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Getting Yourself Out of the Business in Five Easy Steps (With Updates)

In honor of the upcoming celebration of open access week and because I felt the need to write something other than administrative memos, I composed the following essay outlining my relationship to commercial scholarly publishing in the wake of concluding my work as editor of Museum Anthropology. It is offered here [CC BY NC SA 3.0] for those who might be interested in my thinking on one piece of the larger scholarly communications puzzle.

[Because of its inclusion in the Hacking the Academy project, this piece is now (as of June 6, 2011) offered under the less restrictive CC-BY 3.0 license.]

Getting Yourself Out of the Business in Five Easy Steps [1]

Jason Baird Jackson
Indiana University

Last year, did you get paid nothing to work hard for a multinational corporation with reported revenues of over 1 billion dollars in 2008? [2]

If you have (1) done peer-reviews for, (2) submitted an article to, (3) written a book or media review for, or (4) taken on the editorship of a scholarly journal published by giant firms such as Springer, Reed Elisevier, or Wiley, then you belong to a very large group of very well-educated people whose unpaid labor has helped make these firms very profitable. Their profitability in turn has positioned them to work vigorously against the interests of (1) university presses and other not-for-profit publishers in the public interest, (2) libraries at all levels, (3) university and college students, (4) scholars themselves, and (5) particular and general publics with a need to consult the scholarly record.

I am not willing to freely give my labor to large multinational corporations whose interests align with their shareholders but that are antagonistic to my own. This is my view on one key aspect of scholarly communications today. Scholars can advance several different worthwhile causes by doing all that they can to stop becoming further entangled (individually and collectively) with for-profit scholarly publishers, particularly the largest of the multinational firms that increasingly seek to exert a kind of hegemony over the entire domain of scholarly communications.

There is a great variety of steps that can be taken to build a different, more accessible and progressive system of scholarly communication. My focus here is on five simple choices that scholars can make while sitting at their desk pursuing their own publishing work. These are choices that I have made and that I encourage my colleagues to consider making.

  • Choose not to submit scholarly journal articles or other works to publications owned by for-profit firms.
  • Say no, when asked to undertake peer-review work on a book or article manuscript that has been submitted for publication by a for-profit publisher or a journal under the control of a commercial publisher.
  • Do not seek or accept the editorship of a journal owned or under the control of a commercial publisher.
  • Do not take on the role of series editor for a book series being published by a for-profit publisher.
  • Turn down invitations to join the editorial boards of commercially published journals or book series.

If taken, the preceding steps are individual in their point of action even as they support a variety of more collective projects aimed at redirecting the scholarly communication system in more progressive, sustainable, and open ways.

If you care about university presses, these steps will help.  If you are eager to resist corporate enclosure of public goods, resources, and ideas, they will help. If you care about reform in intellectual property systems, they will help. If you advocate for green open access publishing, they will help.  If you want to cultivate not-for-profit gold open access publishing, they will help.  If you are worried that your college or university library is on the brink of financial collapse, they will help. If you want to make sure that your scholarship is as available as possible to colleagues, students, and the public, they will help. If you believe in open education and other approaches to transforming teaching and learning, they will help. If you are concerned about the harmful effects of media consolidation, they will help. If you are selfish and resent being taken advantage of, they will help.

If you are a shareholder or employee of a for-profit publisher, they, of course, won’t help.

If you believe that only for-profit firms can sufficiently “add value” to your work between the time of authorship and the time of publication, then your views are those of the commercial firms and their lobbyists, but they do not match my own experiences as an author or journal editor or consumer of scholarly works across several disciplines.

If you belong to a discipline in which there are no viable not-for-profit publishing options left, then you and your colleagues face bigger questions that are beyond the scope of this essay (but there is still hope).

The fact that a large number of not-for-profit scholarly societies with active publishing programs have entered into partnership with the large commercial publishers makes coming to an individual conclusion about these issues more difficult, at least vis-a-vis those publications that are simultaneously producing profits for the private publishers and for the not-for-profit scholarly associations. Many scholars value their own scholarly organizations highly and appreciate the variety of services that they provide to members. Scholarly societies have chosen to partner with for-profit publishers because of a perceived need for the revenue that these publishers can provide. As a member and as a journal editor, I have experienced these dynamics in the context of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) and its decision to move first from self-publishing to a co-publishing arrangement with the University of Californian Press and then to a publishing partnership with the commercial firm Wiley. The tale of these experiences and their ramifications is the topic for another essay, but my own choice is that I have selected to remain an active member of the AAA but not to undertake further editorial, authorial, or peer-review work for its journals while it remains partnered with Wiley. My hope is to be an effective advocate for (and builder of) alternative approaches to scholarly publication within and beyond the association and to work to understand the costs as well as the benefits that the Wiley partnership has brought. Thankfully, a not-for-profit sector still exists in anthropological publishing. While it has been reduced through the vigorous efforts of the commercial firms, it has been expanded, to a degree, through the founding of some new not-for-profit and open access publication outlets. Resisting commercial publishing and sustaining this diverse and non-commercial communications ecosystem is where I most wish to invest my time and labor. I regret that my association chose to turn its back on the university presses that have long been so important to the social sciences and humanities and that its embrace of commercial publishing has alienated the institutional partners that it could have cultivated in the service of more open approaches to publishing, but nothing is permanent. (On the AAA case, see Kelty et al. 2008)

Not everyone will come to the same conclusions that I have about these issues. That is the way of things. I have found encouragement though in the diversity and energy of the many colleagues who have given serious thought to the problems that scholarly communications work now faces and who are working hard to develop the many solutions that are being pioneered right now. Concluding where I began, with an image of scholars contributing to their own exploitation and to the impoverishment of society generally, I end with a the observations of anthropologist Michael F. Brown. Discussing the decision by the AAA to partner with Wiley, he reflected: “I find myself asking the following question: Why would anyone agree to edit a journal for free or to review submissions for free when the organization that distributes the final product is committed to generating profits for its shareholders or owners? The whole idea of “service to the profession” begins to look like a clever form of economic exploitation (Brown 2007).”

What choices are you making? Are you ready to get out of the business?


1. My deepest thanks go to everyone who has worked hard to teach me about the world of publishing and libraries, as well as to those who have supported my work as an author, editor and publisher.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA

[Update: As noted above–because of its inclusion in the Hacking the Academy project, this piece is now (as of June 6, 2011) offered under the less restrictive CC-BY 3.0 license.]

2 As a measure of scale, consider the following three large commercial STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) publishers. For 2008, Springer reported revenues of 892 Million Euros (or about 1.3 Billion U.S. Dollars) (Springer 2008:20). For 2008, Reed Elisevier reported revenues of 5 Billion, 334 Million Euros (or about 7.9 Billion U.S. Dollars) (Reed Elsevier 2008:6). For its Fiscal Year 2008, Wiley reported revenues of 1 Billion, 674 Million U.S. Dollars (Wiley 2008). Revenue is different from profit, but these are very profitable firms. Unlike the bulk of their scholarly content, their annual reports are freely available via the corporate information or investor relations sections of their websites.

References Cited

Brown, Michael F.

2007    Weblog Comment., accessed October 11, 2009.

Kelty, Christopher M., Michael M. J. Fischer, Alex Golub, Jason Baird Jackson, Kimberly Christen, Michael F. Brown, and Tom Boellstorff

2008    Anthropology of/in Circulation: The Future of Open Access and Scholarly Societies. Cultural Anthropology 23(3):559-558., accessed October 11, 2009.

Reed Elsevier

2008    Annual Reports and Financial Statements 2008. Amsterdam: Reed Elsevier., accessed October 11, 2009.


2008    Springer Science+Business Media Annual Report 2008. Berlin: Springer Science+Business Media., accessed October 11, 2009.


2008    John Wiley and Sons, Inc. 2008 Annual Report., accessed October 11, 2009.

Update (10/29/2009)

As of this evening, WordPress tells me that about 750 people have specifically consulted this essay. Because it is visible on the main page, I suspect folks visiting for other reasons occasionally notice it and that the WordPress count is mainly of individuals who come to the essay via the links that are out and about. While it is dissipating, there was a lively discussion in a number of places about the essay. For everyone who took the time to read it, link to it, or comment upon it, I am very thankful.

While it has been linked to from a number of places, the discussion unfolded in a few places that can be identified for the benefit of anyone who comes along later.

The comment section of the post itself (and of the thank you post that I wrote later) is an obvious place where discussion unfolded. The others that are known to me are:

The JISC-REPOSITORIES listserv, whose archives are available here. Look for the thread titled “Wrong Advice On Open Access: History Repeating Itself” begun by Stevan Harnad on 10/21/2009. While the thread began with Harnad’s critique, a number of authors recognized that my main point was not an intervention in direct support of Green OA but about a different matter of concern to some but not all scholarly communications workers/observers. I appreciate the discussion that the repositories community gave my reflection and appreciate those who picked up on what I was trying to say.

Stevan Harnad posted a comment here on my site to which I replied. In addition to the JISC-REPOSITORIES listserv, he also posted his statement on his own website (where I also offered a comment) and circulated it on various other OA-related lists.

Thanks also to those who supportive in their positive comments and linking to the essay, including the good people at Savage Minds, Publishing Archaeology, and Cultural Sustainability.  Interested folks on Facebook and Twitter also spread the word about the essay. All of this was a useful lesson in me relative to the power of social media to help spread an idea and facilitate a discussion among scholars and their allies.

I was motivated to gather up these links and notes in an update because I just heard from my friend Randy Lewis about an event being held at the University of Texas Austin. The important gold OA media studies journal FLOW is celebrating its 5th anniversary with panel discussion in which he is participating. (Hacking the Ivory Tower: A Roundtable Discussion). He mentioned that he though he might mention my essay/post. In case anyone new came around to check it out, I wanted to make finding some of the follow up easy.  (Congratulations to everyone who has made FLOW a success, by the way.)

Update (11/1/2009)

Discussion of the essay also took place on the Budapest Open Access Initiative Forum. It can be found archived as a thread at: Discussion there took place (or at least began) in October. I found the comment of my IU colleague Bob Noel particularly engaging and I appreciate his arguments on behalf of my position. To reiterate, I favor (like Stevan Harnad) action and advocacy in support of green OA but (unlike Stevan Harnad) this is not the only scholarly communications issue that I am concerned to address in my own work.

In an October 31 post (Message #5233) Stevan Harnad reposted his reply to Bob Noel’s BOAI Forum post to the SPARC-OAForum. It can be found here: Further discussion on the SPARC-OAForum might or might not materialize.

It is interesting to ponder what it means that much of the discussion of the essay has taken place on listserv’s rather than in weblog comment sections.

I forgot previously to mention an additional venue in which discussion of the essay took place–Open Anthropology Cooperative, where Keith Hart offered extensive and interesting commentary. See:

Update (6/2/2010)

Thanks to everyone who has maintained an interest in this essay. This update is intended to calibrate the essay for its second life as a submission to the Hacking the Academy project (see #hackacad on twitter). When the Hacking the Academy project was still in its emergent stages, I submitted this essay to this crowd-sourced collection, which is being coaxed into existence by Tom Scheinfeldt and Dan Cohen of the CHNM. It was not an created anew for Hacking the Academy but it seemed to fit with the spirit of this project, at least as I perceived things at the early in that project’s birth-week. My essay was the third submission cataloged under the Scholarship and Scholarly Communications heading. That section went on to gather up about 50 contributions. (I look forward to reading them all myself.)

Of special note for this update is the response essay that Richard S. Lavin authored on his blog Hayrick’s Blog Explorations. (As of this writing the link on the Hacking the Academy website misdirects to a different submitted essay.)

I do not know if this essay will go on to become part of the book-based version of Hacking the Academy but, regardless of that question, I am very appreciative of all those who have found their way here and given my reflections their attention. I especially appreciate those who took the time to comment on the essay or who have discussed it offline.

As it turned out, there was a rich outpouring of material for both the project in general and for the scholarly communication section in particular. There is much to learn and benefit from there.

A second, related essay of mine is listed on the Hacking the Academy website, also under the Scholarship and Scholarly Communications heading. Hacking the Academy, and the rich responses and enthusiasm that the project was generating, motivated me to ready that work for publication and to go ahead an get it out there for whatever good work it might do. The essay (given at a conference last year) is about the scholarly communications landscape in folklore studies, with special attention given to journals. When I tweeted about it, I indicated that #hackacad had been my inspiration for publishing it. As it treats the scholarly communication landscape in a single small discipline, I am not sure that it makes sense as a formal submission. Still, I have hope that readers of this essay will find it useful (and vice-versa). Find it here. Another companion piece is the talk that I recently gave at AcademiX 2010. (For better or worse) that talk should soon appear in iTunes university (I hope for the better).

Because the Hacking the Academy editors aim to draw upon blog comments and tweets associated with contributions, I want to note that my October 21, 2009 follow-up post on this one also gathered comments on the essay. The editor of the American Anthropologist was one of these discussants. See here.

My thanks go to everyone involved in Hacking the Academy. What an amazing experiment in cooperation and communication.

Update (6/6/2011)

This piece is now slated for inclusion in the edited volume version of Hacking the Academy (#hackacad). My appreciation goes to the editors of the volume–Dan Cohen and Tom Scheinfeldt, and to everyone involved in supporting and advancing the project. I appreciate very much the chance to be involved.

Inclusion in the project necessitated the change in license from CC BY NC SA 3.0 to CC-BY 3.0, as is reflected in the headnote above.

Update (12/17/2011)

Among works citing this essay is Josh Berson (2010) “Intellectual Property and Cultural Appropriation.” Reviews in Anthropology. 39(3):201-228. DOI: 10.1080/00938157.2010.509026

32 Comments Post a comment
  1. Open access advocate #

    While I wholeheartedly agree with the author’s position, he fails to address one of the most important issues of the open access/for profit publishing debate, namely that publications in major journals are the currency of advancement in the academy. Careers are made or broken depending on whether or not a scholar has sufficiently published in the major, international, peer-reviewed journals: journals that are owned by large, for-profit corporations. A friend and colleague who is coming up for tenure was told that the promotion probably wouldn’t be forthcoming unless they published in some of these major journals. This despite an excellent publishing record in smaller journals AND a recently published book (by a university press).

    Until the academy at large recognizes the value of publishing in venues other than the major journals owned by for-profit multinational firms, scholars will be forced to work against their own interests (as well as those of students, libraries, university presses, and the general public)and continue to engage with for-profit publishing. As it stands now, taking Professor Jackson’s five easy steps will assuredly get scholars out of the business, but it will be out of the business of professional scholarship. The real problem is how to change the system that rewards scholars for publishing in the venues Jackson would have us eschew.

    October 12, 2009
    • Thanks for mentioning Flow and our roundtable discussion – we appreciate it!

      October 30, 2009
  2. Open Access Advocate raises important points that deserve full consideration. I can only comment briefly on them now, but much more should be said (and thankfully is being said in a number of high profile venues). Tenure and Promotion criteria (and annual review criteria too) are a key factor for everyone working in college and university settings. As a department chair, I am very mindful of these considerations (just as I was while approaching my own tenure case). I would note now that there are two relevant ways that disciplines differ and that one’s home discipline will condition how (and when in one’s career) one engages in proactive steps toward reform.

    Matters are easier in some fields, harder in others. In part because the publication landscape is different. Some disciplines are stratified in the prestige of various publications, others are more flat. Some disciplines still have a robust not-for-profit publishing system in which the best journals are published by university presses or research centers or academic departments, in others this was destroyed even before the advent of desktop computers. In my home field of folklore studies very few journals are connected to the commercial publishers and one can amass a great publication record without them. This is not true in all fields and my other field, anthropology is seeing considerable consolidation in corporate hands. In fields where things are more stark, distinguished senior folks with less to loose can play a key role in promoting change. One can look at the editorial board of the International Journal of Communications and see a group of senior people putting their status to work in the name of change. Such efforts will happen more or less quickly/slowly in different fields.

    There is also the matter of modifying the criteria used in making tenure, promotion, and review judgments. I have been a member of two strong research departments that revised their guidelines to be more open to the emerging range of possibilities. Rigorous peer-review remained constant, but genres and venues has opened in these departments because smart senior folks (I was junior then) saw the need to adapt to changing realities. The best people need this flexibility in order to innovate. At Indiana, these conversations are happening at higher and higher levels and progress is being made, institutionally.

    Disciplinary organizations can play a key role here too and thus they provide a venue in which folks who cannot make local headway can help. Scholarly societies can consider these questions and issue guidelines that describe new disciplinary norms. This has happened in the American Folklore Society and the Modern Language Association has given such matters considerable attention (as examples)

    I am certainly not asking junior professors to ruin their careers. Everyone will make their own choices and do what they can do in their own context. If one were a historical anthropologist and had (as one would) the choice of submitting a manuscript to History and Anthropology or to Ethnohistory, I am advocating for sending it to Ethnohistory because it is owned by a scholarly society that is partnered with a great university press (Duke) rather than by Routledge (in the case of History and Anthropology).

    Thanks to all who have taken an interest in these matters.

    October 12, 2009
  3. Thanks for this article. It addresses part of a huge issue in free thought, access to information, and what used to be a more independent intelegensia. I just wrote a film review for a journal that I could never afford to buy.

    October 13, 2009
  4. Kate Schramm #

    Thanks for this great article! I stand inspired.

    As a follow-up, is there any place that has done or is doing the work to rank journals based on their respective open-access-friendly/profit or non/availability/respectability qualities? In other words, is there a one-stop site to look for good alternatives to the corporate publishers?

    October 13, 2009
  5. Thank you Kate. The distinction I am making between not-for-profit versus for-profit publishers has not been the key variable in the minds of most folks concerned with these issues. Customarily, what matters is prestige and impact of the journal (along with many other longstanding concerns). For those disciplines in which such things are watched, Impact Factor (and related bibliometrics) are tracked in databases such as ISI Web of Science.

    Advocates for change in scholarly communication keep track of some different measures. For gold open access journals, they want to see if it is in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) yet. For the OA status of all journals, SHERPA-RoMEO database ( database is the place to go and look into where a journal stands on allowing or not, what kinds of OA depositing. The later is less relevant to gold OA journals like Folklore Forum, where access is universal.

    October 13, 2009
  6. A more moderate technique than outright rejecting to review articles for for-profit journals is to accept, but begin such reviews with a disclaimer. Politely let the author and editor know that they are on notice, and that you will be less likely to review for the journal in the future because it is not Open Access. Encourage the author to submit to open access journals in the future, and the editor to change their journal or association with that journal. Then, give a very thorough and fair review of the article.

    October 16, 2009
  7. Dan Eisenberg provides a worthwhile pathway for scholars to consider. In my original essay I tried to be careful to place the weight of my case in the direction of the commercial/not-for-profit contrast rather than the open accessclosed access continuum. Many commercial publishers are open access publishers in the sense that they (often nominally and grudgingly) allow for some (usually modest) form of Green OA. Some commercial publishers are full blown Gold OA publishers, as reflected in, for example, Springer’s ownership of BioMedCentral. Thus the dominant mode that these discussions have taken is OA/Not-OA. I was aiming at the other dimension. One need not support OA (as I do) to feel (as I do) that not-for-profit publishing by university presses and scholarly societies is worthwhile and that the practices of the commercial publishers are harmful or, at least, out of sync with the interests of scholarly authors, peer-reviewers, students, etc.

    Thus, one could adopt Dan’s approach with non-OA commercial publishers and not-for-profit (non-OA) publishers (if OA matters most to you). This would mean that one might be willing to work freely for commercial OA publishers as well as with not-for profit OA publishers. With any kind of non-OA publisher, one would make one’s case for OA before giving one’s time and attention and expertise away. Presumably one is doing this to send a pro-OA message while still being a good citizen under established norms.

    Everyone will find their own way on these matters. OA is most important to me, but non-commercial publishing is also very important to me. My feeling is that if we can keep university press publishing (and scholarly society publishing sans commercial partners) going during the short term, there will be opportunities for that sector to move more and more actively into OA realms in the near medium term. I personally do not see a need to delay (as an individual, in my fields) pulling out of supporting 100% commercial publishing. This helps the OA cause and the not-for-profit sector.

    I cannot do all of the peer-reviews that I am asked to do, so supporting not-for-profit publishers seems like a good investment for my not-for-profit (unpaid) labor.

    October 16, 2009
  8. Rick Gagne #

    Jason, that is a killer article! Totally convincing, and an inspiring call for action.

    So how to act? As Kate Schramm points out, scholars need to be able to find out about the status of a given journal. Are the publishers slimeballs, or not? And what sort of slime coats them? You suggest using the SHERPA/RoMEO database ( A quick look at SHERPA/RoMEO reveals three problems more drastic than their capitalization:
    1. Many journals (such as Folklore Forum, which you mention) are not in the database.
    2. Most of the journals which ARE in the database have no other information besides their title. (There are five journals listed which contain the word “folklore.” Four are in the U. S., and none of these have any info.)
    3. When a journal does have info listed, it is so abstruse that a layman cannot parse it.

    Furthermore, all that SHERPA/RoMEO tries to do is describe the open-access status of journals. Isn’t this a very different animal from the for-profit status? Surely a journal might be published by a non-profit publisher such as a university press, and yet not be open access. What is the status of, for example, the Journal of Folklore Research?

    After reading your great article, I want to help. Like Kate, I want to see an easy web resource which will list journals, identify their publishers, and briefly rate their for-profit status. If such a resource does not exist now, I’m willing to work to make it happen. But SHERPA/RoMEO, frankly, looks like a wash-out. Do you know of any other leads, particularly any which rate American journals?

    Thanks very much–
    –Rick Gagne, Tougaloo College

    October 17, 2009
  9. Thank you Rick.

    Open access issues relate to, but are not the same as, corporate enclosure of scholarly publishing and of the work of scholars. Both are matters for consideration and work.

    The need for the SHERPA/RoMEO database is to help authors seeking to learn about the OA policies of journals to which they might submit. Knowing how to use it requires learning some basic terms of art, such as pre-print, post-print, green, gold, etc. Thankfully there are resources to help on in this domain, including the definitions at SHERPA/RoMEO itself.

    For the question of “is it commercially owned or not? It is actually a lot easier to figure this out. Searching for a journal in a library catalog, including Open Worldccat. Searching on a journal like “Journal of Folklore Research” will provide a record that gives the publisher’s name. In this case, the Folklore Institute at Indiana University (now the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology, actually). This information can be followed up on to learn more about the publisher and, via the journal’s website, about the total circumstances of its publication. Journals that are owned by large corporate publishers will usually only live on the web in the websites of these big publishers. Journals that are published by university presses will have some clear indication of this. Non-commercial open access journals will again be pretty obvious to detect.

    It would be possible to build a list characterizing various journals in this fashion, but an author should be able to figure things out pretty readily in any particular case.

    It is certainly true that more journals of all types need to work to get themselves added to the SHERPA/RoMEO lists. Part of their absence stems from the editors and publishers not yet themselves understanding the issues that are at relevance.

    Folklore Forum and any other journal could request to be added to the database specifying its policies as they relate to questions of open access.

    Thanks again everyone.

    October 18, 2009
  10. Bakke #

    What about just asking to paid?

    October 19, 2009
  11. Just getting paid is one one approach to these questions. It solves the self-interest questions although, for me, it does not address my own core concerns with the ecology of scholarly publishing. It would make the serials crisis in libraries worse and it would only address the lobbying, IP, and anti-OA dimensions by reducing the revenues available for expenditure on these efforts.

    I do not expect novelists, by the way, to give me their work for free unless they wish to. My comments are limited to the nature of scholarly communication today.

    Thanks again to all who have shown such interest.

    October 19, 2009
  12. Great post, these are my sentiments also. I am debating whether I have the guts to take your advice and take the professional hits that would entail. I do try to avoid commercial journals, but in some cases they are far ahead of others in several ways. One observation:

    This issue is part of a wider process of commercialization of scholarship, from Google taking over email, document storage, web-site creation, etc. to Highbeam hijacking scholarly journal articles and charging for them (how do they do that?), to bogus “scholarly” conferences that exist solely to make money, to commercial junk publishers like Nova Scientific Publishers. There aren’t simple solutions, but it is very important to keep this issue of commercialization in peoples minds, and your post is very helpful. Thank you.

    October 21, 2009
  13. Thank you Michael for your generous comment and also for the great work that you are doing at Publishing Archaeology. You are making important contribution there by bridging to archaeology and by offering really useful accounts of general issues of relevance, such as the emergence of new bogus publishing outfits. Thanks for all that you are doing.

    From a career point of view, it seems to me that the situation in archaeology is rather hopeful. The major journals such as American Antiquity are not (yet) in the hands of giant publishers, and thus the SAA can still migrate toward progressive policies. (Am I right that there is hope?) Also, the field (in the U.S.) at least, has such a rich network of regional and state-level journals (of longstanding) and these have operated far from the realm of commerce doing much great work. If they could be gathered in a single subject repository or virtually through a shared gateway, it could be really awesome. (UF Libraries has, for instance, digitized and made available Florida Anthropologist, which is an old friend to me.) In any case, I have hope that you’ll be able to negotiate the individual career issues. It would be much much harder in cell biology, as even PLoS is now a commercial (if OA) undertaking.

    October 21, 2009
    • The SAA is very conservative on most professional issues. From my experience, I can’t see them embracing repositories or open access for their journals (my suggestions along these lines meet with stony silence from the SAA). But, even though the SAA typically puts financial considerations over intellectual considerations, the SAA is NOT yet a commercial publisher, and they are not yet a tool of a company like Blackwell.

      October 21, 2009

    Jason, with every good intention, you are giving the wrong advice. You are recommending a strategy that has not only been tried and has failed and been superseded already, but a strategy that, with some reflection, could have been seen to be wrong-headed without even having to be tried.

    In 2000, 34000 biological researchers worldwide signed a boycott threat to stop publishing in and refereeing for their journals if they did not provide (what we would now call) Open Access (OA) to their articles.

    The boycott threat was ignored by the publishers of the journals, of course, because it was obvious to them if not to the researchers that the researchers had no viable alternative. And of course the researchers did not make good on their boycott threat when the journals failed to comply.

    The (likewise well-intentioned) people who had launched the boycott threat then turned to another strategy: They launched the excellent PLoS journals (now celebrating their 5th anniversary) to prove that there could be viable OA journals of the highest quality. The experiment was a great success, and many more OA journals have since spawned, some of them (such as the BMC — now Springer — journals) of a quality comparable to conventional journals, some not.

    But what also became apparent from the (now 9-year) exercise was that providing OA by creating new journals, persuading authors to publish in them instead of in their established journals, with their track-records for quality, and finding the funds to pay for the author publication fees that many of the OA journals had to charge (since they could no longer make ends meet with subscriptions) was a very slow and uncertain process.

    There are at least 25,000 peer-reviewed journals published annually today, including a core of perhaps 5000 journals that constitute the top 20% of the journals in each field, the ones that most authors want to publish in, and most users want to access and use (and cite).

    There are now about 5000 OA journals too, likewise about 20%, but most — unlike the PLoS journals (and perhaps the BMC/Springer and Hindawi journals) — are far from being among the top 20% of journals. Hence most researchers in 2009 face much the same problem that the signatories of the 2000 PLoS boycott threat faced in 2000: For most researchers, it would mean a considerable sacrifice to renounce their preferred journals and publish instead in an OA journal: either (more often) OA journals with comparable quality standards do not exist, or their publication charges are a deterrent.

    Yet ever since 2000 (and earlier) there has been no need for either threats or sacrifice by researchers in order to have OA to all of the planet’s peer-reviewed research output, for those same researchers who were signing boycott threats that they could not carry out could instead have used the keystrokes to make their own peer-reviewed research OA, by depositing their final, peer-reviewed drafts in OA repositories as soon as they were accepted for publication, to make them freely accessible to all would-be users, rather than just to those whose institutions could afford to subscribe to the journals in which they were published.

    Researchers could have made all their research OA spontaneously since at least 1994. They could have done it OAI-compliantly (interoperably) since at least 2000.

    But most researchers did not make their own research OA in 1994, nor in 2000, and even now in 2009, they seem to prefer petitioning publishers for it, rather than providing it for themselves.

    There is a solution, but that solution is not more petitions and more waiting for publishers or journals to change their policies or their economics. It is for researchers’ institutions and funders to mandate that their researchers provide OA to their own refereed research by depositing their final, peer-reviewed drafts in OA repositories as soon as they are accepted for publication, to make them freely accessible to all would-be users, rather than just to those whose institutions can afford to subscribe to the journals in which they were published.

    I would like to suggest that Jason Jackson (and other well-meaning OA advocates) could do incomparably more for global OA by lobbying their own institutions (and funders) to adopt OA mandates than by launching more proposals to boycott publishers who decline to do what researchers can already do for themselves.

    October 21, 2009
  15. Thank you Stevan for taking the time to comment on my post. I do not yet have time to do justice to your careful comments. I am aware that they align closely with your general position and that you know a great deal about these issues. I am committed to green OA and (less to your liking, I know) where useful and do-able, gold OA. My comments here were only secondarily about OA and were intended to evoke a wide range of issues of which active hostility to OA on the part of the commercial publishers active in my fields is only one part.

    I have just begun chairing my university’s library committee and for many years, I have been involved in encouraging the use our institutional repository. Every campus has to negotiate a different local context, but I can say that I am most eager for my institution to adopt a green mandate. It would be a powerful tool for the good and the conversations that could lead there are now beginning.

    I chair a new working group in my disciplinary society (not AAA) that is working to educate the membership and leadership on these issue. Later today, I will be making a presentation to its executive board in which I will show, for instance, how the Science Commons author addendum engine works, what one learns from SHERPA/RoMEO, what the mandates mean for authors and the society, etc.

    As warrants repeating over and over again, disciplines vary considerably in the nature and state of their journal and monograph systems. (Both my fields are book centered and thus have been very dependent on university presses.) One can still do quite well publishing with non-commercial publishers in folklore studies, if this is important to you. One can also do quite well publishing only in gold open access journals, if that is important to you. Interestingly, most non gold OA folklore journals have not yet given thought to what they allow relative to green OA. For better and for worse, there is no impact factor system for folklore studies and the journal system is relatively non-hierarchical. (One can see that as a strength or a weakness, depending.)

    OA is important, but there are other things that matter too. I can only represent my own views. The AAA executive board backed me into working for Wiley for two years as an editor of a AAA journal. This was against my will and consistently frustrating both in a day to day sense and in a macro (ex: PRISM-sense). The only advantage that it gave me was that it provided me with a glimpse of the deep differences that continue to characterize the University of California Press (which co-published the journal for my first two years) on the one hand, and Wiley on the other. They are not the same and one deserves my support more than does the other.

    I am pro-green OA, but (given a choice and acknowledging that everyone may not feel that they have a choice) I think that working (fighting) with anti OA publishers to publish one’s green OA work is self-defeating (especially if they cannot offer the kind of prestige, interoperability, (or author services) value they often claim.

    The world can do what it wants, and maybe there are only a handful of folklorists and anthropologists who would share my views (I think I know more than a handful), but I know what I am willing and able to do. Green OA makes sense. Editing a journal for a big STM publisher does not.

    October 21, 2009
    • Hi Jason,

      Thanks for your reply. And I am delighted that you are eager for a Green OA Mandate at Indiana University: IU is the natural candidate for leading the second wave of mandate adoptions in the US.

      On books, I (and the OA movement) plead “nolo contendere”: Books, unlike refereed journal articles, are not exception-free author-give-ways, hence not candidates for OA deposit mandates either. It’s author choice, as it always was. (But we do have a Digging-Into-Data-Challenge research bid submitted for creating a book-impact index which may help shake things up a bit in the book-centred disciplines).

      I am not at all against Gold OA, by the way: Just against Gold OA before or instead of Green OA (and Green OA mandates).

      Omitted from my prior posting, but again, pertains only to journal articles, not books:

      (P.S. The correlation between whether a journal is published by a for-profit publisher and whether it is an OA journal is at best a weak one. The American Chemical Society is one of the most regressive of journal publishers, and it is not-for-profit. Springer and Hindawi are both OA publisher and for-profit. But in any case, neither the problem nor the solution resides in publishers, for-profit or not. Both the problem and the solution is entirely in the hands of the research community, the providers of all research content, and it resides at the end of their fingertips.)

      Best wishes, Stevan

      October 21, 2009
  16. Thank you Stevan for your additional comments. Last night in a comment at the Open Anthropology Cooperative, I pointed myself to the American Chemical Society as a not-for-profit publisher who was aligned with the for-profit STM firms and functionally indistinguishable from then in many practical respects.

    October 21, 2009
  17. Great piece, Jason. You give us much to think about. Quick question, did you and I publish our books with for-profit or not-for-profit UNP? Seems that if we went with a non-for-profit press, I did so unknowingly because of the pressures of tenure and for other values (large native author list, or whatever it may be). Still, your piece is timely and perhaps more easily adopted by those of us on our side of tenure.

    November 2, 2009
  18. The University of Nebraska Press is certainly a not-for-profit press although the distinction grows increasingly less clear for many other university presses, such as Rochester and Toronto, which have entered into complex agreements with for-profit publishers. While it has not (yet) followed the path being taken by presses such as Michigan, Rice, and Utah State, its not-for-profit status shows through when it uses the revenues generated by journals and popular titles (like the baseball and science fiction books) to fund the publication of important, good-for-the-world works that commercial publishers would not touch, such as Native American grammars and dictionaries.

    In the current moment, the business model problem in the university press domain means that presses are moving intensively toward being either weak copies of commercial presses or toward being something that looks different but still reflects the longstanding values that made them special and important.

    November 4, 2009

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