Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Another new commercial open access journal in anthropology

There are now several pay-to-publish open access journals for anthropology. The first one, Open Access Anthropology, was founded by Bentham Journals 2008; see my blog post about this. I just received an invitation to contribute to another such journal, the Journal of Anthropology, published by Hindawi. For $425, you can publish a paper in this journal, which claims to be peer reviewed (and if you have to submit an errata later, it is free!). So what are the pros and cons of these new journals? Here is an off-the-cuff balance sheet (of course I will think of other important reasons as soon as I post this...):

Positive features:
  • These are fully open access journals. Articles are posted, and anyone with an internet connection can read or download the papers.
Negative features:
  • The topical coverage is too wide. Does the world really need another journal that purports to cover the very wide subject matter of anthropology? Actually, the content tends to be rather idiosyncratic at best; I doubt anyone would claim that Open Access Anthropology is at the cutting edge of the discipline (check out their tables of contents).
  • The cost of publishing is high.
  • I am doubtful about the quality of the peer review process. I have no hard data to support my skepticism, which is just a hunch and could be incorrect. But my guess is that the reputation of these journals if pretty low among most anthropologists, if only because they are new; they don't seem to address hot new areas; and the contributors and board may not be the top experts.
If I am going to get excited about a new journal, it should focus on a tight and well-defined topic or theme; it should have leading scholars in that area as editors and board members; and it should have a clear goal or mission. To me, it looks like the goal of these new journals is to make money for their publishers (both are large commercial enterprises) rather than to address pressing intellectual and professional issues.

Now perhaps with electronic publishing today we don't need tightly focused journals. If I want to keep up on current research about, say, ancient basketry, I can find relevant papers through search engines, contents alerts, and the like. If a paper is available online, it doesn't matter whether it is published in the highly prestigious "Ancient Basketry Review" or in the newbie "Journal of Anthropology." The important thing is to get access to the papers. But I resist this notion, and I think that focused journals are still very important.

Perhaps you think I am just a cranky old traditionalist who likes to hold printed journals in his grubby paws and who looks askance at new internet publishing. Actually, I am pretty sure that the printed journal has a limited future, and before too long electronic format will be the only thing available for most journals. But I do feel strongly about the issues of intellectual focus and demonstrable quality, and in these areas the new commercial open access journals don't seem to measure up.

7 comments:

Michael E. Smith said...

Wow, Hindawi journals really want my business! I just got an email inviting me to submit a paper to the International Journal of Population Research. I guess that is better than the biomedical journals that were sending out mass emails a few months ago.

Stevan Harnad said...

Why not just keep publishing in the established journals, for free, and self-archive your final refereed drafts to make them (Green) OA?

(Gold) OA publishing's day will come -- but only after Green OA has prevailed globally. Till then, paying for Gold OA is a needless waste of money, for OA that just a few cost-free keystrokes will buy...

kg said...

Once more the great Harnad sh*** . Green OA cannot give the "version of record", it has to operate instead with drafts and dubious things like the dark deposits plus request button.

Michael E. Smith said...

As usual, Steven Harnad has excellent advice. Not sure what the previous bizarre comment is about.

Resume Writing Service said...

I am just a cranky old traditionalist who likes to hold printed journals in his grubby paws and who looks askance at new internet publishing. Actually, I am pretty sure that the printed journal has a limited future, and before too long electronic format will be the only thing available for most journals.

celeres said...

You gave a nice point, once again.That's why I like your blog.
I wanted that all my colleagues put online (sites like Scribd)as much papers as they can, with only one purpose, and that's to have access to papers any time any where. I can tell you that it didn't take a long time before everybody knew that it's OK if paper they need isn't in the library, because u can access it online, which is really great. I really belive this is the future and hope to see more open access (specialised)journals.

celeres said...

The advantages of free, anywhere anytime access to paper you need is really a future.
2 years ago when "Scribd" started I said to my colleagues to put as much of their work as they can and it turned up into a great collection of papers.
What I hope for is specialized and open acccess journals where students who didn't publish anything yet (for many reasons-which I wouldn't debate about now)could do so.
If you know place (journal) where they accept student papers please writte to me.