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Friday, June 27, 2008

Free philosophy pledge

Terrance Tomkow (Philosophy Department, Dalhousie University) has proposed The Free Philosophy Pledge:

  1. I will make my academic writings freely available over the internet. I will do so before, or at least at the same time as, I (would) submit them to hard-copy journals.

  2. I will not submit my academic writing to journals whose policies forbid online pre- or post- publication by the author.

  3. I will endeavor to make copies of all my previously published academic writings freely available for on-line viewing.  I will encourage journals in which my work has appeared to make their archives of past issues open for general viewing.

  4. I will not submit articles to journals which charge fees to view any part of their content.

  5. Peer review is an essential part of academic life, but peer review does not require hard copy publication.  When I am asked to judge the quality of work of any scholar for any purposes including hiring, promotion and tenure I shall ignore whether that work has been published in hard copy.  I will instead make my own judgments or seek the direct advice of others whose opinions I trust.  I will also encourage and participate in the evolution of new practices and mechanisms for objective peer review and evaluation.

  6. The format of academic books and journal articles is, in part, a function of the requirements of hard copy publication.  On-line publication will make possible new forms and structures of expression.  Realizing this, I will not assume that excellent work must take traditional forms.

  7. I will encourage my colleagues and my department as a whole to take this pledge.  I will endeavor to have the standards proposed by this pledge to be explicitly incorporated into my departmentís and my institutionís policies on hiring, promotion, tenure, and merit

Comments.  The pledge is still evolving in response to comments, which is a good thing.  As a philosopher who supports OA, I'd like to support the pledge.  But it still needs some work.

  • In general, it would help to talk about "open access philosophy" rather than "free philosophy" and to benefit from the long experience of the OA movement in refining definitions, evolving strategies, answering objections, recruiting allies, and adopting policies. 
  • #1 and #5 seem to confuse digital with free.  A journal doesn't become free just by becoming digital or moving online.  Most online journals still charge access fees (subscriptions or pay-per-view fees). 
  • #2 would offer more guidance to authors, and trigger less resistance from publishers, if it referred to "OA archiving" or "self-archiving" rather than "publishing".
  • #4 needlessly ties the hands of authors.  Authors needn't boycott TA journals in order to provide OA to their own peer-reviewed articles.  In fact, one of the best accelerators to OA is the fact that about two-thirds of surveyed TA journals allow some form of author self-archiving.
  • #5 seems to confuse OA with the absence or reform of peer review.  This is a mistake simply on factual grounds, since OA is compatible with every kind of peer review, from the most conservative to the most innovative.  It's also a tactical mistake.  There's no reason to delay the progress of OA until we agree on the best form of peer review, and no reason to dispense with allies who want both OA and strong peer review.