In an earlier post, I made a plea for suggestions and perhaps assistance when it comes to a new open access, online journal I am hoping to launch sometime next year (see here). I got some helpful feedback and some generous offers of assistance. For that, I am thankful. Now, I would like to discuss what I take to be the primary hurdle facing Philosophical Exchanges as well as any other open access philosophy journals—namely, funding. To date, most open access journals (both within and outside philosophy) have tried one of the three basic strategies for addressing the funding problem:
- Charge a publication fee to anyone who publishes in the journal.
- Charge a submission fee to anyone who submits to the journal.
- Requesting voluntary donations to submit to (or publish in) the journal.
Just to give you a sense for how problematic the first model can be, consider Frontiers in Human Neuroscience--which is a very well-respected, open access, online journal. The publication fees for research articles run anywhere from $1,500 to $2,900. Clearly this is suboptimal. After all, lots of state universities and colleges (including my own) don't have the money to regularly spend $2,000 publishing fees anytime a faculty member gets an article published in one of these journals. So, this kind of arrangement privileges (in some sense at least) folks at top R1s, while pricing people who work at less well-endowed institutions out of the publication market. Obviously, this is an ironic state of affairs for an open access journal—namely, in order to be open access for readers, access to publish has to be inadvertently denied to any researchers who don’t have the stout publishing fees to pony up. So, in effect, most researchers will get priced out of the open access journals if the first model is adopted and the prices are this high. The open access movement can and should do better than this (or so it seems to me).
I think the same problem arises when it comes to the second aforementioned option—namely, relying on submission fees (which are typically far more modest than publication fees). The problem here is once again fairness and equal access. Graduate students, adjuncts, and other non-tenured faculty may not have the money to pay even modest submission fees (especially if open access philosophy journals become more prominent). So, this, too, is not an optimal model. For instance, the top open access philosophy journal—Philosophers’ Imprint—tried to start collecting submission fees a few years ago (once the start-up funding for the journal ran out). It sparked an interesting debate here on Leiter Reports. Since then, Philosophers’ Imprint has changed its policy and adopted the third model mentioned above instead—namely, a voluntary donation approach. On this model, when people submit a paper (or have a paper accepted), they are invited to make a voluntary donation.
I personally think this is the best model—but it precariously depends on voluntary donations! This seems like a perfect place for a tragedy of the commons. I’d be curious to hear whether the donations are covering the costs of the journal. As David Velleman (Co-Editor of Philosophers’ Imprint) pointed out in the last discussion thread here about these issues, there are no free lunches in this world and open access journals are no different. Perhaps he can say a bit more in this thread concerning how the policy is working out. In my eyes, if it isn’t a workable model, open access philosophy is in trouble.
I have lots more to say about these issues, but first I wanted to hear what others think. If you’d like me to say more about what I think it will cost me to run an open access journal like Philosophical Exchanges here at College of Charleston, I will be happy to do so in the discussion threads. But for now, I wanted to share a salient anecdote instead (in closing).
Just the other day, I submitted an article to a traditional journal. I was given the “option” of publishing it open access (contingent upon acceptance) rather than having it locked away forever behind a corporate-academic pay wall. That sounded like a great idea. But the $1,200 price tag was too rich for my blood. In my eyes, this case highlights how odd our current arrangement is when it comes to our published work (i.e., our life’s work). We give our work away to institutions that don’t compensate us. In exchange, they profit from our work by trying to fleece our libraries while at the same time massively curtailing how many people have access to our work. In exchange, we get the "prestige" of having participated in the process by having our work appear behind the veil. Surely we can do better. But how is it to be done? Thoughts?
p.s. I will be moderating comments, so please be patient. Signed comments are preferred.