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Re: Journal publishing and author self-archiving: Peaceful Co-Existence and Fruitful Collaboration

I'll keep my reply much shorter this time, Stevan, so as not to try
the patience of others on this list or hog more than my fair share of
time in this ongoing discussion.

I'm afraid I don't share your "serene confidence that there are plenty of available OA hosts, big and small, ready to take on the implementation of peer review for migrating established journal titles and ed-boards, scaled down to OA publishing." Partly I don't because I think, to work most efficiently, there needs to be more structure to the system than self-archiving or IRs themselves can provide, even with pretty good federated searching. The editors of single journals would need to find a way to join together with editors of other journals in their disciplines, or related disciplines, so as to form a group of journals that could serve a whole discipline, or special area of interest, well. That is typically what scholarly societies have done, and maybe some of them could take over the journals abandoned by large STM publishers-if they don't continue to feel just as threatened by OA as the commercial publishers do! An ideal structure would be something like what CIAO and AnthroSource represent, respectively, for International Relations and Anthropology in the social sciences, which encompass not only journals but also monographs, working papers, conference proceedings, and grey literature. As director of a press that worked with our library and SPARC to help set up such a structure for another social science discipline, rural sociology, I can tell you that this is no trivial or inexpensive task!

Sudden change is very difficult to plan for, and my worry is that if such a scenario were to happen, no really adequate structures would be in place save for a few like the ones I've mentioned to provide for an organized environment of knowledge. Possibly, yes, some individual editors would immediately try to keep their journals going by setting up their own self-publishing OA operations. But who would pay for the editorial support services that the major STM publishers now provide? Departmental budgets can be stretched only so far, and these might be tapped already for supporting their own authors publishing in other OA journals. (This is part of the "free rider" problem that university presses have long suffered from, because they do not publish for their own university faculty primarily but provide a service to the system as a whole. Universities like to fund their own faculty first, their presses second, and the same would likely be true for editorial offices of journals.) Academic editors would need to spend more of their time doing the kind of work that professional publishing staff now do, at a cost to the university that would overall be greater (because faculty are paid, generally, better than professional publishing staff). Universities would do well to start creating these structures now, but I don't see that as likely to happen because most administrators, I suspect, share your view of gradual change and will think there is plenty of time to prepare. Sure, library funds once used for purchasing STM journals could be diverted, but this is not so straightforward a process as you seem to assume, as many libraries now share the burden of subscription payments whereas I suspect that the distribution of editorial offices will be more highly concentrated in the most-research intensive universities where the leading scholars reside-and I can't see Ball State contributing its savings from library subscriptions to supporting Yale faculty's editorial offices!

We at Penn State are doing our small bit by serving as a test site for the DPubs "open source" software that is designed to provide a platform for managing the editorial and production processes not only for journals but also for conference proceedings and, ultimately, edited volumes and monographs in electronic form. But there should be many other efforts like this going on if we are to avoid a very messy transition period if my hypothesized scenario of sudden change comes true.

-Sandy Thatcher

Sanford G. Thatcher, Director
Penn State University Press
University Park, PA 16802-1003
e-mail: sgt3@psu.edu