Re: Provostial Publishing: a return to circa 1920

From: Stevan Harnad <amsciforum_at_GMAIL.COM>
Date: Fri, 6 Jun 2008 23:12:56 -0400

On Thu, 5 Jun 2008, Sandy Thatcher wrote:

> At 5:56 PM -0400 6/3/08, Stevan Harnad wrote:
> > (2) Refereed journal articles undergo minimal copy-editing in
> > any case (unlike [some] books).
> On what basis do you make this claim? Have you surveyed journals
> to find out how much copyediting they do? Are you basing this on
> your own personal experience with copyediting done by the
> journals to which you have submitted your own work primarily?

It is based on the CUP journal I edited for 25 years, plus many other
journals for which I have refereed and in which I have published. It
is also a judgment shared by many not only in the research community but
also in the publishing community: Journal article copy-editing today is
down to which-hunting and reference-querying, for the most part. Software
can do the latter and we can do without the former, I think.

> I, of course, cannot claim sufficiently wide knowledge to make
> sweeping generalizations about the degree and level of
> copyediting done for journals compared with books at all
> publishing houses. But as director of a press that publishes 11
> journals in the humanities, and a past employee of another press
> that published three (including one in mathematics), I can attest
> that the copyediting done for these journals is at the same level
> as done for books, which in university presses is pretty high. I
> suspect that other university presses operate in this respect the
> same way we do--which would mean that at least 1,000 scholarly
> journals get far more than "minimal copy-editing."

That may well be. But there are only two underlying issues here, so it's
best not forget them:

(1) Are would-be users whose institutions cannot afford subscription
access to the publisher's copy-edited version ' better off with a refereed
final draft, not copy-edited, or are they better of without out it? (The
answer is obvious, I think.)

(2) If and when Green OA self-archiving (of refereed, non-copy-edited
final drafts of journal articles) and Green OA self-archiving mandates
should ever make journal subscriptions unsustainable, author-institutions
can pay for peer review by the article out of their windfall subscription
cancellation savings on the Gold OA cost-recovery model. If they find
it worth paying for too, the copy-editing service can be bundled with
the peer review service.

Nothing hangs on either of these things, and all other questions (such
as how much copy-editing is really being done on journal articles today)
are irrelevant to the Green OA and Green OA mandate issue.

> I can also attest, from my own years of experience as a
> copyeditor, that the job does not just involve polishing prose
> and improving grammar. Not uncommonly, copyeditors will find and
> correct egregious factual and other errors, thus sparing the
> authors from considerable embarrassment. Without their "value
> added" services, much will get published in Green OA form that
> will NOT serve either the authors' peers or the general public
> well.

Right now, that value-added is being paid for by subscriptions. If
subscriptions ever vanish, and the value is still desired, it can be
paid for along with peer review on the Gold OA cost-recovery model.

> Hence, I conclude, Harvard and others that follow its example and
> are content to publish less than the final archival version will
> be opening themselves to the exposure of all the flaws of
> scholarly writing that now get hidden from public view by the
> repair work done by copyeditors. Caveat lector!

Harvard is not publishing its journals articles. The journals are
publishing them, and providing the peer review and copy-editing.
Harvard is merely providing supplementary access to the peer-reviewed
final drafts for those would-be users who cannot afford access to the
publishers published (and copy-edited) version. To complete the circle
again, please refer to (1) above...

Stevan Harnad

If you have adopted or plan to adopt a policy of providing Open Access
to your own research article output, please describe your policy at:

    BOAI-1 ("Green"): Publish your article in a suitable toll-access journal
    BOAI-2 ("Gold"): Publish your article in an open-access journal if/when
    a suitable one exists.
    in BOTH cases self-archive a supplementary version of your article
    in your own institutional repository.
Received on Sat Jun 07 2008 - 04:15:25 BST

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