15.2410, Disc: Re: Open-Access Journals/Ling Publishing

LINGUIST List linguist at linguistlist.org
Mon Aug 30 15:59:16 UTC 2004

LINGUIST List:  Vol-15-2410. Mon Aug 30 2004. ISSN: 1068-4875.

Subject: 15.2410, Disc: Re: Open-Access Journals/Ling Publishing

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Date:  Thu, 26 Aug 2004 09:52:24 -0400
From:  Mike Maxwell <maxwell at ldc.upenn.edu>
Subject:  Re: 15.2389, Disc: Re: Open-Access Journals/Ling Publishing

Date:  Thu, 26 Aug 2004 15:31:24 +0100
From:  "David W H Cochran" <0210186C at student.gla.ac.uk>
Subject:  Re: 15.2354, Disc: Open-Access Journals/Ling Publishing

Date:  Mon, 30 Aug 2004 06:27:02 -0400 (EDT)
From:  Martin Haspelmath <haspelmath at eva.mpg.de>
Subject:  Re: 15.2373, Disc: Open-Access Journals/Ling Publishing

-------------------------------- Message 1 -------------------------------

Date:  Thu, 26 Aug 2004 09:52:24 -0400
From:  Mike Maxwell <maxwell at ldc.upenn.edu>
Subject:  Re: 15.2389, Disc: Re: Open-Access Journals/Ling Publishing

LINGUIST List wrote:
> LINGUIST List:  Vol-15-2389. Thu Aug 26 2004. ISSN: 1068-4875.


> Date:  Tue, 24 Aug 2004 04:32:45 -0400 (EDT)
> From:  Martin Haspelmath <haspelmath at eva.mpg.de>
> Subject:  Re: Open-access Journals and Lingustics Publishing
> I think Line Mikkelsen and Karen Ward raised the two most important
> points that possibly make people reluctant to submit their work to new
> open-access journals:


> Karen Ward wrote:
>>... electronic media are ephemeral compared to paper.  CDs
>>that are only 10-15 years old are already degrading.  I
>>contrast this with the longevity of acid-free paper:  books
>>printed in the 1600s and 1700s are still quite readable, if
>>fragile.  Electronic archives would have to be rolled over to
>>newer technology every 10 years or so - but who will pay for
> This is a more difficult issue, because it's hard to say what the
> costs will be. But why would it be be more expensive overall than
> storing paper indefinitely? Keep in mind that paper copies of journals
> are currently stored in hundreds of different locations. Wouldn't two
> dozen different places in the world be sufficient for electronic
> archiving?
> Another point to remember is that journal articles are typically out
> of date after 5-20 years

Two comments on this:

(1) The issue of linguistic works becoming out of date: This is to
some extent true for theoretical papers.  But: just yesterday I
downloaded a PDF copy of a 1989 MIT dissertation, because I needed to
check some data that I had used in a paper to be presented this
weekend, and whose original citation was from this article.  1989
isn't ancient, but it could have been much older than that.

In any case, it is definitely NOT true that data-intensive
publications, e.g. grammatical or phonological descriptions of a
language (such as are published in IJAL), are quickly outdated.  This
is particularly true for descriptions of endangered languages.  I once
tried to obtain data on an endangered language of Colombia (Muinane)
that had been processed on a computer in the 1960s.  Sadly, the data
had (so far as I could discover) completely disappeared, and was

(2) The issue of permanence of electronic data storage isn't (just)
one of location, but of media life, as Karen Ward writes.  Rewritable
CDs and DVDs, for instance, have a rated shelf life of only 25 years
("professional" CDs and magnetic media have a shorter life; write-once
CDs have a much longer life).  See
http://www.gcn.com/23_5/news/25166-1.html.  None of this will be
solved by having multiple copies.

There is also an issue of media format, i.e. whether there will be
hardware and software to read particular archival data.

Some of these issues are discussed in

	Bird, S. and G. Simons (2003). "Seven dimensions of
	portability for language documentation and description."
	Language 79(3): 557-582.

	Mike Maxwell
	Linguistic Data Consortium
	maxwell at ldc.upenn.edu

-------------------------------- Message 2 -------------------------------

Date:  Thu, 26 Aug 2004 15:31:24 +0100
From:  "David W H Cochran" <0210186C at student.gla.ac.uk>
Subject:  Re: 15.2354, Disc: Open-Access Journals/Ling Publishing

Quite simply, I see open access as a clear case for enlightened self
interest. I wish to have easy access to lots of other peoples research
so I can sit around the house reading printouts of journal articles in
my underpants, without having to wait a fortnight (or a year,
depending on the case) for an inter-library loan; therefore, I should
always prefer sending my own research to rigorously peer-reviewed
open-access journals, over traditional journals run by profit-making
publishers. Of course, for open-access journals to be taken seriously,
it will need a number of well-established heavyweight intellectuals to
come over to the open-access side, not just as contributors, but also
as reviewers and editors; my hope is that sooner or later, they will,
and once a certain critical mass has been reached, the rest will

That said, I do see the merit in producing paper versions as well, if
only for archival purposes - though technologies are now being
developed for long-term, stable electronic archival.

On the other hand, the suggestion of author-pays, open access journals
run for profit by the science publishers seems like a quite
phenomenally bad idea. The temptation would be far too strong to let
peer-review slip and allow once-respected journals become vanity

Dave Cochran,
Between Affiliations

-------------------------------- Message 3 -------------------------------

Date:  Mon, 30 Aug 2004 06:27:02 -0400 (EDT)
From:  Martin Haspelmath <haspelmath at eva.mpg.de>
Subject:  Re: 15.2373, Disc: Open-Access Journals/Ling Publishing

In a recent posting (LINGUIST 15-2373), John Kingston connects the
possible disappearance of copyrighted journals with the practice of
peer review:

> I am replying to Martin Haspelmath's post as an editor (of
> Phonetica). I suspect his predictions will prove true, and I
> wish only to  address one possible consequence: the breakdown
> of peer review.  ...  without the generosity and very hard
> work of all the reviewers of submissions to journals, we
> would none of us have any idea what to pay attention to or
> what has any value. I am also sure that rigorous peer review
> will not happen unless some considerable effort is made to
> ensure that it does.  That effort might be made by concerned
> individuals, institutions, or even publishers, but it won't
> happen by itself.  Therefore, what I'd very much like to see
> is discussion of how this hard problem is to be solved.

I do not see the necessary connection between the open-access
vs. copyrighted distinction and the problems of peer review. There
have always been and still are many copyrighted journals with minimal
or no peer review (especially in smaller (sub-)fields, or journals
with a restricted geographical range), and similarly there will be
always be many open-access journals without peer review. One would
hope that the prestige of an open-access journal will correlate
strongly with the quality of the reviewing, just like one hopes that
this is the case with copyrighted journals.

If a substantial part of the money spent on pay journals went to the
reviewers and the editor, then this would justify the expectation that
pay journals have a higher quality than free journals (cf. Carsten
Otto's Cologne proverb: wat nix kos' is' och nix. - roughly
translated: If something is free it is not reliable). But we all know
that this is not the case: Reviewers work for free, and editors do not
become rich. The money goes to the publishers and their shareholders.

What we would need to do to make sure that our journals are reviewed
well is to create an independent assessment procedure for editorial
quality that looks not at the journals' impact, but at the quality of
the editorial process (e.g. checking simple things such as average
number of reviewers, average length of reviews, average reviewing
time, etc.). What we normally do instead, of course, is to look at a
journal's influence in the field. But couldn't it be that perhaps some
of the most influential journals have rather low reviewing standards?
All we know about this is based on anecdotes and perhaps some limited
experience. (Here's an anecdote from me: I recently submitted a paper
to Linguistic Inquiry, a high-prestige copyrighted journal, and
received a first decision from the editor after 13 months. I hope that
this was exceptional, but I have no way of knowing.)

Thus, reviewing quality is not an argument against open-access
journals, though it's an important separate issue that requires more
attention from all of us.

Martin Haspelmath

LINGUIST List: Vol-15-2410

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