Open Access and the Humanities…

Open Access and the Humanities: Contexts, Controversies and the Future by Martin Paul Eve.

From the description:

If you work in a university, you are almost certain to have heard the term ‘open access’ in the past couple of years. You may also have heard either that it is the utopian answer to all the problems of research dissemination or perhaps that it marks the beginning of an apocalyptic new era of ‘pay-to-say’ publishing. In this book, Martin Paul Eve sets out the histories, contexts and controversies for open access, specifically in the humanities. Broaching practical elements alongside economic histories, open licensing, monographs and funder policies, this book is a must-read for both those new to ideas about open-access scholarly communications and those with an already keen interest in the latest developments for the humanities.

Open access to a book on open access!

I was very amused by Gary F. Daught’s comment on the title:

“Open access for scholarly communication in the Humanities faces some longstanding cultural/social and economic challenges. Deep traditions of scholarly authority, reputation and vetting, relationships with publishers, etc. coupled with relatively shallow pockets in terms of funding (at least compared to the Sciences) and perceptions that the costs associated with traditional modes of scholarly communication are reasonable (at least compared to the Sciences) can make open access a hard sell. Still, there are new opportunities and definite signs of change. Among those at the forefront confronting these challenges while exploring open access opportunities for the Humanities is Martin Paul Eve.”

In part because Gary worded his description of the humanities as: “Deep traditions of scholarly authority, reputation and vetting, relationships with publishers,…” which is true, but is a nice way of saying:

Controlling access to the Dead Sea Scrolls was a great way to attract graduate students to professors and certain universities.

Controlling access to the Dead Sea Scrolls was a great way to avoid criticism of work by denying others access to the primary materials.

Substitute current access issues to data, both in the humanities and sciences for “Dead Sea Scrolls” and you have a similar situation.

I mention the Dead Sea Scroll case because after retarding scholarship for decades, the materials are more or less accessible now. The sky hasn’t fallen, newspapers aren’t filled with bad translations, salvation hasn’t been denied (so far as we know), to anyone holding incorrect theological positions due to bad work on the Dead Sea Scrolls.

A good read but I have to differ with Martin on his proposed solution to the objection that open access has no peer review.

Unfortunately Martin treats concerns about peer review as though they were rooted in empirical experience such that contrary experimental results will lead to a different conclusion.

I fear that Martin overlooks that peer review is a religious belief and can no more be diminished by contrary evidence than transubstantiation. Consider all the peer review scandals you have read or heard about in the past year. Has that diminished anyone’s faith in peer review? What about the fact that in the humanities, up to 98% of all monographs remain uncited after a decade?

Assuming peer review is supposed to assure the quality of publishing, a reasonable person would conclude that 98% of what has been published and is uncited, either wasn’t worth writing about and/or peer review was no guarantor of quality.

The key to open access is for publishing and funding organizations to mandate open access to data used in research and/or publication. No exceptions, no on request but deposits in open access archives.

Scholars who have self-assessed themselves as needing the advantages of non-open access data will be unhappy but I can’t say that matters all that much to me.


I first saw this in a tweet by Martin Haspelmath.

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