LINGUIST List 15.2493

Thu Sep 9 2004

Disc: Re: Open-Access Journals/Ling Publishing

Editor for this issue: Marie Klopfenstein <>


  1. Ahmad R. Lotfi, Re: Open-Access Journals/Ling Publishing
  2. jeanette ireland, Re: Open-Access Jounrnals/Ling Publishing
  3. dave odden, Re: 15.2389, Disc: Re: Open-Access Journals/Ling Publishing

Message 1: Re: Open-Access Journals/Ling Publishing

Date: Wed, 1 Sep 2004 22:54:30 -0700 (PDT)
From: Ahmad R. Lotfi <>
Subject: Re: Open-Access Journals/Ling Publishing

Dear linguists,
I think the biggest obstacle to the replacement of traditional
publications with e-journals is NOT a question of money (traditional
publishers' financial interests) but one of academic monopoly:
electronic publication will make it easier for authors to get
published, and this will finally result in the liberalisation of the
science; what people of high academic authority won't necessarily
like. They'd prefer a slower process that makes publication of works
an exclusive right. Even if authoritative e-journals happen to be
still in the monopoly of a handful of academics, it will be still
unsafe for people in power in our major linguistics departments as the
very culture of using e-journals as the major publication tools will
pave the way for avantegarde theorists to challenge established ideas
. As printing industry liberalised the science of the time back in the
middle ages, electronic publication of journals will have devestating
effects on our dogmas today. Are we prepared for such a big step
Ahmad R. Lotfi

English Dept.
Azad University,
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Message 2: Re: Open-Access Jounrnals/Ling Publishing

Date: Thu, 2 Sep 2004 14:05:53 -0300
From: jeanette ireland <>
Subject: Re: Open-Access Jounrnals/Ling Publishing

How sensible, and certainly not facile, are Andrew McIntyre's
comments. So much research, data and information in a multitude of
disciplines is freely available to anyone, even to people who do not
own a personal computer. Why do we feel the need to have a "hard-copy"
version of a journal article, which is essentially, either a work in
progress or a statement of preliminary findings in the pursuit of a
novel hypothesis? And why do we suppose that electronic versions
would not undergo a rigorous peer review process?

Jeanette Ireland
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Message 3: Re: 15.2389, Disc: Re: Open-Access Journals/Ling Publishing

Date: Tue, 31 Aug 2004 14:15:38 -0400
From: dave odden <>
Subject: Re: 15.2389, Disc: Re: Open-Access Journals/Ling Publishing

I have a reaction to Martin Haspelmath's predictions and claims about
open-access journals, from an editor's point of view (Studies in
African Linguistics). It is important to distinguish the concepts
"open access" and "electronic version".

Prediction 1 has the disclaimer "This does not apply to books, of
course, and these will remain important in linguistics". The logic of
the argument applies equally to books and journals. The "goes out of
fashion" argument doesn't go through as a way of distinguishing
between journals and books (as Mike Maxwell points out). Verb
paradigms of an underdescribed language do not change their worth
depending on whether they are published in a journal or a book; trendy
ideas that become theoretically irrelevant become irrelevant whether
they are in a book or a journal. So I don't see any reason for
treating books and journals differently, and I see the consequences of
Martin's arguments, if his argument holds sway, being that print books
also go by the wayside (though he doesn't propose that: it's an
inevitable second consequence of the argument).

I challenge prediction 1 and publically bet Martin that more than 50%
of linguistics journals currently in print form will continue to exist
as print journals in 10 years. I bet 100 Euros, and if you agree we
can settle up in about a decade. You may be correct about P2, that
articles not available online will become less influential, but I
question the reason. I predict that more journals will become
available online, so it follows that influential articles will become
more likely to exist in an online form -- Language, Phonology, NLLT,
Linguistic Inquiry, Journal of Linguistics and Lingua are all
available online (and are not open access). Note that P2 is an
argument about online format, not open access. I take P3, that there
will be more open-access journals in the future, to be almost
self-evidently true, but I dispute certain implications of the
"reduced publication cost" claim. The cost of publication is not
related to whether the journal is open-access, it is related to
whether it is electronically available. The cost of publication can
only go down if electronic access is the *only* form of access made

Claim 1 is that open-access journals are in the interest of science
because publisher's services are irrelevant to electronic
publishing. This conflates "electronic" and "free. Someone has to
physically produce the journal (even if it is just in PDF form --
please be sure that those phonetic characters are actually visible to
*all* users always, and not just ones that have a certain font on
their own machines); someone has to maintain the electronic version;
someone has to disseminate the information that the journal exists and
that there is a new issue. These are some of the services that the
publisher provides, and they all cost money. 

Note that a *single* announcement of a journal's Table of Contents on
the Linguist List costs $100 for any journal with subscription charges
(Editor's Note: LINGUIST will make special arrangements if they seem
merited.), and if there is no income for the journal, you cannot
easily make known that you have a journal and that an issue is now
available. While it is true that universities can, in principle,
subsidize these costs, they are highly resistant to doing so because
they are being asked to subsidize everything else under the sun.

Regarding C2, that archiving electronic publications is not more
difficult or expensive than archiving print journals, I don't know how
to compare these apples and oranges. They both pose difficulties of a
different type. In addition to the points raised by Karen Ward,
archiving an electronic journal involves such messy things as servers,
url's, and protocols for data representation. It is important, at
least for some journals (I would hope all journals) that they not only
be accessible now, but also in 40 years when url's have been replaced
with something else, when PDF files are as outmoded as Postscript
files, and when my department server (or whoever hosts the journal)
has gone away forever. If the journal is hosted by one server and
something catastrophic happens to the server, where do I go to get a
copy of Smith's formerly online article on clitics? Is there a robust
multi-national, multi-server free access system for hosting
linguistics journals, with good backups? Not as far as I am
aware. None of these problems are completely insurmountable; but
archiving a print journal is pretty trivial.

As to the question of abandoning traditional copyrighted journals in
favor of rigorously peer-reviewed open-access journals, this
introduces a further complication, namely copyright. Copyright still
exists with open-access journals (it may reside with the author or it
may reside with the journal -- that is a matter between the author and
the journal). I think the question of intellectual property rights is
sufficiently tangential that copyright should be taken off the table.

While it might seem that the potentially unlimited capacity for new
electronic journals is a good thing, there is a downside. First, if
journals are to remain peer-reviewed, a proliferation of new journals
will significantly increase demand on quality reviewers, who are
already at a premium. Second, profession-external evaluation of
journals is related to how scarce they are, so I have a
counter-prediction that if electronic-only open access journals spread
like wildfire, deans will assign little value to being an editor, will
deny requests for release time for editors, and will be disinclined to
provide support to yet another journal. I can just imagine a dean
saying "Look, we already support 50 journals in this college which
nobody reads, why should we put money into yours?". The financial
consequences of traditional journal production provide a natural brake
on the unconstrained expansion of journals, so if journals all become
free, you will need to come up with alternative financing,
alternatives to the traditional editor, and think of a way to maintain
the system of peer-reviewing. Or, we could just move to a system of
unrefereed blogging, but I don't see that as a good direction to go.

Dave Odden
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