The Leiter side of open access

Fri 19 Oct 2012 01:45 PM

This morning, Brian Leiter made this post about Open Access publishing:

The Not-so-High Standards at (at least some) "Open Access" Journals

Not a great advertisement for the genre.

I hammered out a reply, which he added as an update. Here's what I said:

Your recent blog post rightly decries "The Not-so-High Standards at (at least some) "Open Access" Journals" and describes the case as "Not a great advertisement for the genre".

Importantly, the genre in question is not Open Access journals tout court. The real problem here is OA journals that use an author-pays model. Lots of them are straight forwardly scams to chisel money out of institutions that cover that kind of publishing and out of authors who need a line on their CV.

There are other models of OA. Quality OA journals don't charge author fees. I'm thinking here especially of Philosophers' Imprint, but also of less well-known and less prestigious ones like Logos&Episteme. We can argue about their stature in the field, but their being OA is not a demerit.

There is also the model which is sometimes called "green OA", in which authors' papers are systematically hosted in institutional or disciplinary archives. Although this does not result in OA journals as such, traditional journals can facilitate or thwart the practice depending on how they handle rights.

Qualifying your post with the caveat "at least some" is importantly not enough, because we can state precisely what's wrong here. For-profit publishers have an interest in suspicion being raised about OA in general, when really it's a specific business model that leads to egregious abuses like the one that you point to.

Long time readers might remember that I've fumbled this distinction in the past, so my point isn't to excoriate Leiter. Given the long-term importance of Open Access publishing for academia, it's important not to let bad practices tar the whole enterprise. The distinction between different kinds of OA (author-pays, author-doesn't-pay, and self-archived) is important.