Thanks to all those who commented on the Open Access post. The comments lead me to a rich thread on the same theme, which I was not aware of, at the Leiter Report from 2006, which everyone should read.
Though my post has had many viewers, thanks to a link from Brian Leiter there has been no stampede of senior professors signing up to take The Pledge. The heroic exception is Rick Grush who declares himself a "Commercial Free Philosopher" and invites others to join him and show support by posting his logo. Grush's manifesto "Why I am a Commercial Free Philosopher" is sound and eloquent and should be read by everyone interested in this theme.
That said, I'm not enthusiastic about the "Commercial Free" label because it seems to me to conflate the issues of making publications free to readers and their being used for commercial purposes. Thus Thomas Nadlehoffer reports he is discussing a project with Blackwell in which would give users free access to advertising sponsored content. This would not be "commercial free" but would, it seems to me, be a step in the right direction. Then, too, "commercial" makes one think of television where, confusingly, the television you get for free is full of commercials whereas “commercial free” television is the sort that has to be paid for by taxpayers and viewers like you.
But I shouldn't be quibbling about terminology. Several readers chide me for not hewing more closely to the canonical language of the Open Access Movement.
You should inform yourself about open access journals before writing about open access. Publishing your work on your private homepage doesn't do much good.
In The Pledge I do talk about making papers freely available on one's own web site. Stevan Harnad and Peter Suber suggest that it would be better to talk about filing papers in a " OAI-compliant Institutional Repository".
I'd change "on my personal web site" to "on my personal web site or in an open-access repository". This increases the options for pledging authors without reducing their commitment to OA. In general, putting papers into OA repositories is better than putting them on a personal web site because repositories provide permanent URLs, take steps for the long-term preservation of their contents, facilitate crawling by Google and other search engines, and make the growing volu
me of OA literature more visible and thereby encourage other scholars to follow suit. Repositories are also interoperable and support "cross-archive searching" as if they all formed one grand, virtual repository. More than 1,000 universities around the world now host interoperable OA repositories, and new ones launch every week. At least the pledge shouldn't steer philosophers *away* from the use of OA repositories by limiting them to personal web sites.
- Why self-archiving on your website rather than in your OAI-compliant Institutional Repository? http://roar.eprints.org/
- Why pledge to self-archive only the unrefereed preprint? Why not also (and preferentially) the peer-reviewed final, accepted draft?
- I suggest separating a pledge for peer-reviewed journal articles -- which all authors want to give away -- and other forms of text, such as monographs, which not all authors want to give away.
Now I actually had a reason for putting things my way, which is that I think that the idea of institutional repositories for articles is itself a technologically retrograde notion (as indeed is the idea of an "article"). The Internet cloud is already a "repository" and, if we thought about it, we don't need, and shouldn't want, to consign our intellectual products to anyone's hands but our own. I think the time will soon come when the only form of "publication" will be posting to one's own web site. But set that speculation aside. I happily accept the proposed amendments.
But what good will it do?
Whatever form Open Access finally takes, we know what Closed Access looks like and there seems general agreement that Closed Access is bad thing. If some large proportion of senior academics took anything like my Pledge or Grush's, the transition to Open Access would happen very quickly. But that clearly is not going to happen.
As the (revealingly) anonymous Neil comments:
There is a collective action problem. I am untenured and I need to keep an eye on my reputation. That means that there is a handful of journals (you know which ones) that I have to aspire to publish in; if they don't sign on to open access principles, such as allowing posting of papers on websites, then I am in a bind. If most people in the profession signed on, then of course those journals would be marginalized and would be forced to change their policies. What to do? Tenured philosophers can lead the charge, publishing their best work in open access journals and pressuring the top 10 journals. So far as I can see, this isn't happening (witness the pitifully slow progress of Philosopher's Imprint).
In response to Neil's collective action problem, the ideal would be for existing editorial boards to simply switch "their" journal to open access, i.e. walk away from the commercial publisher whilst keeping the academic/editorial structures unchanged. Then we don't need anyone to be the first to gamble on a new open access journal of unknown reputation. We can keep on submitting to our established journals, it's just that now the academics, not the commercial publishers, are in charge. There's just no reason for academics to be beholden to outside publishers here; the latter have nothing to offer.
A terrific idea that links back to to a comment by Laura Schroeter in the Leiter thread:
The Springer journals' pricing policy is egregiously out of line with even the most expensive philosophy journals. But it's hard to support a boycott of the journal, since Phil Studies is one of the best run philosophy journals in terms of editorial policy, turnaround times, volume and quality of published articles.
The fact that Springer owns the title to Phil Studies puts it in a position of power. But it does seem like philosophers could have some important leverage here. One radical solution would be to arrange to transfer the entire editorial board associated with Philosophical Studies to a university-sponsored online journal called, say, New Philosophical Studies. I don't know if there would any be legal problems with this sort of move. There would certainly be plenty of practical difficulties. But it seems clear that such a move would be in the long term interest of the academics who actually use the journal.
This seems to me a challenge that should be put to the editors of every for-profit journal. Phil Studies seems an especially good place to start. It is a first rate journal but wildly overpriced by one of the most rapacious of the academic publishers.
So how exactly might the editors of Phil Studies pull this off? Would they start an online journal, or an Open Access Repository? There would still be costs associated with production. Who would pay those?
I can think of lots of answers to those questions, and I imagine you can too. But then I'm sure the clever editors of Phil Studies could think of even better ones if they put their minds to it. If only they would!
I think we should ask them to think about it. To that end I have created an online petition. To avoid debates about ends and means, the petition very simply asks the Editors of Phil Studies:
"Please free Philosophical Studies!"
Again, I think we can be sure the editors will get the idea.
Note the mechanisms of the petition require you to provide an email address to authenticate your signature, but you can elect to keep that address secret from me and/or everyone else. This makes it possible for you to sign in complete anonymity if you feel you need to.
I hope though, that signatories, especially senior people, will make themselves known and offer comments.
You can go to the petition by clicking here.