“Now you have two problems…”: On mandating Open Access, from Open Access Anthropology

So, you might ask yourself: what in the world is the [scholarly society that publishes its own journal] providing authors who seek to publish in their journals? It certainly isn’t the article… The answer, to my mind is actually simple:

  1. prestige;
  2. high quality peer review;
  3. creative, path-breaking editorial vision;
  4. promotion and marketing;
  5. public policy relevance and creative use of new information technology and new networking and publicity possibilities.

To my mind, the interesting item in this list is #2, peer review. Why do scholars review submitted manuscripts for publishers? It sure ain’t for the prestige or the promotion and tenure rewards. I really believe that we do it because we’re civic-minded. It’s a gift economy. We do it because we understand that science is predicated on validity and reliability, and that therefore without peer review the whole system would collapse. Ok, so why do we perform peer review for publishers? Because up to now, publishers have been the only dissemination game in town. So I’d argue that there’s nothing special about publishers re peer review, except for the fact that they have the resources to manage the process. So in principle there’s nothing to prevent scholars from performing peer review for institutional repositories. Except maybe that they’re institutional: seems to me that there’s value in publishers being third parties. If scholars were to conduct peer review for an institutional repository, would the reputation (impact factor or whatever) accrue to the institution? So where’s the incentive for the scholar outside of that institution? So ok, we still need a third party to manage the peer review process. And so I’ve worked my way around to where Peter Suber has been for yonks: trying to figure out how publishers and institutional repositories can play nice together.