Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Thinking about Prestige, Quality, and Open Access

Here is a great article to send to faculty and university administrators! Peter Suber's Thinking about Prestige, Quality, and Open Access covers in some depth the reasons TA journals are so entrenched, even in comparison with newer OA journals of equal (or better) quality - and some thoughts on what can be done about this. For example, university hiring procedures could either focus on quality instead of surrogates such as the impact factors of journals faculty have published in, or, at the very least, at some of the newer surrogate measures that don't oversimplify as much as IF.

Where my own perspective differs a little: I am more optimistic about change in the near term, and I think that there may be more happening already than what is readily visible. Authors may feel that they need to publish in the most prestigious journals, even if they are TA. However, my gut feeling (and various comments from researchers) tell me that it's a little easier to say no to a request to review after a publisher has said no to the open access you (or your funder) desire, and a little easier to say yes to the open access publication. As Peter points out, sometimes prestige and quality diverge; a gradual loss of reviewers may impact quality first, but will inevitably impact prestige, too.

Librarians need not, and indeed are not, standing by on the sidelines. We are educating, providing support for open access initiatives, and beginning to look for open access-friendly policies as a positive in evaluation for purchasing decisions.

As Peter emphasizes (and I agree), there is a great deal more that can be done to educate people about existing rights to deposit work that is published in TA publications, which allow author self-archiving. For example, Sherpa RoMEO recently posted a list of Publishers that allow self-archiving of the publisher's PDF without fee or embargo. Librarians - is there an e-mail going out to all your faculty who publish in these journals with a simple request - may we place this in this archive for you?