Perspectives and experiences of scholarly journals: four concise presentations

The floor was given to four Canadian scholarly journals, which presented their activities, the challenges they were facing and their ideas for achieving their mission of dissemination of scholarly knowledge:

-        Élisabeth Nardout-Lafarge, Director, Études françaises (Québec)

-        Réal Allard, Director, Linguistic Minorities and Society (New Brunswick)

-        Sarah McCabe, Librarian and Project Manager, Ontario History Journal (Ontario)

-        Andrée-Anne Boisvert, Coordinator, Mosaïc (Manitoba)


1- Études françaises, Elisabeth Nardout-Lafarge

Études françaises is a journal that is now 52 years old and publishes 3 issues annually, for a total of around 25 articles per year. The journal focuses on criticism and the history of literature in the French language, from the Middle Ages to today. It is peer reviewed.

The journal is in the midst of a transition, with the lowering of the embargo from 2 years to 1. The editorial team is thinking about new policies to facilitate the journal’s transition to digital form. This said, the journal is first published on paper at the Presses de l’Université de Montréal (PUM), and the editorial team would like to keep this format while remaining open to other forms of publication. Thus, authors are authorized to disseminate their articles through institutional repositories – although for the moment, the journal does not have a policy for verifying self-archiving practices. Études françaises has 341 subscriptions (of which 7 are individual): 164 paper subscriptions and 177 Érudit subscriptions.

Études françaises is in a difficult financial situation today: for the first time in its history, the FRQSC has not renewed its funding; only the SSHRC grant has been obtained, for $30,000. The journal’s funding has thus been cut in half. In order to deal with this, the editorial team has been able to count on support from the PUM, exceptional temporary support from the Université de Montréal’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and temporary support from the Centre de recherche interuniversitaire sur la littérature et la culture québécoises. Despite everything, radical measures have been required:

- Drastic cuts, some of which have been salutary. Changes to operations with the PUM have been agreed upon to save $5000;

- Increases in paper and Érudit subscription prices – although this is only temporary since the journal should become open access in the medium term;

- Establishment of an author fee when the article results from a funded project. This contribution to producing the issue is used to pay the rights for the illustration on the cover, translation of abstracts – even articles. However, this practice cannot be applied across the board without running the risk of depriving the journal of contributions by young researchers, who do not yet receive much funding, and by researchers from abroad (since most foreign researchers are not funded as in Canada). The board of Études françaises has thus agreed that the financial contribution will not be a condition on publication.

At present, we are lacking $10,000-$15,000 for the journal to operate in a normal, serene manner. It cannot do without a managing editor at the PhD level (required to work on the texts published by Études françaises). Ideally, construction and updating of the journal’s Internet site, as well as monitoring of developments in the field, should done by a second research assistant. Finally, the funding has to cover releasing the Director of the journal from other duties, so that he or she has the time to ensure the journal functions smoothly.

While the measures that the funding bodies have taken to favour open access are perfectly justified – and have won the support of the board of Études françaises –, the work of publishing journals has to receive more support from universities, which depend on journals’ work to acquire value. At present, that work is invisible to universities, and is considered a volunteer activity done on the side by professor-researchers.

In this context, the loss of the FRQSC funding has been a terrible blow because it has come at a time when the journal is having to negotiate its transition to digital media, change its mode of operations, and innovate, with all the tasks that involves (rehabilitating older issues, etc.). The board thus has to do much more with half as much money.  


2. Linguistic Minorities and Society, Réal Allard

Linguistic Minorities and Society is a young journal that results from a partnership between institutes at the Université de Moncton and public bodies (the Canadian Institute for Research on Linguistic Minorities, the Canadian Institute for Research on Public Policy and Public Administration, the Consortium national de formation en santé, etc.). The journal publishes 2 issues per year, each of which contains 8-9 articles.

Publication is uniquely open access because the cost of paper publication is too high. Indeed, open access is an advantage in the context of linguistic minorities (French minorities outside Québec and English minorities in Québec).  The rate of consultation on Érudit is encouraging for such a young journal. Open access also makes it possible for published articles to be consulted not only by the university community (students and professors), but also by bodies that make decisions concerning linguistic minorities and are interested in governance, health care services, language quality and language usage issues.

Linguistic Minorities and Society is experiencing the same problems as other journals with respect to funding: the journal has no subscription income, and its funding comes from partners, of which some have withdrawn (in particular, Canadian Heritage and the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages). The board is therefore thinking about strategies to continue operating or even to survive, while having the feeling it is sharing a difficult, very uncertain environment, even though the problems and possible solutions are interesting.


3. Ontario History Journal, Sarah McCabe

The Ontario Historical Society is a non-profit organization founded in Toronto in 1888. It is based on the voluntary participation of more than 400 historical societies, but counts on no government agency or university. The Ontario History Journal was founded in 1899, and has been publishing 2 issues a year for over a century. The articles are peer reviewed.

The journal has received funding from the Trillium Foundation to shift towards a digital model. Discussions are underway with Érudit and other platforms. The journal has special ties with some of its members. One of the challenges that it has to face if it adopts a digital model is copyright: how should the (several thousand) earlier issues be digitalized, what is in the public domain? The membership-based subscription system will also probably have to be revised.

A major concern of the journal’s board is related to funding: the future is rather uncertain. While the journal has received grants from the SSHRC in the past, that source of funding is not sufficiently certain to be included in strategies for developing the journal.


4. Mosaic, Andrée-Anne Boisvert

Mosaic is a bilingual journal that has been published at the University of Manitoba since 1967. It receives funding from the Faculty of Arts, the Winnipeg Foundation and the SSHRC. The journal publishes 4 issues per year, with 10-12 peer-reviewed articles per issue.

Without the revenue generated by the aggregators (ProQuest, Project Muse), the journal could not exist. The paper version is disseminated in over 300 institutions and 23 countries – at a rate of 500 copies per issue, but the number of individual subscriptions is constantly dropping.

Mosaic’s editorial board is especially opposed to open access, which is considered with great suspicion. The journal’s copyright policies are quite strict – the contract prohibits publishing texts through institutional repositories and on personal sites. In conclusion, Mosaïc is not yet ready to adopt a digital model.