The Library as Open Access Publisher, and Digital Publishing 2.0

A report by Scott Jaschik in Inside Higher Education (Abandoning Print, Not Peer Review, Feb. 28, 2008) announces what the reporter thinks will be a major new challenge to print publications in academia:

Those tracking the move toward open access publishing look for milestones such as the new federal law that will make much research supported by the National Institutes of Health available online and free or the recent move by Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences to place professors’ scholarly papers in an open repository.

A recent announcement out of Indiana hasn’t received the same attention, but may represent a larger challenge in the end to the traditional model of scholarly publishing, which has evolved to a system with expensive print and online publications and limited access for readers. A professor at Indiana University who is editor of an anthropology journal published traditionally has started a new journal – online and free – using tools made available by the library. After a one-year experiment, the journal is now officially launched and is already attracting many more readers than the establishment print model ever did….READ MORE HERE


The discussion that follows at the end of the article is also very interesting, with an animated debate about the alleged hidden costs of electronic, open access publishing; the difficulty in getting publications in online journals accepted by colleagues for tenure and promotion purposes; contentions that what Indiana University is doing is not a pioneering, first move, nor unique; and, a vigorous affirmation of the vital role played by librarians in this process, a sector of the university that at least one librarian (rightly, in my view) thinks is routinely undervalued by faculty.

Digital Culture Books is also an interesting venture by the University of Michigan mentioned by one of the commentators on the piece above. The project announces itself as follows:

digitalculturebooks is an experimental publishing strategy with a strong research component. By making our content available in print and online, we intend to:

  • develop an open and participatory publishing model that adheres to the highest scholarly standards of review and documentation;
  • study the economics of Open Access publishing;
  • collect data about how reading habits and preferences vary across communities and genres;
  • build community around our content by fostering new modes of collaboration in which the traditional relationship between reader and writer breaks down in creative and productive ways.



What remains to be done, and here I mean by all of us, is to revisit and reconceive what we think of the future of publishing in the social sciences in light of online, open access conditions, especially with reference to the question of peer review, and the very notion of what constitutes the “peer” as well as the nature and extent of the review process.

Many are still speaking in terms of a once-off publication model, forgetting that online publishing allows for infinite revision. Given the kinds of social networking and tagging sites we see online today, I wonder if it would be worthwhile for an online journal to divide itself into sections such as: pre-reviewed, and reviewed articles. “Pre-review” articles would be posted as received, and allow for open reviewing by readers, over a certain time period, allowing readers to post comments and/or “favourite” the piece. That would be version 1.0. Following a specified amount of time, the author would then produce a revised version, the 2.0 version, which would then be moved to the “Reviewed” section of the journal. Dialogue between authors and readers would still be encouraged from then onwards, and the journal should allow subsequent revisions, hence future versions 3.0, 4.0, and so on.