Hot off the press, the American Historical Association issued a statement today on open access–and called for caution.
The AHA, like other scholarly societies, has been wrestling with
this complex discourse for some time. The issues have provided a focus
of conversations in our governing Council; and staff have participated
in relevant conference panels. Recently, however, decisions made at
individual institutions regarding faculty publication, debates over
federal legislation, and the influential “Finch report” in the United Kingdom have drawn broader attention the issue of open access to scholarly journals.
The Finch Report is particularly significant because it is
likely to influence public policy. Relying implicitly on evidence and
practices largely drawn from the sciences, the Report builds a case for
open-access journals, free to everyone with internet access. It
recognizes, however, that information is not free (indeed never has
been); financial resources are required to produce high quality
academic journals – even of the digital variety. Accordingly, the Report
recommends a transition in the financing of journals away from
subscription revenues to a system in which authors pay journals when
their work is published and all content is offered free to readers. In
the Finch Report, this is called an author payment charge, or APC….
…The current system of access to journal content certainly contains elements of unfairness, in addition to adding burdens to budgets of institutions already coping with diminishing resources. But solutions that ignore the wide differences between the respective landscapes of science and humanities journals generate new, and more difficult, dilemmas. Requiring authors to pay the costs of their own publications is not the answer. The AHA suggests that historians begin thoughtful conversations at their own institutions and participate in the discussions that we will initiate at our annual meeting, our web site and other appropriate venues.
Coverage via Insider Higher Ed:
The historians’ statement particularly takes issue with the Finch
Report recommendation that one way to phase out subscriptions would be
to charge authors (or their institutions) a publication fee.
Jim Grossman, executive director of the AHA, said that the
organization released the statement because “we want historians and
other humanists to start talking about these issues.” While there has
been no Finch Report for the United States, Grossman said that “we don’t
want an influential report” on publishing in the United States “framed
that way.” And “if we don’t enter the conversation,” that could happen,