUS):

    The following SAGE’s Global Journal Author Reuse Policy, effective as of March 20, 2013:
    • You retain copyright in your work.
    • You may do whatever you wish with the version of the article you submitted to the journal (version 1).
    • Once the article has been accepted for publication, you may post the accepted version (version 2) of the article on your own personal website, your department’s website or the repository of your institution without any restrictions.
    • You may not post the accepted version (version 2) of the article in any repository other than those listed above (ie you may not deposit in the repository of another institution or a subject repository) until 12 months after publication of the article in the journal.
    • You may use the published article (version 3) for your own teaching needs or to supply on an individual basis to research colleagues, provided that such supply is not for commercial purposes.
    • You may use the article (version 3) in a book you write or edit any time after publication in the journal.
    • You may not post the published article (version 3) on a website or in a repository without permission from SAGE.
    • When posting or re-using the article please provide a link to the appropriate DOI for the published version of the article on SAGE Journals (
    All commercial or any other re-use of the published article should be referred to SAGE. More information can be found at:


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