Re: Journal publishing and author self-archiving: Peaceful Co-Existence and Fruitful Collaboration

From: Sandy Thatcher <>
Date: Mon, 18 Dec 2006 19:03:20 EST

I'll keep my reply much shorter this time, Stevan, so as not to try
the patience of others on this list or hog more than my fair share of
time in this ongoing discussion.

I'm afraid I don't share your "serene confidence that there are
plenty of available OA hosts, big and small, ready to take on the
implementation of peer review for migrating established journal
titles and ed-boards, scaled down to OA publishing." Partly I
don't because I think, to work most efficiently, there needs to
be more structure to the system than self-archiving or IRs
themselves can provide, even with pretty good federated
searching. The editors of single journals would need to find a
way to join together with editors of other journals in their
disciplines, or related disciplines, so as to form a group of
journals that could serve a whole discipline, or special area of
interest, well. That is typically what scholarly societies have
done, and maybe some of them could take over the journals
abandoned by large STM publishers-if they don't continue to feel
just as threatened by OA as the commercial publishers do! An
ideal structure would be something like what CIAO and
AnthroSource represent, respectively, for International Relations
and Anthropology in the social sciences, which encompass not only
journals but also monographs, working papers, conference
proceedings, and grey literature. As director of a press that
worked with our library and SPARC to help set up such a structure
for another social science discipline, rural sociology, I can
tell you that this is no trivial or inexpensive task!

Sudden change is very difficult to plan for, and my worry is that
if such a scenario were to happen, no really adequate structures
would be in place save for a few like the ones I've mentioned to
provide for an organized environment of knowledge. Possibly, yes,
some individual editors would immediately try to keep their
journals going by setting up their own self-publishing OA
operations. But who would pay for the editorial support services
that the major STM publishers now provide? Departmental budgets
can be stretched only so far, and these might be tapped already
for supporting their own authors publishing in other OA journals.
(This is part of the "free rider" problem that university presses
have long suffered from, because they do not publish for their
own university faculty primarily but provide a service to the
system as a whole. Universities like to fund their own faculty
first, their presses second, and the same would likely be true
for editorial offices of journals.) Academic editors would need
to spend more of their time doing the kind of work that
professional publishing staff now do, at a cost to the university
that would overall be greater (because faculty are paid,
generally, better than professional publishing staff).
Universities would do well to start creating these structures
now, but I don't see that as likely to happen because most
administrators, I suspect, share your view of gradual change and
will think there is plenty of time to prepare. Sure, library
funds once used for purchasing STM journals could be diverted,
but this is not so straightforward a process as you seem to
assume, as many libraries now share the burden of subscription
payments whereas I suspect that the distribution of editorial
offices will be more highly concentrated in the most-research
intensive universities where the leading scholars reside-and I
can't see Ball State contributing its savings from library
subscriptions to supporting Yale faculty's editorial offices!

We at Penn State are doing our small bit by serving as a test
site for the DPubs "open source" software that is designed to
provide a platform for managing the editorial and production
processes not only for journals but also for conference
proceedings and, ultimately, edited volumes and monographs in
electronic form. But there should be many other efforts like this
going on if we are to avoid a very messy transition period if my
hypothesized scenario of sudden change comes true.

-Sandy Thatcher

Sanford G. Thatcher, Director
Penn State University Press
University Park, PA 16802-1003
Received on Tue Dec 19 2006 - 13:45:06 GMT

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