There have been a bunch of recent posts on open access in anthropology. Here I want to point to John Hawks's entry, "Why don't universities cut out the middleman?" The middleman in question is the group of commercial journal publishers. Right now, I work for Elsevier, Sage, Blackwell, and other commercial presses for free. I put in unpaid time doing scholarly work so that these large corporations can make profits from my efforts. Sometimes I feel like a fool; why should I divert my time and efforts from my own research in order to enrich these companies? The answer, of course, is that this unpaid labor consists of reviewing manuscripts (peer review), and I consider such reviewing a fundamental professional duty. So I do this work willingly, but every once in a while I get steamed up about it.
John Hawks asks what would happen if the whole system of funding scholarly journals were transformed such that journals were all online and open access (gold OA), sponsored by universities. University libraries would pay for editing and page production of these journals instead of paying for costly subscriptions to commercial print (and electronic) journals. Ignoring for now the complexities and difficulties in such a transformation. If this change were to come about, then my unpaid labor writing reviews (and writing articles, for that matter) would benefit my university, not a commercial press. I would feel much better about that. Hawks has a variety of interesting comments; take a look.
Savage Minds also has had some interesting recent posts on open access and the AAA; with some good discussion in the comments:
- AAA director condemns really stupid business models (Sept 1)
- Gourmet vs. All Things Considered: The Anthropological Edition (Sept. 2)
Now I half expect Steven Harnad to come swooping down and point out that the kind of massive transition Hawks discusses is really pie in the sky - its not going to happen soon, if it happens at all. But in the meantime, we can all promote open access and all of its benefits if we self-archive our publications. Harnad is completely correct here, and well worth listening to.