For the last five years as a recent post-doc, I have consistently encountered a stark choice with regards to journal submissions. The accepted process requires that I send articles to prestigious first tier, peer-reviewed journals that will likely take 12-18 months to recognize the submission, and if I am very fortunate, request R & R (another 12-24 months). Then, if fortune still prevails, the article may be published within another 12-24 months. At a minimum turnaround schedule this requires 3-5 years between submission and publication, a seemingly unacceptable delay. During that time, for proprietary reasons, the work may not be presented or published elsewhere.
The alternative is to reject the accepted process and submit to open access journals with solid peer review processes. This path is fraught with danger insofar as hiring and tenure decisions in most philosophy departments require one to choose the traditional path as a precondition for consideration. Thus, it may seem reckless, but I am committed to the later open access path for the following reasons.
First, my research discusses technological changes in communication strategies and the effects on lived experience. I am working on a phenomenology of being-in-the-web that considers the simultaneity of being both digital and physical in multiple modalities. The pace of technological change demands that my research be both directed and dynamic, able to incorporate new modalities of being as they arise in lived experience. The 3-5 year window required for traditional publishing cycles would cause insights on emerging technologies to appear dated at the time of publication. A more nimble publication process in online journals or alternate publication streams provide the only answer for this problem.
Second, the pace of change and resultant styles of journal publication are changing rapidly in the direction of open access and increased efficiency in other academic disciplines. These changes benefit scholars and those who might be interested in their research in myriad ways. For a detailed argument in this direction see the following Hackthestate blog entry. It seems odd that philosophy, usually a pioneer in new ideas, is staunchly reluctant to consider open access publishing a legitimate resource for evaluating the quality of scholarly work.
Third, this new younger generation of scholars will be willing to pay their dues for only so long before abandoning traditional organizational structures. Younger scholars are increasingly frustrated and horrified to learn that philosophy alone remains committed to antiquated procedures for journal submission/publication. Discussions amongst younger scholars often focus on ways to change or subvert the current commercial models. This is a generation that grew up on the Internet, regularly abandoning dated domains for new territories. We move on to new social networking sites or adopt cool tools for our iPhones shortly after launch. The choice to abandon commercial for open access models will definitely happen in philosophy as it already has in many other academic disciplines. The sciences are far ahead with tools such as OpenWetWare.org and arXiv.org at Cornell University . Libraries are going open access at an increasing rate and it will not be long before scholars begin to follow.
Last, young scholars also reflect the values of the millenial, web-literate generation. We want to use new collaborative tools for research/publication that allow for quick peer commenting, feedback and review. From this generation’s point of view waiting more than 24 hours for an email reply is a delay. Waiting 24 months for acknowledgment and comments on a journal article submission is untenable. Young scholars in philosophy, like their peers in other humanities disciplines, want their work to be available to a wider audience for comment and critique. Greater readership encourages rich dialogues that transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries and also expose ideas to the public much earlier than otherwise possible.
There are a number of excellent arguments and resources circulating in our field that successfully refute the idea that only first tier peer reviewed journals are legitimate places to publish.
In my humble opinion, the time for both open access and open publishing is now. What do you think?