The complicated history of the KM4D Journal…

While researching a proposed Call for Papers for a forthcoming Special Issue of the KM4D Journal, I came across an interesting case study of the journal which presents a simplistic version of a quite complicated history. As one of the group of founders of the journal, I thought I would take this opportunity to explain some of the reasons behind decisions that were taken, particularly the controversial decision to leave the open access open journal system in 2012. Many of the changes around the journal have been tracked in editorials over the years and I cite – and link – to a number of them here.

The case study starts:

A group of individual members started the journal because they wanted to.

Indeed, there were a large number of motivations for starting the journal which can be tracked in the Editorial Like a duck to water published in the first issue in 2005. However, the main one was:

a perceived need to capture and share, more formally, the knowledge and experiences being generated by diverse knowledge management approaches, South and North, and specifically by the KM4Dev community.

The case study then goes on to the decision to move to a commercial publisher:

The decision to move to a printed, published journal, caused controversy within KM4Dev. Some people opposed the move on the grounds that the journal ceased being an Open Access publication, although 200 free print copies were available.

Although there was a disagreement within the editorial board on the move to a commercial publisher, the consensus was in favour because its was felt that the publishing model was not sustainable because of the reliance on very substantial voluntary inputs from the Editors, and particularly Julie Ferguson and myself – in fact, we only managed to publish one issue in the 2008. This decision was discussed in detail with the editorial board and the community itself as was described in detail in the Editorial of the first issue in 2009:

Given the fact that the vast majority of the members of the KM4Dev community and the authors published in the journal are supported by not only public money but by development money, the preference for an open access model among the community has always been clear. The open access approach was followed from 2005–2008. Relying as it did on substantial time investments from the then Editors-in-Chief, with no realistic promise of improvement in the future, it proved not to be a sustainable business model.

The new situation, with a formal print publication supported by Taylor & Francis, a renowned publisher, will leave the Editors free to concentrate on the key editorial processes, and offers much greater prospect of being sustainable in the long-term. We have agreed with the publisher that the papers will be loaded onto a development repository one year after publication, and that hundreds of members of the KM4dev community will receive a free subscription to a hard copy of the journal.

The need to be sustainable and more self-supporting were more important than efforts to develop more ‘academic rigour.’

The efforts to establish a self-supporting journal did not work out and led to a return to the open journal system in 2013. As I again explained in the first Editorial in 2013 which also reports on the consultation with KM4Dev before the decision to move to T&F was made:

The experiment for a sustainable, commercially viable journal failed for a number of reasons.

Since the journal started in 2005, it has faced a number of challenges related to:

– What publication model to follow?

– How do we ensure that the journal reflects the development field’s emphasis on equity and diversity?

– What role does the journal play in the emerging field of knowledge management for development (KM4D)?

– What links to maintain with KM4Dev, the community of practice (CoP) on which the journal is based?

The editorial team has tried to cope with these challenges in a number of ways:

Publication model
The journal was originally started as an online journal on the Open Journal System (OJS). It was open access, consistent with the ethical standpoint of the editorial team. In addition, occasional issues were printed with support from development organisations, such as the Asian Development Bank. However, given the work load of producing the journal ourselves, we started to look for a commercial publisher to support the editorial team and which might, in the long-term, make the journal sustainable by making it economically viable. As a result, Routledge published the journal from 2007 but this was not a success: it was difficult to develop a commercial market and the restricted access became more and more irksome, despite the fact that we had negotiated free printed copies for 400 subscribers in development institutions. In 2013, we went back to the OJS.

Equity and diversity
The journal aims to address issues of equity and diversity in its editorial board, guest editors and authors with far higher levels of involvement from the global South than in traditional academic journals. For example, 15 of the editorial board members are located in the global South. In addition, to contribute to bridging knowledge divides between the Anglo-Saxon and other approaches to KM and reflecting the importance of language, it regularly publishes issues in other languages: French and Spanish/Portuguese.

The development of KM4D
The journal is playing an important role in the emerging field of KM4D by a providing a platform for capturing experiences and work practices which otherwise might never have been documented. At the same time, it influences the development of the field by publishing innovative and creative approaches.

Links to KM4Dev
The journal is strongly linked to the very active CoP in its field with 2000+ members but its governance is separate because it aims to be a ‘broad church’ to encourage cross-fertilization with other fields. This has been particularly successful in the links made to transdisciplinary research.

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