Open Access: A Response To Sean Guillory

Joshua Sanborn | Russian History Blog | January 15, 2013

My most recent blog post (on MOOCs) dealt with digital teaching. Less than a week after it appeared, Sean Guillory wrote an important piece on Sean’s Russia Blog regarding digital scholarship, to wit, the importance of open access for Russian historians. His inspiration for the piece was the suicide of Aaron Swartz, a gifted young computer scientist indicted by the government for downloading articles en masse from JSTOR with the intent to distribute them freely on the web. I do not know enough about Professor Swartz or about the case to comment further on it, and I am wary of quick declarations of the reasons behind particular suicides, but I think the question of open access is an important one. Sean deals with it carefully and intelligently, though I disagree with him on some points. 

The comments section of Sean’s blog piece includes several thoughtful responses written by Russian historians familiar with the economics of journal publishing and the labor it takes to produce a high-quality journal with rigorous peer review. I highly recommend that readers take a look at both the piece and the comments. Many of the commentators are editors with the big journals in our field, and I wouldn’t presume to add anything of substance from the journal side of the question. Instead, let me offer a few thoughts as an author, a consumer, and as someone involved in faculty governance at a small school...