danah boyd's closed journal boycott 02.15.2008, 12:46 AM
posted by ben vershbow
I meant to blog this earlier but it's still quite relevant, especially in light of other recent activity on the open access front. Last week, Danah Boyd announced that henceforth she would only publish in open access journals and urged others -? especially tenured faculty, who are secure in their status and have little to lose -? to do the same.
I'd be sad to see some of the academic publishers go, but if they can't evolve to figure out new market options, I have no interest in supporting their silencing practices. I think that scholars have a responsibility to make their work available as a public good. I believe that scholars should be valued for publishing influential material that can be consumed by anyone who might find it relevant to their interests. I believe that the product of our labor should be a public good. I do not believe that scholars should be encouraged to follow stupid rules for the sake of maintaining norms. Given that we do the bulk of the labor behind journals, I think that we can do it without academic publishers...
Anton on February 15, 2008 6:59 AM:
Is it fear that is driving the growing interest in Open Access among humanities and social science academics? To be precise, fear of obsolescence?
Previously, the authority and privilege of academics was in part dependent on publishers. Dependent precisely to the degree that publishers functioned as mechanisms of exclusion, both in terms of readership and authorship. As long as this mechanism worked all was well with the world, and Elsevier, Blackwell et al. could continue making their profits, whether small or large, undisturbed.
But now the Internet is in the process of completing the shift to a generalised mode of intellectual production, and the authority and privilege bestowed by the old mechanism of exclusory publication becomes redundant. In its place, more naked than ever before, are revealed the networks of dependence and collusion, of funding and vested interests, that allow for the reproduction of the professional academic.
As publishers fail in their role of protecting the authority of academics (and it is from here that the hostility towards publishers arises), academics are increasingly being forced to confront the wider public for whose good they are so pleased to tell us they are working. The same privileges may still be had, as the professionalisation of the blogosphere indicates, but at a different price. Savvy academics know how to protect their careers and interests: the Impact Factor won't be the most important of metrics for long, now there's APML and RSS feed stats to be measured, average number of comments per post etc.
Academics in those disciplines where research requires few material investments other than time, say the field of literature, will find themselves besieged by researchers outside the universities (those other mechanisms of exclusion). A new field of authority will emerge, but academics won't be included by necessity.
The publications of academics must be freely accessible to everyone! Because that's the only hope academics have of defending their status quo.
Barbara Fister on February 15, 2008 6:20 PM:
Very interesting comments, Anton - I hadn't thought about this issue like that before.
It seems to me important levers in this development have come from the STM fields and libraries' inability to maintain expensive subscriptions. In the sciences, amateurs are not a concern, but not being able to access research (or - maybe even more importantly - have your research accessed and cited) was becoming a significant problem. It has harmed the humanities as academic library budgets went to expensive STM journal subscriptions instead of books. (Politically, it's much easier to not buy some books than to cancel a journal subscription.)
Stan Katz thinks open access is a solution to a science problem that is bad for humanities because if libraries stop buying research, societies and university presses will struggle. Well guess what - libraries are all ready having trouble buying back the research their own scholars produce. He seems to have bought into the AAP's scare tactics that suggest peer review depends on us all paying for access and not disrupting the traditional practices with more open distribution methods.
I think fear is not driving OA in the humanities so much as it's holding it back.