Open Peer Review for the Humanities

Open Access Peer Review and Economic Sustainability: Some Thoughts

Permalink for this paragraph 0 Open Access Peer Review and Economic Sustainability: Some Thoughts
Jason M. Kelly

Permalink for this paragraph 0 Given the fact that a number of open access, open peer review projects are getting off the ground in the humanities (History Working Papers, Writing History in the Digital Age, and various pieces through Media Commons Press), it seems increasingly important that the supporters of open access engage in a serious discussion of economics.  While there has been a general recognition that open access, open peer review (OAOPR) journals will need sustainable revenue streams, it is still unclear how best to accomplish this in the context of the humanities.  In March 2011, the AAUP Task Force on Economic Models for Scholarly Publishing summed up the situation as follows:

Permalink for this paragraph 0 “If there is one conclusion to be drawn from experiments so far, it is that multiple sources of revenue will be necessary if scholarly publishing is to grow and continue to meet the needs of authors and readers. The point is made clearly by Raym Crow in a study of business models for open access publishing. Focusing on STM journals, Crow defines two basic types of financial support for open access: “supply side” (principally author fees, but also including advertising, sponsorships, and institutional support); and “demand side” (value-added services, print editions for sale, use-triggered licenses and other voluntary fees). He concludes that author fees will be the principal source of support for OA journals, but argues that, in most cases, a combination of sources will be necessary for sustainability.” (Sustaining Scholarly Publishing: New Business Models for University Presses: A Report of the AAUP Task Force on Economic Models for Scholarly Publishing (March 2011), accessed 17 January 2011. http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/mcpress/sustaining/toward-new-business-models/)

Permalink for this paragraph 0 As things stand now, OAOPR experiments are relatively low risk.  Universities and funding agencies are willing to sustain them in the short term — either through grant funding, through university presses, or direct support. However, as more individuals and groups begin to create OAOPR resources and as existing projects mature, they will need to guarantee revenue to cover the costs of hosting, copyediting, equipment, travel for editors, and even marketing.  Even the smallest OAOPR project will have the long-term overhead cost of internet hosting: even when the project is no longer active, its data should be available to the scholarly community.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 The standard cost recovery model in OA STEM journals is through charging author fees, ranging from the hundreds to the thousands of dollars.  For those in the humanities, this is nearly unthinkable.  As an indirect cost on an average grant, this would take up a massive percentage of the research funding.  So, how do we go about funding OAOPR projects over the long term?  University presses and libraries are already thinking about the future of publishing.  As the creators of new knowledge — the individuals who will most keenly feel the effects of the new publication landscape — we should be having our own discussion.  What is a viable model for OAOPR publishing?  What might we be willing to pay as authors?  How might we bring down or better distribute the costs of projects?  Can we use our professional organizations (and annual fees) to form publishing coalitions?

Permalink for this paragraph 0 Please share your ideas and thoughts.

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