Open Access Publishing: A LIPIL discussion

Jonas Lau recaps last week’s Linguistics in the Pub in London (LIPIL), a monthly informal gathering of linguists to discuss topical areas in our field.

The first LIPIL gathering of the new year was held on 26th of January in a new location, The Duke, which is also planned to be the location of future meetings. Researchers, faculty and students of SOAS attended the event, which was mediated by Lauren Gawne.

This month’s topic dealt with the advantages as well as the difficulties and problems caused by open access publishing. We specifically focused on open access publishing, although the discussion is obviously closely related to issues in open access archiving and open access data sets. Among the participants, different perspectives on the topic were represented: While some linguists considered themselves primarily as consumers of (open access) publishing, others could contribute their own experiences having worked as publishers and/or editors.

After everyone had presented themselves and stated their connection to the topic, the relevance of the topic in current events was mentioned. In particular, we discussed the events around the editorial board of Lingua leaving their publisher Elsevier in order to start a new open-access journal called Glossa.

The recent movements towards open-access require not only new policies in digital rights management, but also different concepts of funding. The participants of the discussion contributed several new ways of funding open access publishing: While academic publishing could be funded directly by (non-)governmental research foundations, new subscription systems for libraries are an alternative.

The participants with a publishing/editing background stressed the payment of editors, typesetters and other staff involved in publishing. Without their work, the quality of a publication could not be ensured. Some Open Access publications are operated on volunteer labour, or cheap student labour, which is more likely in US institutions than UK institutions.

Other issues discussed included the role of academia.org. Uploading your own papers to this site can go against the publishing contract that is signed, particularly with a commercial publisher. It was mentioned that the publisher Elsevier generally claims all rights for published texts and therefore sues people that upload their papers online.

The students and researchers were especially concerned about the informal exchange of digital copies of academic papers. The inner conflict between respecting digital rights and expanding research with relevant papers that they would otherwise have no access to has been experienced by a lot of the participants. Even the hashtag #Icanhaspdf on Twitter has become popular and is used now to exchange digital copies online.

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