I just read (and enjoyed) the chapter ‘The Humanities & Open Access Publishing: A New Paradigm of Value?‘ by Eleonora Belfiore, (which interestingly is not open access) edited in a compilation made by the same author and Anna Upchurch [Humanities in the Twenty-first century: Beyond utility and markets **]. Here some excerpts which discuss the puzzling paradoxes behind the gold OA.
A report into the future of humanities academic journal publishing, prepared in 2009 by Mary Waltham for the Modern Languages Association, concluded that:
“A shift to an entirely new funding model in the pure form of Open Access (author/producer pays) in which the cost of publishing research articles in journal are paid for by author or funding agency, and readers have access free online, is not currently a sustainable option costs provided. The sources of external funding required for such a model are also not clear and may not be available even as broadly as in STM [scientific, technical & medical] disciplines” (2009:2).
Arts and Humanities behind the gold OA:
“…The question of financial sustainability of arts and humanities journals in a scenario in which gold OA publication becomes a requisite for research funding can be hardly dismissed as facetious, especially when it is coupled with the acknowledgement the even those funding bodies who will now be expecting the outputs of the work they fund to be OA will not be able to cover fully the additional costs that are associated with gold OA. The fact that the cost of providing gold OA will not be entirely met by research funders, and will therefore have to be passed onto research themselves or their institutions, poses some serious cause for concern”. (p.205)
“…There are other reasons why OA has been spreading much more slowly in the arts and humanities than STEM subjects, and these have to do with the peculiar characteristics of journal publishing in the humanities. As Suber (2005) explains, the fact that article rejection rates are much higher in humanities journals make peer review more expensive for them; this, coupled, with the observation that demand for journal articles in the humanities declines more slowly after publication than in the science, means that embargos need to be much longer than in STEM subject journals for them to protect the economic interest of the journals, at the expense of the timely free access. Furthermore, as arts and humanities scholar are more likely than other research to want to reprint images, poems, and work of art in their article, they are more likely to have a hard time getting permission for the use of such material in open-access articles than in traditional ones in toll-access publication”. [p.207]
A first and second class OA?:
“[….] It is feared that a gold mandate is very likely to result in a deeper disparity between the wealthier higher education institutions, who might find it easier to divert resources to meet the cost of publishing articles in gold open-access from in toll-access scholarly publications, and the less wealthy institutions, which would struggle, and might therefore be unable to support, or only selectively support, their staff’s publishing ambitions”. (p.205)
“[….] However, one might legitimately suggest that the issue of the medium- to long-term sustainability of commercial academic publishing is one that has more to do with long-standing structural problems with the industry, so that an outright rejection of a shift to gold OA , and a return to the status quo, would not in fact solve any of the current problems nor reduce the cost faced by university libraries” [p.207].
Peter Suber, presenting his book: ‘Open Access‘
* Title borrowed from Jeffrey Beall’s paper.
[**] Belfiore, Eleonora, and Anna Upchurch, eds. Humanities in the twenty-first century: beyond utility and markets. Palgrave macmillan, 2013.