The academy needs open-access. As Bethany Nowviskie has pointed out in a memorable (and revolting) phrase, much of the intellectual product of the academy is “fight club soap.” We produce scholarly work at great cost to our institutions and the donors and governments that fund them, only to hand them over to for-profit publishers, who sell them back to our libraries at ruinous cost. This cost is exorbitant for the wealthiest universities and prohibitive for everyone else, exacerbating the divide between haves and have-nots, and locking our scholarly work behind paywalls where hardly anyone reads it.
Thankfully, there is no reason why we need to continue in this way. The economics of publishing that favored the printed, bound, and distributed academic journal are now untenable, and instead we have the opportunity though the internet for open-access publications, that is, publications which are available online, for free, regardless of the user’s affiliation. Open-access scholarly publications are the academy’s chance to cash in on the idea that “information wants only to be free.” But like anything worth doing, creating open-acccess publications will take a lot of work.
I’ve recently accepted the opportunity to be the web editor for the Journal of Southern Religion, an online journal that has been open-access since 1998. (It’s remarkable how prescient the editors of JSR were about the opportunities of open-access in its first issue.) I’ve been tasked with a redesign of the site, but also with thinking through what the journal should look like in the future.
My session proposal, then, combines both the large question of open-access with the specific issues I’m going to face over the next year or so. I’d like to talk with scholars, librarians, technologists (anyone, actually) about the best practices and new ideas for open-access publications. For example, we might try answering these types of questions:
- What new ways of publishing can an online, OA journal take advantage of?
- What are the technical requirements of an OA journal?
- What is the best use of web 2.0 technologies?
- Is there a better way to handle citations than footnotes?
- How can an OA journal keep its back catalog useable into the future?
- What are the best software options for running an OA journal?
It would be best if this session could produce a deliverable, probably in the form of a report or syllabus listing best practices, useful readings, and possible future directions for open-access journals. We could write this collaboratively during the time we have for the session.
If you have any ideas, links to open-access publications that are doing good work, or readings that would helpful, please leave them in the comments below. Thanks!