It is Nice to Be Read
There are multiple reasonable points of view on the issues that I raised in the short “Getting Out of the Business…” essay that I posted here on the 12th. Setting those aside, the exercise is a reminder of why access questions matter. As of a moment ago, 520 folks had consulted the essay. While small by New York Times standards, it is quite extensive when compared to most scholarly writings. I want to register my thanks for all of these readers and especially for those of you who have commented to me publicly or privately. If I had published that essay as an editorial in a typical scholarly journal in my fields, it would have taken a considerable amount of time to see publication, could have cost more than $1000 (before in-kind contributions), and then would have hardly attracted any notice. As an illustration of this contention, I can point to my contribution as editor in Museum Anthropology volume 32, number 1. While I would have been much, much happier not to have experienced the obligation to author such a document (an Expression of Concern), its ramifications for several disciplines is very large. While I know that it was read by some colleagues, it was largely met by deafening silence. There is more to that than accessibility, but accessibility is definitely one factor. In any event, thank you interested readers and linkers.
I’d like to ask you this question off line but youprovide no office email on this blog far as I can tell.
Well, what do you say about Routledge & their subsidiaries? They publish a lot of journals. I don’t have time to do the looking up necessary to find out if they make bags of money annually, but figure that youmight know if they are as bad as Wiley,et al– the same, or worse?
Routledge is part of Taylor and Francis and Taylor and Francis is part of Informa. Informa’s website has financial information for investors. Looking quickly, I found that they reported “revenue growth of 13% to £1.28bn” on page 11 of 36 in their “Informa 2008 Preliminary Results” document available here: http://www.informa.com/investors/Financial_Presentations . They are large and profitable.
Jason: I’m glad that your posting on “getting out of the business” has generated such discussion, as it raises many issues I think are important. I had meant to reply briefly earlier, but have been swamped with my truly staggering workload as Editor-in-Chief of American Anthropologist. This is frustrating, because I want to participate more in these discussions but the very venture makes is extremely difficult for me to find the time to do so. I do hope that lots of people will keep reviewing for American Anthropologist(!)-I think this is important, but I sympathize with your views.
Having become an editor only after the Wiley-Blackwell deal was implemented, I have nothing with which to compare it. Smart, caring, and progressive people at points along the way decided first to move from having the AAA act as a publisher to UC Press, and then to Wiley-Blackwell. I know they acted with the best of intentions, and I don’t have the comparative data to make a definitive statement, but I worry that there are fundamental problems with the current state of affairs. The Wiley-Blackwell staff are uniformly helpful and professional, but the larger issues that you point out remain. In effect, my only-very-indirectly-and-minimally-remunerated work as editor, and the work of reviewers as well, is serving to advance corporate profits. As one commentator to your posting noted, in a way it would make more sense to just truly go corporate: pay reviewers for reviewing and pay editors a real salary (or research fund, or something) for all of the work they are doing, work that as you know is often both invisible and thankless (but of course is mostly very rewarding). But as you note, in all likelihood this would not address the additional core issues of open access, intellectual interchange, and the nature of scholarly work.
I am frustrated by the current state of affairs, which seems to be a half-measure that benefits for-profit publishers more than authors, editors, reviewers, and the broader scholarly community and public. With three years left to go in my term, I’m sure that I will learn even more about the limitations of the current setup (and the advantages, for there are advantages and we should acknowledge these). I hope, in collaboration with you and others, to help advocate for better alternatives. If I can only find the time!
Thank you Tom for your comment and for your hard work in service to anthropology and neighboring fields. We live in interesting times and things are changing in significant ways (some quite encouraging). Many people are contributing usefully in many ways for the betterment of scholarly communication efforts. I have spent the past three days dialoging on these matters at the American Folklore Society meetings, where we have staged a series of events to explore them as a field. You are right about the many good people who worked to try to lead anthropology to a good place. The fact that things have not worked out as some of these good folks had hoped does not diminish the value of their earlier labor.