[Lingtyp] papercopy LT -- from a "pre-war" country

Heiko Narrog heiko.narrog at outlook.com
Wed Jul 5 08:05:33 UTC 2017

Dear everyone,

It looks like the issue has shifted from paper vs. online to commercial publisher vs. self-published.
I would like to give my two cents’ worth for anyone who’s interested, from a different corner of the world, from a different perspective, and with a slightly different conclusion.
In the country where I am based, Japan, the publishers never took over. There have been only a tiny number of linguistic journals for the general public by commercial publishers. Otherwise, there is a somewhat bigger, but still limited number of peer-reviewed journals produced by linguistic societies, and then a huge number of institution-based publications. Practically every humanities faculty in Japan has its own publication (usually labeled as kiyoo). That’s kind of pre-war Europe multiplied, if I understand it correctly. (Indeed, the number of universities and faculties in Japan multiplied after the war, with the pre-war publication system in place.) I don’t know the statistics, but I surmise that 95%~ of academic journals in the humanities are self-published by faculties, less than 1% published by publishers, and perhaps 1 or 2% as genuinely peer-reviewed academic journals. The result has been that (a) people can publish very easily, the hurdle is very low, and (b) the vast majority of research gets published in a raw state, not reaching the level of quality that it might have reached under a different system.
So, when I look at how it went in the West, and how it went in Japan, I can only think how much better the average journal article would be in Japan, and how different the academic culture would be in general, if the publishers had taken over here as they did in the West. But this is my personal opinion, and not every Japanese person might agree with that, because they might favor the convenience of the institution publications.
Anyways, in this sense, I think one should acknowledge the role that linguistic publishers have had in promoting sciences, and especially the humanities in Europe and North America, even if it was at worst only the side product of greed, as described in the excellent Guardian article on Elsevier/Springer.
Publishers take over a lot of the tedious administrative and technical work that most academics would not like to do, or feel they really don’t have the time for. Now, due to the internet, part of that that work, namely the printing and distribution of the printed product, has become obsolete, making it easier for the academic community to take publication back into their own hands. But astonishingly, although this possibility has already existed for 20+ years, the advance is very slow, most of the existent online journals have not managed to build a reputation like the publisher-based ones, and the question is why. From a practical perspective I think it’s mainly two things, namely (1) even if the printing and distribution process is removed, there is still a lot of tedious work left that most folks would probably not like to spend their time on, and (2) sustainability. A journal, in order to build a reputation, should be reliably around for 10 or 20 years at least. This is difficult if its publication is not institutionalized but tied to the good will of individuals.
So, I believe the bottom line is if who is going to invest his or her time and energy and commit to the often tedious work of publication and how can it be institutionalized? It’s not easy to find people for that because nowadays even people with a secure position may have an immense work load or be under pressure to produce.
Lastly, Elsevier/Springer may indeed be the ultimate “bad boy” in this business. They made headlines in Japan last year when it was found out that Elsevier/Springer charged outrageously higher fees to Japanese universities for their package than European universities. (I think it was at least 50% more.) Probably they didn’t reckon that Japanese universities have more money, which is not the case, but rightly surmised that their Japanese counterparts at least initially would not be able to obtain the relevant information and would be more subservient than European counterparts. On the other hand, I think it’s not right to vilify linguistic publishers in general. I don’t know much about the philosophy and the mechanisms at Mouton and Benjamins, the two publishers probably closest to linguistics. It may not be so much different from Elsevier/Springer, or it actually may be. Those in charge of linguistics at these publishers, whose livelihood basically depends on these publications, are often very decent people. Think of John Davey, about whom we could read a lot recently. So, no matter in what direction the community decides to move from here, I think an entirely negative view of the publishers and the people working there is not warranted. On the contrary, there are quite some things in the past for which we can be grateful.


From: Lingtyp [mailto:lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org] On Behalf Of Martin Haspelmath
Sent: Wednesday, July 05, 2017 4:36 AM
To: lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org
Subject: Re: [Lingtyp] papercopy LT

On 04.07.17 19:36, Wu Jianming wrote:

Dear colleagues,
      I am wondering whether there is another way to spread good  ideas freely and efficiently, which, nontheless, is equally recognized by the authority, just like journals.

Good ideas (or bad ideas) can be published easily these days (e.g. you can easily upload your paper to Academia or Zenodo<https://www.frank-m-richter.de/freescienceblog/2017/02/24/what-should-what-do-i-do-with-my-draft-paper-hide-it-upload-to-academia-or-upload-to-zenodo/>, at no cost), but for professional recognition, one needs a well-organized social mechanism.

Scholars have not been well-organized in the past: As Stephen Buranyi explains in a fascinating recent Guardian article<https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/jun/27/profitable-business-scientific-publishing-bad-for-science>, over decades they left the initiative to commercial companies, who own the titles and who make huge profits (or waste our money because of inefficient organization). If standard business criteria were employed, then publishing a scholarly article would cost between $100 and $500<http://bjoern.brembs.net/2016/12/should-public-institutions-not-be-choosing-the-lowest-responsible-bidder/>, not $5000 as is currently the case.

So how do we get out of the current predicament? I don't know, but we first need to recognize that we are in a disastrous situation.

Maybe we could have a typology journal that is published with a model similar to that of Glossa (with optional fees, supported by OLH<https://www.openlibhums.org/journals/>). Maybe we could find a university that gives "tenure<https://www.frank-m-richter.de/freescienceblog/2017/02/21/we-dont-need-open-access-but-scholar-owned-publication-brands/>" to a typology journal, the way most universities give tenure to researchers. Any ALT members out there with connections to librarians who want to secure their future by moving into publishing?

In any event, using ALT's money for "publication" (in fact, un-publication) behind a paywall is not sustainable in the longer run, so we desperately need new good ideas.



Martin Haspelmath (haspelmath at shh.mpg.de<mailto:haspelmath at shh.mpg.de>)

Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History

Kahlaische Strasse 10

D-07745 Jena


Leipzig University

IPF 141199

Nikolaistrasse 6-10

D-04109 Leipzig

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/lingtyp/attachments/20170705/ec7307ea/attachment.htm>

More information about the Lingtyp mailing list