In the age of “paper or plastic,” academe—and the print-based scholarship it produces—has green options. Today’s post is about online peer-reviewed journals, also known as Open Access literature. Online publishing is (of course) paper free, so it’s arguably better for the environment, but there’s more to it than just being green. Read on for an introduction into the who, the what, the why, how, where, and when of Open Access literature.
The What: Open Access journals are “digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.” Many are peer-reviewed.
The Why: If we assume knowledge is a public good, then doesn’t it make sense to make it freely available online to whomever wishes to read it?
The How: Scholarly journals are particularly well-suited to Open Access publishing because they are not snarled by artists’ copyright revenue issues. Unlike musicians, filmmakers, and writers, professional researchers don’t get paid for their manuscripts. Hence the pirating controversies that plague entertainment markets do not apply to the industry of research.
The However: Suber points out that just because Open Access journals are free of copyright restrictions, they are not free. While they are certainly less costly to the environment, there are production and maintenance costs associated with online publishing: manuscript preparation and server space among others. Suber offers a number of practical cost-covering options for Open Access research literature, and suggests the field is wide open for creative financing.
The When: For Open Access to take root, the subscriber business model of print-based, peer-reviewed scholarship will need to evolve, and there’s the rub. As an emerging academic, it seems pretty clear that the old business model—and the paperback volumes it distributes—harbors time-honored notions of exclusivity and prestige. Publishing in an exclusively online forum doesn’t necessarily—at least not at this point in time—garner the social cache of, say, owning a Prius or Smart Cart.
That’s it for Thursday is TechDay. Stay tuned for more Open Access information. Until then.