Open Access and Journal-less Publishing

Open Access and Journal-less Publishing


Recently I was asked by the editors of a journal whose mission and scholarship I support and respect to review a book by a scholar I very much admire. In the past, I would have accepted the invitation without a second thought and proceeded to read the book and develop a review. Over the past few years, however, as my work has focused on questions of public scholarship and digital communication, I have developed a deep commitment to open access publication. This has led me to adopt the practice of inquiring about the possibility of open access publication whenever I am asked to contribute to a volume or write for a journal. 

In this particular case, my inquiries into open access publication were dismissed out of hand. This particular journal simply did not have the capacity to publish a book review or anything else in an open access format. 

I declined the invitation.

That’s Christopher P. Long (Penn State), in a post urging “those of us who believe that academic scholarship should be as accessible to as wide a public as possible to insist upon the openness for which we advocate.” He’s not the first to do so. For example, here’s a post several years old from Terrance Tomkow in which he asks, “Shouldn’t philosophers be especially sensitive to the moral and intellectual imperatives of the open access movement? Why is it that scientists have been so much more ready to embrace it than philosophers?” He sketches an “Open Philosophy Pledge” and says that “if significant numbers of philosophers, starting with luminaries and full professors” publicly committed to it, “the transition to open access could happen virtually overnight.”

There are many open access (OA) philosophy journals. Here’s one list, though it is unclear how complete or up-to-date it is (I noticed it was missing Ergo, JESP, and Symposion, for example). There are scams, but these don’t seem to be hard to avoid.

Apart from OA journals, there is journal-less OA publishing. I recently learned (via Matt Burstein) of F1000 Research, an open, peer-reviewing, publishing platform for science. Rebecca Lawrence, its managing director, says:

Journals provide an outdated way for publishers to justify their role by enabling them to more easily compete for papers. In the digital world, science should be rapidly and openly shared, and the broader research community should openly discuss and debate the merits of the work (through thorough and invited – but open – peer review, as well as commenting). As most researchers search PubMed/Google Scholar etc to discover new published findings, the artificial boundaries created by journals should be meaningless, except to the publisher. They are propagated by (and in themselves, propagate) the Impact Factor, and provide inappropriate and misleading metadata that is projected onto the published article, which is then used to judge a researcher’s overall output, and ultimately their career. 

Substitute “PhilPapers” for “PubMed” and these remarks could apply just as much to philosophy as to the sciences.

So what do philosophers think about this? Are there advantages to traditional journal publishing that are overlooked by the advocates of OA? What are the objections to moving to something like the F1000 model? Should senior philosophers refuse to cooperate with publishers hostile to OA?

(art: detail from The Victory by Rene Magritte)

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