LINGUIST List 15.2436

Wed Sep 1 2004

Disc: Re: Open-Access Journals/Ling Publishing

Editor for this issue: Marie Klopfenstein <>


  1. Andrew McIntyre, Re: 15.2410, Disc: Re: Open-Access Journals/Ling Publishing

Message 1: Re: 15.2410, Disc: Re: Open-Access Journals/Ling Publishing

Date: Tue, 31 Aug 2004 16:52:10 +0200
From: Andrew McIntyre <>
Subject: Re: 15.2410, Disc: Re: Open-Access Journals/Ling Publishing

Dear Linguists,
some list members have remarked on the need to free science from
commercial publishers. In most countries there isn't the money for
university libraries to buy commercially published journals/books
which linguists in richer countries consider basic.

Libraries that can buy them are mostly financed by taxpayer money
which could have been put to better use. Authors often have to take
their work of their websites when it gets 'published' (to use the
standard misnomer), so that it ceases to be accessible to many. (This
even seems to happen with certain working papers series.) It is thus
for the good of everyone if we could work towards replacing
commercially published material with reviewed open-access internet
journals (and monograph series).

a) Limited availability of computers in some areas is most assuredly
not a reason to stay with traditional publishing. A library which
can't buy a computer will likewise be unable to afford a year's
institutional subscription to journals as important as Lingua (970
Euro), Natural Language and Linguistic Theory (508 Euro) and
Linguistics and Philosophy (549 Euro).
b) I don't think internet publication entails archiving
problems. Surely an internet journal could have thirty copies of each
publication made on acid-free paper and paper-bound at a university
printery (cf. the archiving procedure for unpublished dissertations in
many universities). These could then be sold at cost price to
libraries round the world.
c) Would the costs of free journals go much beyond the cost of
printing the paper versions? Advertising on the Linguist List is
free. There are precedents for universities undertaking to provide the
necessary server space and technical support indefinitely ( ). If I have overlooked any
costs, maybe people starting new free journals could apply for funding
from sources that fund research or travelling grants etc. The price of
open access need not be that authors pay the publishers, as in the
variant of open access under discussion in Nature ( ).

These comments may seem a bit facile given the complexity of the
issues (cf. the links cited by Martin under Breaking the monopoly
that commercial publishers have on respected publications will be
hard, but the biggest obstacle is our apathy, which doubtless stems
from a feeling that we can't solve the problem. I too see the chances
of improving the situation as pretty forlorn, but not hopeless if we
try the following.


a) Take steps toward establishing more reviewed open access journal/
monograph series. Suggestions:
-There needs to be a forum uniting (a) potential editors with various
thematic interests who are able and willing to do the work, (b) people
able to do deals with universities to get the requisite server
space/technical support and (c) editors of existing internet journals
willing to share their experiences. Is someone out there able to set
up an internet forum where people in these categories are able to
announce their availability?
-It would be heroic if teams of editors could contemplate the
possibility of (a) withdrawing their services from the commercial
journals (as soon as their contracts and fairness towards authors
etc. permits), and (b) redirecting their efforts into internet
publication. (A side blessing: internet editors are freed from
artificial constraints like the need to accept iffy articles just to
fill an issue or to reject good articles because there are already
enough even better articles to fill the next eight issues.)

b) It would help if scholars whose careers are already established
could undertake to submit their work only to free access electronic
journals (if suitable ones exist), and make their decision to do so
public (so as to inspire colleagues to imitation). If a journal could
get a few big names and/or outstanding articles in it this way, the
problem of establishing a good reputation for it looms less large.

To get internet publication to replace commercial publishing would
take a substantial, coordinated effort from a lot of selfless people,
so it may not happen. If it doesn't, editors could at least try the
following to reduce the costs within the existing commercial system.
a) It would be good if editors of journal/book series whose publishers
charge excessive prices could check whether it is legally feasible to
switch to less rapacious publishers.
b) It would also be good if editors could put pressure on the
publishers to stop wasting money on pointless things (e.g. paying
copyeditors to enforce arbitrary formatting guidelines about silly
things like the punctuation in bibliographies etc. Linguistics
articles are technical reports, not works of art.)

Dr. Andrew McIntyre
Universitaet Leipzig
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