Just came across this site run by Rick Grush at UCSD: Commercial Free Philosophy, which argues for the promotion of open access research and publication in philosophy (and, of course, other academic disciplines). This really caught my interest and I couldn’t agree more with the following, from the Commercial Free Philosophy website: “Briefly, the business model on which commercial publishing is based is not only grotesquely outdated, but it is contributing directly to some serious social evils. And so it now strikes me that continuing to support commercial publishing, is, frankly, unethical.There was a time when the dissemination of scholarly work required the help of publishers, and so it made sense for academics to transfer various rights to these businesses, and to pay for their services. Now, though, the ability to disseminate research is ubiquitous and free. Ironically, most publishers now work hard to RESTRICT access to the work of philosophers, to those who can pay for it. This may not seem like a problem to professional philosophers at wealthy universities. But it is a problem for students, and for anyone not fortunate enough to be in the financially elite class.”
Honestly, I can’t see why it should be the case that research results ought to be something available only to those who can pay, or to those fortunate enough to be employed by a university who funds the bills for the subscription rates to journals. That research ought to be peer-reviewed is of course important, but this need not necessarily require that it be published in a journal that charges access fees. Grush points to Philosopher’s Imprint as a good example of a peer-reviewed journal that is open access. The Directory of Open Access Journals has a search function that allows one to find open access journals in philosophy specifically. There are quite a few more than I thought, and many of these are of good quality. Grush has announced that as of Jan. 1, 2008, he will no longer publish in, nor do reviews (or other tasks) for journals that are not open-access (see “Why I no longer publish in any non-open-access venues” on the Commercial Free Philosophy site for specifics on his pledge). While I’m not (yet) willing to go that far, I will go as far as to carry out the suggestions he lists under “supporting commercial free philosophy” on the same site, under “What you can do.” And if you’re interested, you can, as I did, copy and paste from that site a small logo on your web page that says you support commercial free philosophy. Or, if you’re willing to take the pledge, you can, like Grush, say you’re a fully commercial free philosopher.
By the way, this IS related to teaching and learning in philosophy as well. Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to get our students to pay for royalties on readings we assign for courses? We can already do this to some extent, with open-access resources. It would be good to search open-access publications for readings that would be suitable for our courses FIRST, and then only choose readings that cost money if none are available that fit our needs. Right now, it may be the case that not too many will be available. But if more of us pay attention to open-access sources, publish in them, take them seriously, cite them in our own work, they will become more and more popular and hopefully more and more will become available. A utopian dream? I just bet I might live to see this revolution happen.