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International Journal of Solids and Structures (IJSS) will be freely accessible

Zhigang Suo's picture

At a meeting of the Editorial Board of IJSS, on Sunday, 3 June 2007, in Austin, Texas, the representatives from Elsevier, the publisher of IJSS, told the members of the Board that all articles published in IJSS will be freely accessible 24 months after publication.  The first of these articles will become available in October 2007.  That is, all IJSS articles published after October 2005 will become freely accessible after a delay of 24 months.

All articles published in IJSS, dating back to Volume 1 in 1965, are available as part of the engineering backfile package.  This package is a one-off purchase with no annual fee.

The processing of the manuscripts at IJSS is accelerating.  The average time from submission to acceptance is 26 weeks.  An accepted manuscript, as prepared by the authors, is available online within 5 working days, in the section of Article in Press.

The article online is also given a DOI (Digital Object Identifier).  The DOI establishes a permanent link, which will not break when the author-generated copy is replaced with the publisher-generated copy. Thus, the article can be cited immediately.  Here is an example: 

J.-H. Kim and J.J. Vlassak, Perturbation analysis of an undulating free surface in a multi-layered structure, International Journal of Solids and Structures, doi:10.1016/j.ijsolstr.2007.05.025.

This time-delayed open access, I believe, at least provides a temporary relief of a tremendous tension between the traditional model of publishing and the potential of the Internet.  This tension may be released gradually, by adjustments of multiple players in the journal publishing business (writers, readers, editors, publishers, libraries, funding agencies...)

Open access is likely the future mode of publishing.  The question is how we get there.  Open access publishing will still cost money.  A common model is that authors pay to get a paper published.  Here are some price tags:

In many ways, this model of publishing looks similar to that of advertising, with authors acting  like advertisers, and publishers acting like advertising agencies.  Should funding agencies insist that all papers openly accessible?  Should libraries get out of the journal publishing business.  Should universities lower the overhead rate and enable authors to pay publishers directly?

Regardless these future possibilities, Elsevier has listed many rights retained by the authors.  Among them is the right to post a pre-print version of a journal article on the Internet.  Incidentally, this right is granted by most publishers.  Thus, if you would like a paper of yours openly accessible, all you need to do is to post a pre-print on iMechanica or other websites. 


Pradeep Sharma's picture

This is good news....I hope other mechanics journals such as Mech Mater. and JMPS will follow suit as well

Isn't this primarily in response to JoMMS?  Didn't the previous Editorial Board of IJSS resign en masse and found JoMMS?

It seems, hopefully, that this resignation will encourage more journals to extend their "free of charge" period.


Zhigang Suo's picture

I didn't know the exact circumstances that led to the change of the Editorial Board.  As a part of the background study to develop iMechanica, I have given some thoughts on open access.  Here is an entry I posted early this year:  Journal publishers are pioneers of Web 2.0.

Whatever the future outcome, it behooves us mechanicians to participate in the process. 

Indeed the Editorial Board of IJSS resigned over high prices and founded

JOMMS, which is now in its second year.  The level of papers has been very 

high and the acceptance from the community very good, not only because

the subscription cost is low ($500/eyar for over 2000 pages) but because of

other advantages - user can keep copyright, high level of editorial involvement

etc.  See for details. 

Charles R. Steele's picture



Blog 19Jun07

I served as editor of IJSS for 20 years, with my associate editor Marie-Louise Steele. When Elsevier put high pressure on us to convert to a new web-based editorial system, after we had had considerable frustration for several years with their previous system, I began browsing on the web on the topic of journals. The result was shame for having served Elsevier so long. A few years before that, a colleague in EE urged the library to drop all Elsevier journals, and I countered with a defense that in the mechanics area, those with high impact factors were Elsevier.  Some members of the board complained that IJSS was a "cash cow" for Elsevier, but my enlightenment came with the articles on the topic by Ted Bergstrom, accessible on his web page:

He points out the business model for commercial journal publication. Namely, the suppliers (i.e. authors and reviewers) furnish all the raw materials and subassemblies free of charge. The publisher furnishes the final assembly, and then sells the product back to the suppliers at ten times cost. A beautiful system!

Actual costs of some mechanics journals, from the site created by Ted Bergstrom and Preston McAfee:

ARCHIVE OF APPLIED MECHANICS, Price per article: 38.06,
Price per citation: 71.01, Relative Cost Index 11.11

Price per citation: 24.56, Relative Cost Index 4.65

Price per citation: 12.31, Relative Cost Index 2.42

Price per citation: 21.46, Relative Cost Index 5.34

Price per citation: 14.49, Relative Cost Index 3.67

JOURNAL OF APPLIED MECHANICS, Price per article: 3.6,
Price per citation: 4.06, Relative Cost Index 0.81

Price per citation: ?, Relative Cost Index ? (Too new, in 2cd year)

Price per citation: 12.49, Relative Cost Index 4

Price per citation: 72.92, Relative Cost Index 8.37

Price per citation: 745.71, Relative Cost Index 49.83

Price per citation: 32.4, Relative Cost Index 5.55

SMART MATERIALS & STRUCTURES, Price per article: 3.91
Price per citation: 3.94, Relative Cost Index 0.69

From the costs, can you pick out which are from commercial and which from "non profit" publishers? Actually the "non profits" make some money on publications, so you can see the excess profit of the commercial publishers. For example, IJSS had around 1000 subscribers in 1980. To make a wild guess, that has probably been reduced to, say, 500 subscribers today. At the list price of over  $7000/year, that means an income of $3.5m. The actual cost is probably less than $0.5m, leaving a $3m profit/year on just one of Elsevier's 2000 journals.  

Where do the profits go? Reed Elsevier has yearly profits of around $2b, roughly half coming from Elsevier, the publisher of the technical journals. Many have asked why the profits are not much higher. Apparently the workers for the commercial publishers are not particularly well-paid, but on the executive level that is not the case. In 2003, there was a plan to give the CEO of Reed Elsevier a package of $16m, and the CEO of Elsevier apparently receives a yearly package of $3m.

Since there was no indication that the commercial publishers were reversing the pressure for increased profits out of the limited institutional resources, 21 of the 23 members of the IJSS board of editors joined with us in resigning and establishing an alternative. The late George Herrmann, the founder of IJSS, also supported this and served as Senior Editorial Advisor. The result is JoMMS, published by the non profit organization Mathematical Sciences Publications. The details are on the web page With JoMMS there is no author charge, including for printed color graphics. However, as pointed out in the above Elsevier discussion, journals do cost. Instead of soaking a few subscribers, JoMMS has a low price of $500 per year for print and e-access (the cost of one color figure for most commercial and non profit publishers). So we plan to reverse the general trend and cover costs with a large base of subscribers. Those at a subscribing institution have the print copy plus exclusive e-access of an article for 12 months past publication. After that e-access is free to the world. Note that this agrees with the NIH policy for papers written on grants. There is a possibility that other funding agencies will be following suit. So the above Elsevier offer of free e-access after 24 months is not so generous, but it is a welcome change from the preceding charge of $70 for a download of a paper for someone at a nonsubscribing institution.

The improvement in speed to publication is also welcome. My suspicion is that this will be acompanied by a further decrease in the effort for final editing of manuscripts. For several years, IJSS papers were printed with the same submission  and acceptance dates, despite the full information we provided and our many complaints. A "great innovation" came about three years ago, when Elsevier decided that the first page of a paper could start on either the left or right side, to eliminate blank pages. I wonder how many meetings of the highly paid executives were required to arrive at this decision.

Since you are reading this, you probably spend a considerable portion of your time on publication matters. So take just a little time to read the articles by Bergstrom and on many library web pages. Then consider if you wish to donate freely your effort as author, reviewer, or editor to publishers who are exploiting you and your institution. The exploitation will quickly come to an end when tenure and funding committees start evaluating resumes by dividing journal impact factors by Bergstrom's Relative Cost Index.

Charles R. Steele

Pradeep Sharma's picture


This is quite interesting. I was unaware of several data you discuss in your post. If you have not already done so, please check out the energetic discussion ongong on a related subject initiated by Eric Mockensturm.

ericmock's picture

Please also see my response to Dean Eastbury's post about Elsevier's 'initiatives' at, Reed Elsevier's operating profit margins for the scholarly publishing division are an astounding 30.5% and amazingly considerably higher than their operating profit margin for their LexisNexis division (both have about the same revenue of a little over €2 biliion).

Charles R. Steele's picture

Charles R. Steele

To make some numbers more exact, the profit for Elsevier Scientific for 2006 is $914 m, from Eric's other comment, made  from 2239 journals, according to  the Elsevier web page, giving an astounding average profit per journal of $0.408 m. Since there are many journals in the Elsevier stable that make no profit, my guess at a profit of $3 m for the larger journals such as IJSS may not be far off.  

Dr Steele, 

 Thanks for the response. It is clear from the last lines of your post that the academic community itself is responsible for inflicting the financial burden of horrendously expensive journals. Journals thrive because authors submit papers to them. The reaon authors submit papers to a particular journal is because of it's prestige and weightage to that prestige in the tenure and promotion process. As long as that doesn't change, in my opinion, neither will the dominance of presitigious private journals decline. 

At the risk of being accused of levelling scurrilous accusations, I'd like to say the following: Since people on editorial boards are typically the ones deciding tenure and promotion cases, I'd expect them to give  more weightage to their own journal. In this regard, one may expect a conflict in evaluating the quality of a paper published in a rival journal, especially if there is some monetary relationship between the editorial board and the publisher of the private journal.  

  -Amit Ranade 

Charles R. Steele's picture


 I have discussed your last question with some others. In our long experience with JAM and IJSS, and on tenure committees at Stanford, we have never seen  such a case.

Charles R. Steele

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