Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

What's limiting OA in the humanities?

Sigi Jöttkandt, Open access for critical and cultural theory: Open Humanities Press, Open Students, March 17, 2008. Jöttkandt is a co-founder of the Open Humanities Press.

... I’m a little worried that students in the humanities might feel a bit left out from the OA debate, which has been largely dominated up till now by the sciences. I want to emphasize how OA has enormous implications for us, too, in that it currently represents the simplest and most obvious solution to the crisis in monograph publishing that is causing an insidious contraction in our fields, and is hitting younger academics particularly hard.

The real question is why humanities academics are not taking to the opportunities represented by OA in the same way as academics in the sciences. From speaking with colleagues, my sense is that free online publishing continues to have some way to go before it is fully accepted by our peers as a credible, let alone a desirable and prestigious, medium for one’s work. There’s still a lot of FUD among us: fear, uncertainty and doubt about the changes represented by new technologies, including whether online publications will count towards job offers or tenure, or even if OA journals will still be around and available on the web after a few years. ...

Open Students is a clear demonstration that students already “get” the way OA enables us to do more rigorous research when we have access to all the relevant materials, not just those which our library and interlibrary loan budgets can afford to purchase. What’s been interesting to discover is that some of the strongest OA advocates in the humanities are leading senior figures like J. Hillis Miller, Jonathan Culler and Stephen Greenblatt (all of whom are generously sharing their expertise on OHP’s advisory board). It suggests that what we really need now is to make overtures towards mid-career academics, many of whom have yet to fully understand what Open Access means. As OA journal editors, we are working to raise awareness and trust in OA publishing among these scholars but we would also love to hear ideas from students about how we can work together. As with many of the cultural shifts in recent history, it is students who are on the front-lines of this transformative change too. ...