Archive for September, 2009

notes from “The Future of Scholarly Journals Publishing Among Social Science and Humanities Associations”

Notes from:

Waltham, Mary. 2009. “The Future of Scholarly Journals Publishing Among Social Science and Humanities Associations”,
Report on a study funded by a Planning Grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

This is an interesting report that reveals how large scholarly associations popular in the U.S. are adapting to new publishing environments. Unfortunately the article is perhaps too focused on the journals from these associations and it makes some rather bold conclusions based on these findings, that I think would look different if the study included more open access journals inside and outside the U.S.  This is mostly related to costs to publish a page, and how peer review fits in. But the report is about scholarly publishing within these big scholarly associations, and it shows the logic behind their publishing strategies even if I find the numbers a bit murky.

Publications from the American Anthropological Association generated revenue largely from print subscriptions. The report points out that print costs are high, but that if print publications were dropped, net income would drop. From this it infers that online publications are undervalued, being that they are subsidized by their print subscriptions.

It also points out that while an author pays OA model has been incorporated into most of the journals, very few authors used it.

While Science, Technical and Medical (STM) journals keep track of authors geographical distribution, Humanities and Social Science (HSS) journals do not pay much attention to it according to this comment in the report:

“v) STM publishers regularly record and report on the country of the corresponding author of articles
published. Such data is further reviewed and discussed by agencies such as the National Science
Foundation in the “Science and Engineering Indicators” series of reports published alternate years

  • This group of association publishers had collected relatively little data on the topic. Several commented that they believed that most of the authors of articles were from the US and this was borne out by a random review of the country of corresponding author for 25 articles published in 2007 by each journal and shown in Table 1.1.”

This ties into the previous post of notes discussing the distribution of Open Access journals (from Max Forte’s post) in relation to Wallerstein’s comments on the historical foundations of social science.

Peer review is also shown to be pretty restrictive:

“The ratio of article submission to publication is also distinctly different and since these journals publish fewer peer-reviewed articles they are often highly selective. Selectivity through peer-review takes in-house staff time (included in the study) and external reviewers’ time (not included in the study), and drives costs up.

  • Taking three consecutive years of submission and publication data together, five of the eight journals published less than 10% of the articles submitted to them.”

Although in one interview I had, a paper was rejected not based on peer review but rather editorial control. Is it selectivity through peer review, or by editor? How often is it the peer reviewers who decide a work shouldn’t be published?  And too bad they didn’t include external reviewer costs too, because from the few interviews I’ve done no one had been paid to peer review.

Specific to Open Access, the report states that while many of the associations adopted an author pays open access model, very few academics went for it:

“Open Access: There has been a dramatic increase in the percentage of publishers offering optional open access to authors, from only 9% in 2005 to 30% in 2008. This applies to a total of 1,871 titles. 53% of these publishers have enabled an open access option for all of their titles. However, the takeup of the open access option is low; of those publishers which have offered this option for two or more years under an author-pays model, 52.9% had a take-up rate of 1% or less, 73.5% had a take-up rate of 5% or less, and 91.2% had a take-up rate of 10% or less. The author fees set by these publishers range from under $500 to over $3000, but the majority (69%) charge between $1,000 and
$3,000. Bjork et al. calculated that of the estimated 1,350,000 journals articles published in 2006, 19.4% are freely accessible (4.6% OA immediately on publication, 3.5% freely accessible after an embargo, usually at least one year; and 11.3% through self-archiving).”

Of course, the AAA supports self archiving too, not that a quick look at the website would let you know. I wonder how many of these authors were aware of the option. I’m not necessarily in favor of an author pays model either, and other solutions are necessary,  which seems to be the conclusion of the scholarly associations and the report.

Also, publishing contracts are changing:

“Copyright: In 2003, 83% of publishers required copyright transfer, in 2005, the figure stood at 61%. In 2008 this has dropped to 53%, and those which only require a license to publish have increased from 17% to 20.8%.”

The report also found that the number of academic journals has been steadily increasing, along with the amount of peer reviewed research. While the climate is changing, it is still growing.

Why are researchers publishing in these big reputable journals not taking the OA option? For one, the report shows that average prices to publish are extremely high:

“If print costs are removed the publishing costs per page for these journals now average $360 or at an average article length of 19pp, author fees of $7,000. For the journal with the lowest publishing cost per page ($90) and an average article length of 25 pages, author fees could be set at $2,500 to provide full cost recovery on the peer-reviewed articles published. Since just 59% of this particular journal’s pages are peer-reviewed Open Access payments would still not sustain the journal.”

This is also perhaps why many OA advocates are promoting mandates at the institutional level. Getting the people funding research to mandate OA is a great strategy to making research accessible online.

A changing anthropology? Some notes and quotes.

Helping to define the “anthropology” and “change” parts of the thesis question, “how is the internet fueling change in anthropology?”:

“The intellectual history of the nineteenth century is marked above all by this disciplinarization and professionalization of knowledge, that is to say, by the creation of permanent institutional structures designed both to produce new knowledge and to reproduce the producers of knowledge. The creation of multiple disciplines was premised on the belief that systematic research required skilled concentration on the multiple separate arenas of reality, which was partitioned rationally into distinct groupings of knowledge. Such a rational division promised to be effective, that is, intellectually productive.”

(Wallerstein et al. 1996:6)

This much isn’t new: Being a student of anthropology has always been a pain in the !@# .

“In the course of the nineteenth century, the various disciplines spread out like a fan, covering a range of epistemological positions. At one end lay, first, mathematics (a nonempirical activity) and next to it the experimental natural sciences (themselves in a sort of descending order of determinism – physics, chermistry, biology). at the other end lay the humanities (or arts and letters), starting with philosophy (the pendant of mathematics, as a nonempirical activity) and next to it the study of formal artistic practices (literatures, painting and sculpture, musicology), often coming close in their practice to being history, a history of the arts. And in between the humanities and the natural sciences, thus defined, lay the study of social realities, with history (idiographic) closer to, often part of, faculties of arts and letters, and “social science” (nomothetic) closer to the natural sciences. Amidst an ever-hardening separation of knowledge into two different spheres, each with a  different epistemological emphasis, the students of social realities found themselves caught in the middle, and deeply divided on these epistemological issues. (p9)”

Challenging collaboration:

“The creation of multiple disciplines of social science was part of the general nineteenth-century attempt to secure and advance “objective” knowledge about “reality” on the basis of empirical findings (as opposed to “speculation”). The intent was to “learn” the truth, not invent or intuit it. The process of institutionalization of this kind of knowledge activity was not at all simple or straightforward. For one thing, it was not at first clear whether this activity was to be a singular one or should rather be divided into the several disciplines, as later occured. Nor was it at the outset clear what was the best route to such knowledge, that is, what kind of epistemology would be most fruitful or even legitimate. Least of all was it clear whether the social sciences could in some sense be thought to constitute a “third culture” that was “between science and literature,” in the later forumation of Wolf Lepenies. In fact, none of these questions has ever been definitively resolved. All we can do is to note the actual decisions that were made, or the majority positions that tended to prevail.”

(Wallerstein et al. 1996:14)

Working through a maze of disagreement = being an anthro student, online or off.

On a changing publishing environment where visibility and accessibility are not tied to prestige:

“The first thing to note is where this institutionalization took place. There were five main locales for social science activity during the nineteenth century: Great Britain, France, the Germanies, the Italies, and the United States. Most of the scholars most of the universities (of course, not all) were located in these five places. The universities in other countries lacked the numerical weight or international prestige of those in these five. To this day, most of the nineteenth-century works that we still read were written in one of these five locales.”

(Wallerstein et al. 1996:14

Interesting then, to look at Max’s post about the distribution of Open Access Journals listed on the Directory of Open Access Journals. He writes:

Either way, open access publishing in anthropology is primarily not a North American phenomenon, and in the case of Anthropology listings that exclude Ethnology, it is primarily not a North American/European phenomenon. Indeed, the very Directory of Open Access Journals itself is not a North American innovation, but rather a Scandinavian one, and the host for it is Lund University Libraries. The innovations in the distribution, dissemination, and circulation of anthropology are coming in large part from the so-called periphery and semi-periphery of the world system, and outside of the disciplinary centre of gravity in terms of the accumulated mass of anthropologists and anthropology programs in the U.S. and western Europe. One can only speculate about what that will mean should the predominant mode of anthropological publishing in North America (commercial print, by subscription) collapse under the weight of its own contradictions and unsustainability. Suddenly the centre of anthropological publishing would shift to currently non-hegemonic entities.

Tie this with a recent study which showed that Humanities and Social Science journals did not pay much attention to where authors came from and that most of authors came from a particular geographic region (U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia) reveal one of anthropology’s “walls” so to speak. The adoption of Open Access by academics helps to deterritorialize research accessibility. Language boundaries remain.

It is also interesting to examine how a students blog can dominate certain key words on search engines, when anthropologists write so much about those words in academic journals. Does academic research need to be accessible online? If it isn’t, what takes its place?