Microbiology and the journey to Open Access

10 January 2022


The Council of the Microbiology Society is delighted to announce that in 2023 our founding journal, Microbiology, will be the first to make the transition from a hybrid model to fully Open Access.

In January 2022 Microbiology is 75 years old. Originally named Journal of General Microbiology, it has been publishing the latest advances in the field of microbiology since 1947. Today the journal reflects the diversity and importance of microbiology in addressing current global challenges, such as food security, environmental sustainability, and health, by publishing fundamental and applied research across the breadth of the field. Microbiology brings together communities of scientists from all microbiological disciplines and from around the world.

Having maintained its relevance for 75 years it looks to an Open Access future to continue to represent the breadth of microbiology.

The way in which we do, share and communicate research has shifted – the COVID pandemic has accelerated that process and public engagement with science and data has increased. A fully Open Access Microbiology benefits our membership, all microbiologists and those with an interest in microbiology. The world is entering a new era of open science, challenging the status quo by recognising the value of greater transparency, focus on reproducibility, data management, collaboration and good scientific citizenship. At the Microbiology Society we embrace these changes and recognise the positive impact they represent for our community, for the scientific endeavour and for society’s understanding of pressing global challenges.

Our focus at the Society has always been publishing for community – where the income generated from our journals is returned to support activities which benefit our community. These include our popular and varied programme of events – Annual Conference, our Focused Meetings and our Scientific Seminar series – all of which allow our members to share scientific knowledge, to network and to form new collaborations. We offer a range of grants, enabling our members to attend conferences, to meet collaborators, create new networks and to participate in education and outreach activities. We have a range of professional development support available via initiatives like our Early Career Microbiologists Forum, as well as opportunities to engage with the media and policy-makers. We award prizes at all career levels, from early career researchers to those who are more established.

The aim of our founding members, including Alexander Fleming and Marjory Stephenson, was to bring together scientists working in different areas of microbiology to form a Society that would offer the benefits of interdisciplinary discussion and provide microbiologists with a common meeting ground.  We currently publish six journals: Microbiology, Journal of General Virology, Journal of Medical Microbiology, Access Microbiology, Microbial Genomics and the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology.

For most of our history, we have published journals using a traditional subscription model, in which institutional libraries and other organisations paid an annual subscription so that their staff and students could access the content.  In more recent years, we have also published Open Access material – which is free for anyone to access whether or not they are in an organisation that subscribes. Initially, Open Access was largely funded by Article Processing Charges (APCs) – the authors of the research used their funding to pay so that their work was freely available to anyone, rather than the reader paying for access. 

Over the past two years, we have developed an additional, straightforward, method of funding Open Access, called Publish and Read. Institutions pay an annual fee, which gives their readers access to all of our material and their authors unlimited rights to publish without paying APCs – making them freely available without copyright restrictions to everybody.

The newest two of our titles – Access Microbiology and Microbial Genomics – only publish, and have only ever published, Open Access articles. The other four are currently hybrid journals – some of their content is published Open Access and is freely available to all (funded by a combination of Publish and Read and APCs), while some is published behind a paywall and is initially accessible only to those who pay. The paywall is removed for all content after 36 months.

As a concept, hybrid journals provided a temporary solution, easing the transition to Open Access by accommodating two models until a shift became possible. At the same time, open science practices are becoming more widely adopted and there is a drive towards a complete model transformation. At the Society, we have not only kept up with the changes, but we have led them, and aim to have our entire portfolio Open Access within three years.

Our transition to Open Access is a journey that ensures that our authors are completely funder compliant. Plan S has mandated all journals to be Open Access by the end of 2024, and we are leading on this journey. We have already come a long way, while balancing the needs of those authors and readers across the rest of the world, where funding mechanisms may be different. One of our values is to be welcoming to anyone interested in microbes and on our Open Access journey we will follow an inclusive and equitable approach. 

We welcome the challenges this journey brings, not least of which are to income generation (which goes back into our community). Our pioneering ‘Publish and Read’ model is allowing us to manage the move away from subscriptions, while making it as easy as possible for more authors to publish Open Access within our journals. It has its two-year anniversary in January and we are working to increase the number of institutions signed up to the model, so that more researchers and organisations can easily benefit from Open Access publishing.

At this point, we are carefully monitoring market dynamics, our collective assessment of how to plan the best futures for all our journals and most importantly, we are listening to the feedback and ambitions of our own community.

We are now planning the next key delivery phase which will be to flip our journal titles from hybrid to fully Open Access, with Microbiology to be the first to transition in 2023.

Responding to the research priorities and practices characterised as open science, our newest fully Open Access journal, Access Microbiology, is in the process of being converted into an open research platform in early 2022. It is a pioneering initiative which has the financial backing of research funder Wellcome, and will put the Society at the forefront of science communication and Open Access innovation.

We know the Society must continue to evolve and adapt for our community and the process of this transition is incredibly important. We seek the engagement and support of our community as we continue our journey towards Open Access and will provide regular updates throughout this year.

As a member you have a wide variety of options to publish with us – including Open Access – and when you do, you are helping us to support your community.

  • Is your institution signed up to Publish and Read? With Publish and Read you can enjoy fee-free and frictionless Open Access and full read access across our journals. Give your work a chance to really make a difference – when you publish Open Access with us, your articles will have a greater reach and impact.
  • Publish in Microbiology, our founding journal. Microbiology brings together communities of scientists from all microbiological disciplines and from around the world. We have been publishing the latest advances in microbiology since 1947 and Microbiology will be the first Society journal to transform fully Open Access from January 2023. 
  • Publish in Access Microbiology, fully Open Access and allowing the publication of replication studies, negative or null results, research proposals, data management plans, additions to established methods, and interdisciplinary work. In 2022 Access Microbiology will become an innovative open research platform.
  • Publish in the Journal of General Virology, publishing peer-reviewed research for more than 50 years. We recognise the importance of virology as a unique discipline within microbiology, and actively collaborate with partners such as the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) to support the global virology community. 
  • Publish in the Journal of Medical Microbiology, the go-to interdisciplinary journal for medical, dental and veterinary microbiology, at the bench and in the clinic. 
  • Publish in Microbial Genomics, pioneering all areas of genome research spanning the breadth of microbial life including viruses, bacteria, archaea and microbial eukaryotes.
  • Publish in the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology, the journal of record for publication of novel microbial taxa and the official publication of the International Committee on Systematics of Prokaryotes and the Bacteriology and Applied Microbiology Division of the International Union of Microbiological Societies.
    • Support your community, benefit from Open Access, publish with us.