The Future of Open Access Journals

By The GPDH Editors | April 30, 2012

Mark Tebeau, How Widely Read Are You? Originally posted April 23, 2012

I noted at the annual National Council of Public History meeting that about 70% of academic journal articles were not being read in the context of arguing for open access and new measures of assessing impact of digital publications of all sorts (in journals or not.) I am a very big fan of analytics.

My point here and at NCPH is that we should care about engagement–measured by citation (surely such a measure), reading, re-using (linking), and other such measures the impact and influence of our work. And, with digital humanities and digital analytics, we may have a way to do that.

Larry Cebula, JSTOR is Not Our Friend; or, What Should a New Public History Journal Look Like?, Originally Posted April 25, 2012

The big news at this year’s meeting of the National Council on Public History was that the organization has come to a parting of ways with UC-Santa Barbara, the publisher of the Public Historian. Those interested can trawl through the archives for H-Public for details, but the short version is that the two organizations could not come to terms, and that the copyright for the journal apparently belongs to the university and they intend to keep it. So the NCPH is looking to start a new journal for its members. The conference public forum discussion are summarized in this blog post by Cathy Stanton, The Elephant in the Room.

The necessity of starting a new journal provides a fantastic opportunity to rethink what a scholarly journal can be in the 21st century. My thoughts:

Whatever else we decide, it is vital that the new journal be open access. Currently the Public Historian is really only readable by members of the organization. Back issues are online but behind a JSTOR paywall and accessible only by folks with an academic affiliation. The NCPH gets some money from JSTOR for this arrangement (I don’t know how much, but I guess in the low tens of thousands?).

Andrew D. Smith, A Few Thoughts on the Academic Spring, Originally Posted April 26, 2012

Recently, there has been quite a lot of attention in the media and the blogosphere about the whole issue of open-access journals. The issue is this: academics in taxpayer-funded universities produce research in the form of articles that they publish in journals run by for-profit corporations. The said corporations then sell the research, which they got for free, for a princely sum. Journal subscriptions are expensive, which means that most taxpayers are unable to read the research they have paid for unless they are members of a university community.  The Economist magazine, which is hardly known for its left-wing views or hostility to the profit motive, recently denounced the whole academic publishing industry, noting that profit margins in it extremely high. Of course, they are high: most of the actual work (writing articles, editing journals, doing the peer-reviewing) is done by volunteers.

Faced with the escalating costs of journal subscriptions, which is eating a big hole in university library budgets, some academics are saying that they want to boycott this whole system and publish all future research in open-access journals. Open-access journals put articles online so that everybody can read them. No account, no fees, no passwords. The paywall is gone.