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Editors of ‘Philosophy & Public Affairs’ resign and start a new journal

Ryan Quinn for Inside Higher Ed reports on the comments of Arash Abizadeh (McGill) regarding the decision of the editors of the journal Philosophy & Public Affairs to resign and start a new diamond open-access journal. You can read the editors’ official public statement here. According to Abizadeh, this model is preferable to the current model for disciplines such as political science, political theory, or political philosophy. However, he adds, it is very difficult to effect a change in model. It requires the leading actors in the field to act collectively.

On social media, Abizadeh shares more of his thoughts:

“For a long time now, we have seen academic journals bought up by for-profit publishers, who then turn around and sell access to those journals to libraries at exorbitant prices, shutting out everyone else behind paywalls. Academics are the ones doing the work: the research, the writing, peer review, and editorial work. Much of this work is publicly funded. But then for-profit publishers turn around and sell this work back to us, and cut off access to everyone else. And no, authors don’t get paid by them; on the contrary, they often make the authors—and not just readers—pay to have our work published by them! If this seems like some kind of cartel scheme, it is.

More recently, these for-profit publishers have been turning to what they call “open access”: where anyone on the internet can access the published article. But they only do this if the authors pay exorbitant amounts of money to them to make their work open access, often thousands of dollars. Where does that money come from? From funding agencies and universities, often using public funds. And so now these publishers are trying make as much money as they can off of their so-called “open access” schemes by putting pressure on journals to publish as many articles as possible, to make them more money. This has eroded scholarly editorial independence, putting pressure on editors to weaken or abandon or weaken their quality controls. The result has been a proliferation of junk journals publishing fake research.

There is an alternative: “diamond” open-access journals published without any fees to authors, editors, or readers, and funded by a consortium of libraries and universities at much less cost! Librarians have for years been calling on academics to move to this model. Why haven’t we? Because we face a massive collective action problem: we are stuck in a very sub-optimal equilibrium. As individuals, our career advancement often depends on publishing in journals with established name recognition, reputation, and prestige. And these established journals are often owned by commercial publishers. Colleagues often can’t afford to take a chance on new, untested journals. As editors of the one of the field’s leading journals, we felt a special responsibility to help move the discipline to a new model. So we resigned to start a new diamond open-access journal.”