CASE STUDY: RANGIFER
Rangifer – Research, Management and Husbandry of Reindeer and other Northern Ungulates (ISSN 0333-256X) was first published in 1981.
Rangifer is owned by the Nordic Council for Reindeer Husbandry Research (NOR). NOR is under the auspices of the Nordic Council of Ministers and depends on funds from the member governments (Finland, Norway, and Sweden).
Rangifer is the world’s only scientific journal dealing exclusively with husbandry, management and biology of arctic and northern ungulates and publishes original, unpublished papers, review articles and brief communications in all themes and fields related to the animal reindeer and reindeer husbandry as culture and industry, including papers on other northern ungulates. Rangifer has been published with an annual volume (27 vols. 1981–2007), commonly with two issues a year.
In addition, Rangifer has published Rangifer Special Issue (ISSN 0801-6399) with 17 issues so far, and Rangifer Report (ISSN 0808-2359) with 12 issues so far. Special Issues have generally contained articles from external conferences, while Reports have contained abstracts and papers from NOR’s own workshops and conferences.
In the Norwegian census of scientific journals (FRIDA) Rangifer is accredited as a scientific journal at level 1. This means that articles in Rangifer counts when research funds are divided between institutions. Rangifer has asked to be considered for accreditation at level 2, meaning that articles will count with weight 3, instead of 1 as level 1 articles do.
Rangifer and OA
In 2008 Rangifer transitioned to OA, with volume 28 starting publishing in May 2008 as an OA journal. Rangifer uses the OJS installation of the University of Tromsø Library, and receives technical and user support from the library.
Articles are published continuously. Reports and Special Issues are also intended to be published OA.
Reports and Special Issues will also be available in a print version, while a limited paper edition of the journal probably will be made available in print for promotional use at conferences, meetings etc.
Rangifer opted for a Creative Commons Attribution Only licence for their OA content, earning them an almost immediate SPARC Europe Seal for Open Access Journals.
Business model considerations
The TA journal
As a TA journal, Rangifer had subscribers from the whole of the circumpolar area, but not in large numbers. Rangifer also had some subscribers from other areas, e.g. Japan, New Zealand, even South America. The annual subscription cost was low, making for low income to the journal. Distribution costs were, due to high Norwegian postage rates, high.
The researchers in the relevant fields are many, but they are thinly spread over a large number of institutions and departments, with one or a few researchers being the norm.
Although important in its special fields, Rangifer was not seen as an important journal for the libraries. With the large journal packages from the commercial publishers taking increasingly large parts of the library budget, Rangifer as a stand-alone journal ran the risk of being cancelled.
It seemed futile to think of increasing the subscription price to offset cancellations, and there was little prospect of finding new subscribers.
Calculations showed that subscriptions did not cover the costs of printing, distribution and administration of subscriptions. Likewise, sales of back copies regularly cost much more in distribution and administration than they generated in revenue. Small orders for back copies often were sent for free, as the invoiced amount would not cover the administrative cost of issuing the invoice.
The OA journal
For NOR, dissemination of research is of the utmost importance. Finding that transitioning to OA would have possibilties for tightening the budget, NOR decided to go for OA.
Two strategic decisions were made in this connection:
- That Rangifer would continue to ask authors to transfer copyright to Rangifer, but to use this to license Rangifer content under a CC-BY (attribution only) licence. As the Rangifer content generally has low or no profit potential, it is seen as imperative to remove any obstacle to dissemination.
- While Rangifer in its TA model was published twice a year, in OA Rangifer would publish articles continuously, as they were accepted for publication. This was seen as an answer to authors’ need for speedy publication, and this mode of publishing is one that is available for electronic-only journals.
On the practical level, one decided to avail oneself of the OJS service provided by the University of Tromsø Library. The library decided to offer their services for free to Rangifer, as Rangifer, though not a journal owned or closely associated with the University of Tromsø itself, was located on campus and had authors also from the university.
Effects of transitioning
After 5 months online, one has published 8 articles. The article with most hits has 510 hits. This compares to a distribution of less than 250 paper copies of the journal. Notably, the least hit article in this period has more than 300 hits.
The editor expects that fast and free publishing of articles, and global access to content, will drive more authors to publish in the journal, thus contributing to the goals of NOR.
While Rangifer has a non-profit orientation, and has taken a decision not to use advertising as a means of generating income, the board has agreed to participate in an attempt to gather information about the potential of generating such income. As a part of the NOAP project the University of Tromsø Library will experiment with the use of Google AdSense marketing in two journals, Rangifer is one of these. This experiment is mean to gain information on whether these journals will drive enough traffic to ads to generate any income (and if so, how much) and how Google AdSense will function in a scientific context.