[Vwoolf] R: Open Access

James Gifford odos.fanourios at gmail.com
Tue Nov 25 12:58:00 EST 2014

Hello all,

I think there are some misconceptions in this discussion, which is surely
broader than Woolf topics, though the dual Woolf societies may suggest a
case.  The risk, I think, is not that of dividing scholars based on
nationality but on class.  I read, review for, and contribute to
periodicals in a number of nations -- the more pressing questions is what
kinds of scholars can and cannot access the greatest breadth of the best
scholarship.  I suspect that my excellent colleagues at comparatively poor
institutions have the least access to current research.

Many journals in North America are already open access *and* rigorously
peer reviewed with distribution through the typical JSTOR, Project Muse,
Sage, EBSCO, and such systems.  They simply release contents after an
embargo period, typically a year.  My understanding is that this is
accepted under the incoming British requirements.  I don't think that
reflects on the quality of the work in any way.

As for "pay," there are surely misnomers here as well.  Many American
scholars have university budgets that subvent publication, and while
publishers will hastily assure everyone that this does not affect peer
review, we all know it does.  While we all know the limitations and biases
of peer review, we also must realize that more easily sold books or those
more likely to win financial aid are also more likely to be published.

To this mix, the concepts of "private" and "public" are also deeply
muddled.  I mean the word in its libatious context, not Forster...  Private
(not for profit) universities in the USA receive extensive aid from the
public purse and tax revenues, but like the scenario for publishing in
Italy, it has a middleman: the student.  Public student aid funds private
(we often prefer "independent") institutions, and if you doubt it, ask if
your institution would make any curricular changes that could jeopardize
its qualifying for student aid...  I suspect the Italian context for
publication means the peer review process occurs with the grant
application, not at the publication stage, which is *different* but not
necessarily worse.  Frankly, I don't care where work by the scholars whom I
admire most is published -- I'll read it because I know they do good work.

Release time and direct funding for research both support scholarly
publication, which is evaluated in job performance measures for North
American and British academics.  Scholars, hence, give their scholarly
labour away for "free" for the most part.  This is both for authors and
editors as well as readers in the peer review process.  When we
preferentially send our work to private, for profit publishers, we're
sending the profit from publicly funded labour to a private enterprise that
will not permit the public to access the content produced from its taxes.
While it's important to keep scholarly publishers and university presses
afloat, we might questions if the existing model is effective and efficient
in its current approach.  I suspect if you drop by your local university
press, they'll tell you the current funding model isn't working well at

While there are a great many scams in academic publishing by disreputable
sorts, such as the library sales market for cheaply made books, I don't see
this neatly divided into an open access vs. pay wall access division.  I
do, however, see commercial presses as more willing to accept work for
publication that would not be viable in more rigorous review scenarios.
For instance, I did not publish my dissertation as a book, but I can think
of half a dozen reasonably reputable presses to which I could send it with
full confidence it would be accepted -- I'm sure most of you can too.

For various reasons, I've reviewed more than a couple hundred books for
print reviews or as a reader for presses and several dozen articles for
journals over the past 10 years.  I think that permits me to generalize a
bit.  I don't see the private/public distinction as really mattering to
scholarly quality, but I do see profit/non-profit aligning fairly clearly.
That doesn't mean commercial presses pump out terrible books, but they do
produce a volume of work with a particular aim.

The inclination toward open access reclaims scholarship from some of these
pressures, particularly publication in peer reviewed periodicals.  Since
we, academics, generally write, edit, review, and consume these materials,
the introduction of a profit agenda doesn't help the process (and we
actively subvert that agenda by sending our work to colleagues any time
they ask).  Strangely, the idea of accessing research for free seems to
make many people think the work couldn't be very good, even though we
collective tend to keep our personal purses shut...  While we know deep
down that our peer review system and various intuitive rankings of
publications are suspect and mired in a host of biases and quiet conflicts,
we're equally unwilling to look to a publication and value it based on its
editorial team, contributors, and quality based on our personal judgment.

There's also the problem of affordability.  By introducing pay walls with
often ridiculously expensive terms, we condone the creation of scholarship
silos.  Those at universities with sufficient budgets can do research, and
those with shallow pockets cannot.  Or more often than not, we just
restrict ourselves to what is most convenient rather than what is best, or
we circumvent the restrictions anyway.

As a closing note, turn to the back interior cover of your latest Oxford
UP, U California P, Rowman & Littlefield, or Routledge book and check the
interior bar code.  You're probably holding a print-on-demand copy of a
scholarly book from your favourite press...  The cost of printing was
likely less than the cost of postage.

All best,

On 25 November 2014 at 08:55, June Cummins <jcummins at mail.sdsu.edu> wrote:

>  I think rulings like this one drive countries further apart and put the
> lie to the idea that we're "all connected" through the internet.  Having to
> pay to be published is very contrary to the expectations and experiences of
> US scholars--they will no longer publish in British and other European
> journals if they are forced to pay.  We do not receive funding to cover
> fees like that.  According to Maggie, British scholars will not want to
> publish in American journals because ours are not in open access.
> Consequently, Americans will publish in American journals, and Europeans
> will publish in European journals, and the academic communities will drift
> further apart. It's not a simple matter to tell the US to switch to the
> open access model because ours is so radically different and the switch
> would involve coming up financial resources we do not have.
> June
>  On 11/25/14, 10:23 AM, Sarah M. Hall wrote:
>  Thanks, Maggie, I think this answers my question to Mark.
>  Sarah
>   ------------------------------
>  *From:* Maggie Humm <M.Humm at uel.ac.uk> <M.Humm at uel.ac.uk>
> *To:* Mark Hussey <mhussey at verizon.net> <mhussey at verizon.net>;
> "t.prudente at talk21.com" <t.prudente at talk21.com> <t.prudente at talk21.com>
> <t.prudente at talk21.com>; "Vwoolf at lists.osu.edu" <Vwoolf at lists.osu.edu>
> <Vwoolf at lists.osu.edu> <Vwoolf at lists.osu.edu>
> *Sent:* Tuesday, 25 November 2014, 16:14
> *Subject:* Re: [Vwoolf] R: Open Access
>  The UK issue, as everyone knows, is that for the next REF (formally RAE)
> Research Excellence Framework the UK Research Councils and HEFCE are
> insisting on articles being submitted from open access journals. See useful
> summary:
> http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/softening-of-line-on-open-access-only-ref/2012340.article
> there is much opposition not least from the prestigious British Academy:
> http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/british-academy-fears-for-humanities-in-open-access-world/2012729.article
> But the REF rules all UK academics' writing and career prospects as did
> the RAE (not least because REF results are available on -line employers can
> check at a glance a candidate's standing and 'grades'). See the last
> exercise's grades (still known as the RAE) and reports:
> http://www.rae.ac.uk/
> My guess is that younger academics will be less willing to publish in US
> journals which are not open access (although the revised policy allows some
> non open access publishing Schools/Departments are going to be very wary
> and unfortunately the UK REF panels and sub-panels encompass so many
> disciplinary areas that members cannot possibly know of the status of
> journals outside their immediate fields).
> The REF 2014 results will be known this December. I'm included in my
> School's Media and Cultural Studies submission but I'm so glad that I
> finally retired from all this in November 2013 (and no longer need to use
> words like 'stake-holder')!
> Hope this is helpful.
> Maggie
> PS UK journal editors also work for free and those in the post-92
> universities get no teaching/admin relief.
> ________________________________
> From: Vwoolf [vwoolf-bounces+m.humm=uel.ac.uk at lists.osu.edu] on behalf of
> Mark Hussey [mhussey at verizon.net]
> Sent: 25 November 2014 15:07
> To: t.prudente at talk21.com; Vwoolf at lists.osu.edu
> Subject: Re: [Vwoolf] R: Open Access
> Thank you for all these responses. I know my “give away for nothing”
> phrase was provocative!
> Just to be clear, I am particularly interested in how academics in the UK
> feel about their government’s requirement as I believe it will affect their
> willingness to publish in US-based journals. The examples given are
> interesting, but do not fit the case of a very small academic press; many
> scholarly journal editors in the US, for example, perform their work for
> nothing or for perhaps a course release. This issue has, naturally, been of
> great interest on the Council of Editors of Learned Journals (CELJ)
> listserv too as people begin to try to fathom what is going on in UK
> scholarly publishing.
> I look forward to more points of view!
> From: Vwoolf [mailto:vwoolf-bounces at lists.osu.edu
> <vwoolf-bounces at lists.osu.edu>] On Behalf Of t.prudente at talk21.com
> Sent: Tuesday, November 25, 2014 3:47 AM
> To: Vwoolf at lists.osu.edu
> Subject: Re: [Vwoolf] R: Open Access
> Dear all,
> as an Italian researcher, I feel that some more detailed explanation on
> the "peculiar" situation of Academic publishing in Italy is here needed, so
> as make - perhaps - Francesca's view more understandable.
> Academic publishing in Italy is mainly - if not entirely - based on a "pay
> to publish" system. Individual researchers sign a contract with a publisher
> in which they accept to pay a certain amount of money (depending on the
> publisher, the book's length, the number of copies arranged for, etc...)
> and they usually pay by using the research money that the Ministry of
> Research provides them with for their research projects. Thus, when
> Francesca talks about public financing to academic publishing she actually
> refers to this system, which does not entail public money to be given
> directly to publishers (they are private), but money that is given to
> researchers and that they usually employ for this kind of publishing. Now,
> a system of this kind presents of course a set of problems that, in my
> opinion, deeply affect research in Italy: in the majority of cases, no
> proper peer-reviewing is performed on manuscripts or articles (as long as
> you pay, you will be published), books and journals have not a proper
> circulation (the publisher is not very committed to do any effort to
> selling them, as it has not, in the end, invested any money on it, on the
> contrary, it has already had its profits from the researcher's payment),
> and public research money that could and should be used differently
> (organization of conferences, research travel etc...) goes instead almost
> entirely in this system. I don't know if this "pay to publish" system is
> also equally pervasive in other countries. Personally, I have chosen, from
> the very beginning of my career, to publish exclusively abroad in order to
> "escape" this system, to which I deeply object, and a few colleagues of
> mine are doing the same. And, publishing abroad, I was never required to
> pay money and I went through genuine peer-reviewing processes.
> Within the context that I have described, open access has indubitably
> represented a positive change, at least in Italy, as, as Francesca remarks,
> open access journals are obliged to perform peer-reviewing and - as long as
> I understand, not being an expert in OA - publishing costs have sensibly
> decreased. I suspect, then, that the impact and consequences of OA are
> probably different for each country, depending on their publishing system,
> and even the macro-division between "public" and "private" systems presents
> further ramifications amplifying possible differences.
> I hope this helps, and, especially, that I have not misinterpreted what
> Francesca, as an expert in OA, intended to highlight.
> best,
> Teresa
> ________________________________
> From: Caroline Webb <caroline.webb at newcastle.edu.au
> <mailto:caroline.webb at newcastle.edu.au> <caroline.webb at newcastle.edu.au>>
> To: "Vwoolf at lists.osu.edu<mailto:Vwoolf at lists.osu.edu>
> <Vwoolf at lists.osu.edu>" <Vwoolf at lists.osu.edu<mailto:Vwoolf at lists.osu.edu>
> <Vwoolf at lists.osu.edu>>
> Sent: Tuesday, 25 November 2014, 3:58
> Subject: Re: [Vwoolf] R: Open Access
> I think what’s meant by “research outputs should not be financed more than
> once by public money” is not that the journals/presses are public but the
> academic research is. European universities, like nearly all in Australia
> and like many but very much *not* all in the US, are public institutions
> funded in whole or in part by the government (in Germany it’s just become
> whole, in Australia it’s a rapidly decreasing part), and most of the grants
> available to individual researchers are also government-funded. Hence the
> public is paying, in the form of taxes, for the academics at those
> publicly-funded institutions to perform research. The theory then is that
> that research should be openly available to the people who paid for it.
> Caroline Webb
> The University of Newcastle, Australia
> From: Vwoolf [
> mailto:vwoolf-bounces+caroline.webb=newcastle.edu.au at lists.osu.edu
> <vwoolf-bounces+caroline.webb=newcastle.edu.au at lists.osu.edu>] On Behalf
> Of June Cummins
> Sent: Tuesday, 25 November 2014 9:48 AM
> To: vwoolf at lists.osu.edu<mailto:vwoolf at lists.osu.edu>
> <vwoolf at lists.osu.edu>
> Subject: Re: [Vwoolf] R: Open Access
> In the United States, academic publishing is not financed by public money
> except in cases where the press hosting the journal is in a public
> university and even then, very little of the press's finances are coming
> from "the public." Academic publishing is paid for through subscriptions,
> which are owned either by individuals or more often by universities.
> Perhaps this basic difference in academic publishing is the reason U.S.
> scholars don't understand European methods of making scholarship available.
> June Cummins
> On 11/24/14, 4:39 PM, Francesca wrote:
> Dear professor Hussey,
> I dare answer your question even though I do not belong to the academic
> world; I just have a degree (I wrote a dissertation about The Voyage Out)
> and a PhD (again about travel literature) but I am a librarian who works in
> Italy, at the Library System of the University of Trento.
> One of my professional tasks is related to Open Access. I will not bother
> you all advocating for OA (there are a lot of reliable websites you can
> read in order to get the information you may be interested in) but I will
> just add some words about your remark:
> >> journals that give their content away for nothing
> OA journals are peer-reviewed journals which do not give away *their*
> content for nothing (I am highlighting “their” because the content’s rights
> should not be considered as “the publisher’s”, but should be retained by
> the author…).
> These journals are just based on a different economic model.
> Research outputs (articles) should not be financed more than once by
> public money. There is no reason whatsoever for publicly financing a
> research project at the begining, then selling the output to a commercial
> publisher, which must be re-paid again by libraries (subscriptions) to
> enable researchers and students access the article.
> In OA, Universities and researchers pay just once (with research grants)
> for a paper to be published. After that, nothing more is due to the
> publisher; the paper goes through the journal's normal peer review process
> and the article is then freely and openly available because it has already
> been paid.
> It is so sad that after eleven years from the Berlin Declaration there
> should be still so many misunderstandings and biases about Open Access. I
> do not ask you to adhere to OA movement of course, but I would consider
> myself professionally satisfied if an unbiased knowledge of OA principles
> were slowly achieved.
> Sincecerly yours (and apologizing for my English),
> Francesca Valentini
> ________________________________
> Da: Vwoolf [mailto:vwoolf-bounces+frvln=hotmail.com at lists.osu.edu
> <vwoolf-bounces+frvln=hotmail.com at lists.osu.edu>] Per conto di Mark Hussey
> Inviato: lunedì 24 novembre 2014 22.53
> A: VWOOLF at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu<mailto:VWOOLF at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu>
> <VWOOLF at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu>
> Oggetto: [Vwoolf] Open Access
> Do those of you likely to publish in US-based journals (such as, for
> example, Woolf Studies Annual!) have any concerns about the UK government’s
> forthcoming requirement that to be counted you may only publish in journals
> that give their content away for nothing?
> _______________________________________________
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> --
> ________________________________________
> June Cummins, Associate Professor
> Director, Graduate Program
> Department of English and Comparative Literature
> San Diego State University
> jcummins at mail.sdsu.edu<mailto:jcummins at mail.sdsu.edu>
> <jcummins at mail.sdsu.edu>
> SDSU Children’s Literature Program
> childlit.sdsu.edu<http://childlit.sdsu.edu/> <http://childlit.sdsu.edu/>
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> --
>   ________________________________________
> June Cummins, Associate Professor
> Director, Graduate Program
> Department of English and Comparative Literature
> San Diego State University
> jcummins at mail.sdsu.edu
> SDSU Children’s Literature Program
> childlit.sdsu.edu
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James Gifford, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of English and University Core Director
School of English, Philosophy and Humanities
University College: Arts, Sciences, Professional Studies
Fairleigh Dickinson University, Vancouver Campus
Voice: 604-648-4476
Fax: 604-648-4489
E-mail: gifford at fdu.edu

842 Cambie Street
Vancouver, BC
V6B 2P6 Canada
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