Conflation as Insult (On the Gold Open Access World I Live In)
On Savage Minds, Alex Golub very generously celebrates the recent publication of a large quantity of open access journal articles in anthropology and neighboring fields. I wish to add one point. I am talking to you under-informed, confusion-promulgating open access skeptics.
Not one of the journals that Alex highlights in his new post (to which we can add the remarkable Hau, the focus of other recent posts (1, 2) on Savage Minds) relies upon author fees to achieve this abundance. It is fair to say that the growing embrace of gold and hybrid open access by large commercial publishers (old and new) has very properly accelerated discussion of author-side charges and their very significant downsides. This shift has also erased older binaries and made it harder to talk about open access more broadly. But those wishing to advance the pro-/con- discussion of gold open access have an obligation to understand facts on the ground and to stop prematurely overgeneralizing on the basis of ignorance. The widespread conflation of all forms of gold open access with author-pays gold open access is not only unhelpful, it is an insult to all of those academics (and others) who take time out from their own work to help review and publish the writings of their colleagues in free-to-all-internet users and free-to-author ways. It is also unfair to those generous agencies and individuals in the world who are donating cash and services and attention and expertise to the building out of a progressive open access publishing ecosystem.
The community of people engaging with open access questions critically, and even skeptically, needs to grow and I want to welcome rather than discourage newcomers. But, if you cannot take the time to study the subject of open access in sufficient depth to make evidence-based pronouncements, then you should stop talking and start listening.
Coda: In my world, the conflation is most often an honest mistake by well-meaning people but it is also sometimes intentional FUD. One illustration of the rhetorical steps one takes to malign gold open access through conflation are illustrated by Konrad M. Lawson in today’s ProfHacker post. (See also Open Access: Six Myths to Put to Rest.)