Hot on the heels of Rosa B. (mentioned last week) comes Issue Magazine, another new web-based publication looking at the changing world of publishing and design. Issue #0, edited by Alexandre Leray and Stéphanie Vilayphiou, is undergoing a slow rollout this week, culminating in a live chat with Arie Altena, Jouke Kleerebezem, and Harrisson on Friday. Currently they’re featuring an essay and an interview with David Reinfurt of Dexter Sinister and Dot Dot Dot on the idea of open-source design and publishing; an interview with Kleerebezem and a piece by Roger Chartier will be up before the end of the week.
What’s particularly interesting about the format of Issue – and one area in which it differs from Rosa B. – is the way that commenting has been integrated into the articles: after units of the text, there’s the opportunity for the reader to add comments. It’s a bit like CommentPress in conception, but the prompts to comment in Issue appear less frequently than every paragraph. This makes sense: paragraph-level commenting is invaluable for close-reading, but less necessary for the general discussion of an essay. Because it’s early, there don’t seem to be any comments yet, but it’s a promising model of how the readers can be more immediately integrated into a publication.
A quick note to point out Rosa B, a new online publication in French and English from the CAPC Museum of Contemporary Art Bordeaux and the Bordeaux School of Fine Arts. Their first issue, online now, is about contemporary publishing and edited by the very interesting Thomas Boutoux. More of an art slant than a business one, but the features would probably interest readers of this site: an interview with Stuart Bailey of dot dot dot and Dexter Sinister about his publishing and design-related activities; novelist and critic Matthew Stadler talks about the social space of reading; and a nicely excerpted bit of Friedrich Kittler’s Gramophone, Film, Typewriter, which has been out in English translation for a while but could stand more readers.
Worth noting as much as the content is the form: Rosa B. is clearly designed for online reading, and takes advantages of the affordances of the web; it’s nice to see texts on reading that have been designed by someone who thinks about how they’ll be read. Texts overlap and intersect with other texts and illustrations; long filmed interviews mix with text amiably.
I meant to blog this earlier but it’s still quite relevant, especially in light of other recent activity on the open access front. Last week, Danah Boyd announced that henceforth she would only publish in open access journals and urged others -? especially tenured faculty, who are secure in their status and have little to lose -? to do the same.
I’d be sad to see some of the academic publishers go, but if they can’t evolve to figure out new market options, I have no interest in supporting their silencing practices. I think that scholars have a responsibility to make their work available as a public good. I believe that scholars should be valued for publishing influential material that can be consumed by anyone who might find it relevant to their interests. I believe that the product of our labor should be a public good. I do not believe that scholars should be encouraged to follow stupid rules for the sake of maintaining norms. Given that we do the bulk of the labor behind journals, I think that we can do it without academic publishers…
The motion, which passed easily at yesterday’s Faculty meeting, grants Harvard a non-exclusive copyright over all articles produced by any current Faculty member, allowing for the creation of an online repository that would be “available to other services such as web harvesters, Google Scholar, and the like.”
…English professor Stephen Greenblatt, the editor of what he described as a journal with “a decent reputation and a quite anemic subscription base,” advocated for the motion because he doubted it would accelerate the death of his journal, and because he said he was worried about the currently high cost of many monographs.
“This is one of the only ways we can break the backs of the monopolists who are currently seriously damaging our fields,” he said.
“The chorus of ‘yeas’ was thunderous,” Robert Darnton, the director of the University Library, wrote in an e-mail message. “I hope this marks a turning point in the way communications operate in the world of scholarship.”
The U.S. presidential primaries in Virginia, Maryland and D.C. are not the only votes to watch today. The New York Times reports that arts and sciences faculty at Harvard are weighing in today on a proposed measure that would make all scholarly articles available in a free open access repository run by the library immediately following publication.
“In place of a closed, privileged and costly system, it will help open up the world of learning to everyone who wants to learn,” said Robert Darnton, director of the university library. “It will be a first step toward freeing scholarship from the stranglehold of commercial publishers by making it freely available on our own university repository.”
Under the proposal Harvard would deposit finished papers in an open-access repository run by the library that would instantly make them available on the Internet. Authors would still retain their copyright and could publish anywhere they pleased -? including at a high-priced journal, if the journal would have them.
What distinguishes this plan from current practice, said Stuart Shieber, a professor of computer science who is sponsoring the faculty motion, is that it would create an “opt-out” system: an article would be included unless the author specifically requested it not be. Mr. Shieber was the chairman of a committee set up by Harvard’s provost to investigate scholarly publishing; this proposal grew out of one of the recommendations, he said.
My fingers are crossed that this vote will go the way of openness. A vote for open access from Harvard would be a huge boost for the movement. Change is more likely to come if people at the top of the heap, whose personal incentive for reform is far less obvious, start making the move on principle -? saying, essentially, that it’s not the job of scholars to prop up the journal business.
Stay Free! Daily reprints an article from the Wall Street Journal on how the editors of scientific journals published by Thomson Scientific are coercing authors to include more citations to articles published by Thomson Scientific:
Dr. West, the Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Physiology at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine, is one of the world’s leading authorities on respiratory physiology and was a member of Sir Edmund Hillary’s 1960 expedition to the Himalayas. After he submitted a paper on the design of the human lung to the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, an editor emailed him that the paper was basically fine. There was just one thing: Dr. West should cite more studies that had appeared in the respiratory journal.
If that seems like a surprising request, in the world of scientific publishing it no longer is. Scientists and editors say scientific journals increasingly are manipulating rankings — called “impact factors” — that are based on how often papers they publish are cited by other researchers.
“I was appalled,” says Dr. West of the request. “This was a clear abuse of the system because they were trying to rig their impact factor.”