Open Access Controversy: My response to PaleoJudica blog

A faculty member here at FSU that I work closely with forwarded me this blog post from Jim Davila – Open Access Controversy – on his PaleoJudica blog. Since I couldn’t find a way to add a comment to the post, my response is below. The issue at hand is how does open access work for journals published by societies and associations? I still have more percolating to do, but wanted to get this out now. Read these first:

1. Archeology Institute of America – From the President

2. Ancient World Bloggers (response to the AIA President)

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Thank you first of all for commenting on this topic. I think more often than not, faculty are not taking a stance at all, and allowing the conversation to go on without their input. Your response is valuable and necessary for the future of scholarly publishing, whatever that will look like. 

 

That said, I believe that there are some fundamental misunderstandings in your blog post that I’d like the chance to humbly argue. The cost “to produce top-quality publications” is very quickly changing and nearing closer to zero, with the advent of the internet as a dissemination tool, as you mention. What would the cost be to the AIA if they were to utilize web structures (Open Journal Systems, or WordPress for two examples) to publish the high quality scholarship of the research community? Elizabeth Bartman states that publications are “significantly improved by the contributions of other professionals such as peer reviewers, editors, copywriters, photo editors and designers,” but in most cases the work that makes a publication valuable to the field (peer reviewing and Editorial oversight) is done for free by faculty as part of their service to the community. I do agree that copyediting and design has a cost and skill set associated, but again that becomes negligible when publications live in digital spaces, and in my opinion doesn’t justify an argument against open access from individuals or associations.  

 

One point overlooked in your post, and the two others linked therein, is that the oft-mentioned “Author pays” model of open access is actually only one business model that is being utilized. And in fact, more than half of the open access journals in existence do NOT charge author publication fees. In a perfect world, open access makes complete sense all along the scholarly publishing cycle, as faculty produce the work for free, review one another’s work for free, edit the collections of that work for free, and ultimately, under open access, have the potential to disseminate that work for free. The argument for societies to move in this direction is simply that there may be a wide, cross-disciplinary audience (cultural studies, anthropologists, historians, sociologists, etc) that could all potentially benefit from the publications of a group like AIA, but will never find them if they are not accessible outside the field-specific literature. Not to say anything of colleagues and peers in developing countries whose libraries (or personal funds) cannot purchase subscriptions or single articles. (See Here for an outline of different business models and the research I quote above.)

 

As for the bills in congress… the goal is not to undercut the societies who are publishing, but to provide the public with access to world-class research that they are funding by tax dollars. It is also my hope that out of these conversations will develop a adaptable scholarly publishing model that makes sense for all involved, with the exception of major publishing houses that charge exorbitant prices on the backs of free labor. We’ve seen this evolution happen in televison, radio, the music industry, and currently in book publishing. Academic publishing has the opportunity to decide its own fate, right now, and I do hope insights like yours will be included as we move forward. 

 

Thanks and have a great weekend, 

 

Micah Vandegrift 

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