Why Open Access Matters for Humanists

Many humanists believe that the debates raging around open access in the natural sciences are not related to them. "Our research is not usually funded by tax payers," they say. "Unlike the STEM disciplines, our journals have a reasonable subscription price," they argue. And both of these arguments are factually correct. However, the serials crisis caused by rising journal prices and shrinking library budgets indirectly impacts humanities scholars and their ability to access the peer-reviewed scholarly literature in their fields.

When libraries are faced with the need to cut journal subscriptions due to rising costs or budget reductions, they don't simply cut the most expensive items. What they do is look at usage data to locate those journals which are used the least and cut enough of those subscriptions to make up the difference. In other words, we cut off the "long tail." And although some humanities titles see high usage, the bulk of this "long tail" are specialized titles in the humanities. And it is in these titles were humanists try the groundbreaking new approaches that shape their fields. But given the undergraduate-heavy usage patterns at Miami, these titles see less use than similar journals in the sciences and social sciences. So, the rapidly rising costs of journals in other disciplines does have an impact on access to humanities research.

What can scholars do about this? Humanists could publish their research in one of the many open access journals in their field, but they may not be as prestigious as more traditional titles. Subscription revenue is important to the continued survival of academic societies so many journals have been reluctant to switch to an open access model. This being said, many journals in the humanities allow their authors to self-archive a copy of the final published version of their articles in an institutional repository. Even those journals without an express statement of support for self-archiving in their copyright transfer agreement (CTA) will usually allow authors to post their work online in some form if asked via an author addendum to the CTA. Miami's Scholars Portal and the connected Scholarly Commons is Miami's institutional repository. Posting your work in Scholarly Commons not only increases access to your research by other scholars, but also allows other interested parties to read your work. In other words, the general public who lives without access to academic journals will be able to access your research. Additionally, the Scholars Portal allows Miami faculty to create profiles to provide a public face for the work contained in the Scholarly Commons. These profiles have a persistant easy to remember URL as well as basic profile and contact information. If you would like some assistance in creating your Scholars Portal profile and getting your work added to the Scholarly Commons, please contact Jen Waller at wallerjl@muohio.edu.

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