AGU journal Water Resources Research to be fully open access

Aug. 29, 2023
Water Resources Research, an AGU journal that publishes original scholarship on water management, will be fully open access on January 1, 2024.

The American Geophysical Union (AGU) announced that its journal Water Resources Research (WRR) will be fully open access as of January 1, 2024.

WRR publishes original scholarship on the management and movement of Earth’s water. It is transition from a hybrid publishing model to be fully open access.

AGU said that open access academic journals remove the paywall that would require interested readers to have a paid subscription, thereby increasing equitable access to the latest advances among researchers and the public alike.

Switching to a fully open access publishing model means a loss of subscription fees. AGU announced that it will increase the cost to publish a journal article, shifting that financial burden from subscribers to researchers.

“Water Resources Research has been the cornerstone of the hydrological sciences for almost 60 years,” said John Selker, president of AGU’s Hydrology section and a hydrologist at Oregon State University. “Now, anyone who needs to make use of the cutting-edge hydrological science found in WRR will be able to do so, as we have long believed should be the case. The Hydrology section of AGU is delighted to see this important move and to be able to tell authors that this flagship journal is open to the entire world.”

The popularity of open access journals traces its recent growth to a Budapest Open Access Initiative conference in 2001, where institutions, organizations and individuals from around the world met to discuss how research in all fields could be made freely available on the then-nascent Internet. AGU released its first statement acknowledging the need for open access research in 2002, as part of a broader statement on data preservation and heritage.

“AGU embraced the idea of open access pretty quickly,” said Matthew Giampoala, vice president of publications at AGU. “We’ve been moving in this direction for a long time. When we made our agreement with Wiley, our publisher, more than 10 years ago, we saw open access as the future.”

AGU’s first fully open access journal was the Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems (JAMES), which was acquired in 2012. When AGU signed with Wiley, the Board of Directors determined that all new journals would be open access by default and that any subscription journal articles would automatically be opened 24 months after publication. Soon afterward, AGU established the open-access journal Earth’s Future.

Most recently, in 2022, the short-format journal Geophysical Research Letters went fully open access, in line with the Board of Directors’ commitment to transitioning at least one journal to fully open access every five years. That same year, the Biden administration mandated that taxpayer-funded research be publicly accessible by 2025.

Over the past five years, AGU’s Hydrology section has held town hall discussions and disseminated surveys about open access.

“Open access publication is a cornerstone of open science, and arguably a moral imperative for openness in all aspects of our research,” said Georgia Destouni, editor in chief of Water Resources Research and a hydrologist at Stockholm University in Sweden. “Transitioning to open access is essential for Water Resources Research and water science, as it enables equal access to vital research information for a wider audience of scholars, policymakers, practitioners and the general public.”

The journal publishes approximately 650 articles per year (about 44% of which are already published as open access) covering every angle of water research imaginable in many corners of the world.

Some of the journal’s most popular articles from the past year explored the forecasting of summer droughts in the United States, the swelling intensity of global droughts due to climate changeflooding in the Himalayas, and how global river widths have changed over time. Agriculture, water chemistry, wildfires and policy are well represented.

The increase in publishing costs is meant to make up for AGU’s loss in subscription fees.

AGU noted that it has in place a system of institutional agreements and waivers that cover the Article Processing Charges (APCs) for a wide range of researchers.

“A lot of people don’t realize what’s available to them in terms of funding, waivers, and other means of support,” Giampoala said. “We don’t want authors deciding between sending a grad student to a meeting or publishing a paper.”

AGU currently has in place 79 funding agreements across 37 countries, covering more than 2,400 institutions worldwide. Authors from qualifying countries are eligible for fee waivers. AGU has also created an additional fund to cover waivers for those in need who do not qualify for automatic waivers based on country.

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