Go for the gold 
Open Access (OA) publication seems like a no-brainer for scholarly articles. We are not paid directly for our writing; we act from the altruistic motive of adding to human knowledge and from the selfish motive of furthering our own careers. Both motives are thwarted if the articles are locked up in expensive journals that only a few scholars can access. From the side of human knowledge, we contribute best to the ongoing conversation if people can actually read what we write. From the side of publishing to avoid perishing, open access publications are cited more than comparable closed access publications.

OK, but which OA? There are two primary models:

Green OA relies on authors making their papers available on the web - on their own websites, on institutional repositories, and on disciplinary repositories. Some worry that this will destroy for-profit journals and the services that they (arguably) provide. However, physics went the route of green OA years ago; preprints of most physics papers are available on arXiv, but the feared journal argmageddon has not occurred.

Gold OA requires authors* to pay when their paper is published; the paper is then made available free on-line. This allows journals to make at least as much money as they have been making, providing whatever services they have (arguably) been providing.

[EDIT: As Kai von Fintel points out, this is misleading. There are non-profit Gold OA journals which don't charge author-side fees at all. What I say below does not apply to those commendable journals. Rather, the worry below is that Gold OA only introduces new problems so long as journals are produced by for-profit publishers.]

One may worry, of course, that Gold OA could just be a money pump for publishers. A few recent data points:

1. Bentham has founded OA journals for dozens of disciplines, giving them uninventive titles of the form The Open X Journal for all X.

Philip Davis submitted a 'nonsense manuscript' to The Open Information Science Journal. That paper was titled 'Deconstructing Access Points', and it was generated by an algorithm which randomly filled sentence schemata with computer science jargon. Davis offered it under the guise of two fictional scholars working at the equally fictional Center for Research in Applied Phrenology.

Sadly, it was accepted. Davis declined to pay the publication fee. Bentham later claimed that it knew all along that the paper was a hoax but accepted it so as to unmask the hoaxers.

Davis describes the hoax, and Peter Suber provides a good round-up of the aftermath.

2. In April, I received an e-mail inviting me to consider being on the editorial board for The Open Philosophy Journal.** The invitiation said, with the emphasis of several surrounding asterisks, "In order to ensure that the Editorial Board of the journal consists of potential productive members, it is expected that each board member publishes one article each year in the journal."

Summoning up emphasis of my own, I replied: "I frequently review papers for journals, and I am a proponent of open access. So I am interested in the Bentham Open journal project. However, it is ridiculous to suggest that every member of the editorial board should publish in the journal every year. It would be the worst kind of academic incest, and I can't think of any legitimate journal that operates in this way."

The prompt, polite response was that annual publication was "expected... but... not mandatory" and that Bentham looked forward to receiving my CV. They either entirely missed or decided to ignore the part where I accused them of being crooked. I had even used the word 'incest', because it should have the inescapable connotation of moral censure.***

So Bentham Open looks pretty dodgy to me. Even if it is not, Gold OA invites dodginess.

3. Traditional publisher Elsevier published promotional material that looked like journals. At the behest of pharmaceutical paymaster Merck, it put together six different fake journals with titles like Australasian Journal of Neurology and distributed them to doctors. Admittedly, these fake journals reprinted articles rather than publishing original research. Considering just the balance sheet, however, the model for Elsevier was the same as the Gold OA model: Get paid to put articles in a publication and give the publication away.

Recall that Green OA is met with the worry that it will blow up the for-profit publishing establishment. One wonders whether that would be a bad thing.


* For scientists working under grants, the costs for gold OA publication would be added into the budget for the grant. For scholars affiliated with universities, their institution could pony up the money - this cost would be balanced by savings in library budgets. Woe unto us who don't get grants and who work at institutions where library budgets are already being slashed.
** Not to overstate things, I was invited to consider "possible nomination to the Editorial Board Membership of the journal"; ie, they were willing to look at my CV.
*** Does it not have that connotation anymore? Should I instead have said, "That is the way Hitler would have run a journal"?

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Publishing in the echo chamber 
In these two related items, Wikipedian prose appears in print:

1. Dublin student Shane Fitzgerald invented a quotation and attributed it to the recently-deceased composer Maurice Jarre in the latter's Wikipedia entry.* The quote was subsequently printed by several major newspapers in obituaries for Jarre. [coverage in the Irish Times, here]

Regarding Wikipedia, this just corroborates things I already knew. Even though the quote was written to sound like something that the composer might plausibly have said, it was quickly removed from Wikipedia. Fitzgerald had to add it repeatedly until it slipped by Wikipedia's first responders. Even then, it only persisted for about a day. Wikipedia did its usual decent but imperfect job of filtering out fibs.

Regarding the state of journalism, it's more depressing. When people lament the demise of newspapers, they often say that real journalists do important work that citizen bloggers do not. Surely that is true in some cases, but not here. Newspapers played exactly the same echo chamber game that bloggers play.

2. Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired magazine, has a forthcoming book titled Free: The Future of a Radical Price. Waldo Jaquith at the Virginia Quarterly Review discovered that some sections of the book had been plagiarized. Anderson replied that the original draft had included footnotes, that the editor had decided to eliminate the apparatus at the last minute, and that errors had been made when incorporating attributions into the body text. Both he and his publisher have said that the footnotes will be available as an on-line supplement.

This much seems fine. He tried to acknowledge sources, made honest mistakes, and has made a good faith effort to correct for those mistakes. In any case, the standards are somewhat fuzzier for popular books than they are academic monographs.

The more worrisome thing is that some of the passages relating facts (about usury, for example) are copied verbatim from Wikipedia. One might worry again about plagiarism. It is verboten to repeat text verbatim without indenting it or putting quotation marks around it. Yet perhaps in the original draft, along with a footnote crediting Wikipedia, there were quotation marks.

The more substantive concern is that the text uncritically turns to Wikipedia as a relevant and reliable source. Anderson wrote a popular, nonfiction book and so is effectively operating as a journalist. Just as I expect reporters to take the few minutes required to follow up on what Maurice Jarre said, I expect a book author to follow up on whether charging interest was made a heresy in 1311.

In the case of Jarre, it is possible that many of the papers just took stories from the wire. It might even be that only one reporter knowingly took the quote from Wikipedia, and subsequent newspaper editors just unwittingly traded it around. In Anderson's case, we know that he was the one who did the cut-and-paste job.


* I let this news item pass without comment a couple of months ago, but blogging about it now lets me stick a pin in it. I live in the 21st-century, and the internet is my scrapbook.

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Vanity searches and scholary productivity 
Poking around on Google Scholar, I can check how often my publications have been cited.* Subtracting instances of me citing myself, my most cited papers are Epistemology and the Wikipedia (with 7 citations) and Distributed cognition and the task of science (with 6 citations).

In science studies, the number of citations made to an article is often used as a measure of the article's scholarly impact. It is sometimes even used as a proxy for the article's quality. Citation counts give social scientists a quantifiable handle on ineffable factors. Sometimes, the same measures are used by administrators to assess the productivity of scholars and departments - again because it gives an objective procedure for assessing such things.

As far as I know, nobody uses such measures to gauge the quality of philosophical work.** It is a good thing, too. Citation patterns vary widely across the field, with some specialties cluttering articles with clouds of citations and others providing a few exemplary citations. There is little difference in substance between a footnote that cites 20 articles without comment and one that cites a recent survey article or anthology.

Considering my two most cited papers, neither of them are straight-up philosophy: The first was only a conference presentation. Anyone who has read it found it on the internet - either on my website or the SUNY digital archive. It has been cited mostly by people thinking about IT issues. The second was published in Social Studies of Science, an interdisciplinary journal.

Suppose these two examples are typical and imagine what would follow if citation counts were used as a measure of scholarly productivity for philosophers. Insofar as scholars in other disciplines cite more, one would want to write papers that pique the interest of those guys. One would want to publish outside the mainstay philosophy journals. In short, one would do more interdisciplinary work.

I do not know whether this would be a good thing or a bad thing. In the long run, though, philosophers would probably just start citing each other more in uninformative, cloud-of-reference footnotes.


* Admittedly, Google Scholar's database is somewhat quirky. It has the virtue of being readily available.

** Some time ago, I discussed an attempt to measure the impact of philosophy journals.

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Meet the new book, same as the old book 
I uploaded the first new version of forall x in over a year. There are plenty of corrections, but no substantive changes. For uninteresting reasons, this new version is 1.27 - three increments later than the previous version 1.24.

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In other forms, forall x 
I wrote forall x primarily for use in my own logic course, to fit my syllabus in a way that was affordable for students. I made it available under a Creative Commons license primarily in hopes that other instructors might adopt it.

I get occasional e-mails from people who are using forall x to teach themselves logic, and that's cool too. Since it's designed to be accompany lectures and office hours, it's not perfect for self-directed study - but people say they find it useful.

Dave Morris at the University of Lethbridge was one of the first people to adopt it up as a course text. He was teaching abstract math, rather than philosophical logic, so it wasn't a perfect fit. Later, the CC license allowed Morris to use it as a starting point in writing his own textbook. He and his wife have written an abstract mathematics textbook called Proofs and Concepts which incorporates a lot of material from my book. They acknowledge this and provide a full citation in the front matter of their book.

This is not something that I had really thought through when I released forall x, but it is one of the great features of CC licenses. Once I have made something available, people find uses for it that I hadn't anticipated.

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