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Journals provide an outdated way for publishers to justify their role by enabling them to more easily compete for papers.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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Dale Miller
7 years ago

I may not properly understand how the “open peer review” system at F1000 works. It appears, though, that more or less everything submitted to the site is published, then other people have a chance to comment on the published work and authors may choose to revise in light of comments. If I understand the model properly, then here is one possible drawback. Under the status quo, a philosopher who is not at a prestigious institution (or any institution at all) still has the chance to get her work noticed by publishing it in a high-visibility journal. In a world where “publishing” just mean submitting papers to one website, which effectively publishes everything it receives, it might be very difficult for someone who doesn’t already have a big reputation and/or a good job to get her work noticed. It will just get lost in the enormous pile. So I think that the curating function that blind-reviewed journals provide actually has or at least can have an egalitarian tendency. Obviously this is just one consideration among several. And obviously this is no argument against open-access journals. My last publication came out in JESP, and I’m very happy with my experience there.Report

Kenny
7 years ago

I think the idea of running some journals as a “PhilPapers overlay” makes a lot of sense:

http://gowers.wordpress.com/2013/01/16/why-ive-also-joined-the-good-guys/Report

John Schwenkler
Reply to  Kenny
7 years ago

Oh, my. This is a really good idea. I have always been skeptical of the notion that PhilPapers could simply take the place of traditional journals for roughly the reasons Dale Miller articulates above. But this is different.

Kenny, do you know if the mathematicians have got this project up and running? And whether it is going well?Report

Kenny
Reply to  John Schwenkler
7 years ago

It looks like the Annals of Mathematics (the most prestigious general math journal) was actually an arXiv overlay for several years. However, this post suggests that it (and most of the other journals that went that route) eventually went back to some sort of paid open-access model:

http://sbseminar.wordpress.com/2012/02/01/journals-and-the-arxiv/

I’ve never actually run a journal, so I don’t know how much it costs to get the license and maintenance for software for tracking editors, referees, authors, etc., which I assume would be the main cost. But it looks like these math journals haven’t quite been able to make it work out yet.Report

Richard Zach
Richard Zach
Reply to  Kenny
7 years ago

OJS is open source, just cost of running the server. https://pkp.sfu.ca/ojs/Report

Bill
Bill
7 years ago

Didn’t PhilPapers recently move to a subscription model, though. (Albeit a very reasonably priced one.)Report

djc
djc
Reply to  Bill
7 years ago

the subscription model is for the philpapers bibliography/index (currently indexing about one million items). the philpapers open access archive (currently hosting about 10,000 items), which is what’s relevant here, will always remain freely accessible.Report

Roberta L Millstein
7 years ago

I can’t see what advantage a traditional paper journal could have over an OA journal that uses peer review (especially if it uses double-anonymous or triple-anonymous peer review). Most people get their articles electronically nowadays, anyway. The only difference, imo, is one of perception. But there is no grounds for that perception.

(Full disclosure: I am an Editor for the OA journal, Philosophy & Theory in Biology, http://www.philosophyandtheoryinbiology.org/ But I became an Editor because I believe in the model, not the other way around).Report

dmf
dmf
7 years ago

happy open-access week and thanks for covering this, for the vast majority of us outside of the paywalls this is movement is long overdue and if folks in the academy want taxpayers to value & support their research why not let them see what it is and how it might serve their own interests and efforts?
https://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/44067Report

Dave Ripley
Dave Ripley
7 years ago

Just to point out the obvious: not all open access is all that open. The major publishers have taken to using “Open Access Week” as an opportunity to aggressively market their version of “Open Access”, which requires authors to pay four-digit sums simply for an article to appear. This model leaves articles open to readers, but practically closed to many authors, and it leaves fully in place these publishers’ monetizing the free (to them) labor of thousands of academics. We should resist attempts to put a model like this in place; these attempts are mainly, as I see them, attempts to derail the real and important movement towards genuine (“Diamond”) open access that is in motion.

(Disclosure/ad: I am an editor of the diamond open-access Australasian Journal of Logic, hosted at http://ojs.victoria.ac.nz/ajl.)Report

David Velleman
David Velleman
7 years ago

Let’s separate OA from the F1000 model. According to the F1000 website, referees are chosen by the author, and their qualifications have to include 5 publications in “international journals”. So (a) the refereeing is wide open to manipulation and (b) the whole system depends on the existence of traditional journals.

Many people have been trying to figure out how peer reviewing might be out-sourced in something like this fashion, but to my knowledge no one has come up with a model that would serve the purpose — the purpose, that is, of selecting work that is worthy of the reader’s attention according to the judgment of unbiased experts.

So there is still a role for journals to play. They should just play it in open-access format. (I speak as an editor of an OA journal.)Report

Cathy Legg
Cathy Legg
6 years ago

Kenny: That was a fascinating link, but I note it was posted Jan 2013. Did the mathematicians succeed in starting their ‘epijournal’? I’m curious.
I’m very interested in the F1000 model as the basis for some kind of alternative to departmental rankings based on actually reading people’s work. Has this occurred to anyone else? Or perhaps I should put this thought on a different thread.Report

Nick Byrd
6 years ago

Thanks for the post and comments.

I am interested in learning about OA philosophy journals that (1) philosophers think highly of and (2) with which authors have had good experiences.

The DOAJ site lists almost 200 journals, the majority of which I’ve never heard of or seen before, so I have almost no sense of where to start. If such a list or discussion already exists, then could someone link to it? Thanks in advance!Report

Roberta L Millstein
Reply to  Nick Byrd
6 years ago

In addition to the journals mentioned above, there are some mentioned here:

http://www.newappsblog.com/2014/05/another-open-access-journal-%CE%B1nalytica.html

Perhaps it would be good to try to crowd-source assemble such a list.Report