Tuesday, March 10, 2015

History is free?

At Active History, Ian Milligan salutes the new SSHRC policy requiring scholarship that it funds to be made available in open-access peer-reviewed venues within a year of first publication.

But in celebrating this good news, he ends up recycling the hackneyed old justification for open access: that if you pay for a published work by anyone who gets research support, you are "paying twice"
 in a way you’re paying twice: your tax dollars supported my work on it, and then you’re paying again.
Milligan actually knows this ain't paying for the same thing twice. In the same post, he lists all the costs that went into producing a peer-reviewed publication of a piece of his:
This charge to read the article reflects in part the work that’s gone into it: an editor, perhaps remunerated by a small stipend or course release, has shepherded it through peer review, it’s been copyedited, laid out, proofread, printed into bound copies, mailed to subscribers, and so forth (some wonder, of course, how many people buy individual copies – it’s probably also driving institutional subscriptions). I don’t disagree, and actually use this example because it’s a prime example of how the journal process improves scholarship (the final version is something I’m proud of – the draft version, not so much).  
Declaring something "open access" does not abolish these costs, Ian. Mostly it shifts them somewhere else (maybe to a different subsidizing body, but just as often from the reader to the author). Historical inquiry should be free -- but it's still free as in speech, not free as in lunch.

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