We need to do this, too

At SALT this weekend, David Beaver and Kai von Fintel announced a new journal that they will be editing, Semantics & Pragmatics. This announcement was followed by a more public announcement on Kai’s semantics, etc. blog, where Kai summarizes the motivation for the new journal as follows:

Our journal will be a high-quality, rigorously peer-reviewed journal on topics in semantics and pragmatics. Why a new journal (given that the field already has three excellent dedicated journals: Linguistics & Philosophy, Natural Language Semantics, Journal of Semantics)? Our journal will be an open access journal, with no subscription barriers, and it will make optimal use of modern electronic distribution and management methods.

Follow the links to the slides that David and Kai presented at SALT and to the editors’ blog for this new journal. It’s a great idea, and I think we can and should do something similar for phonology and phonetics for all the same reasons that David and Kai are doing this for semantics and pragmatics.

6 thoughts on “We need to do this, too

  1. John McCarthy

    While I’m in sympathy with the overall program, I have a concern that they might be underestimating the workload. Because the publisher’s contribution to the production of a journal is largely invisible to us, it might seem pretty trivial. There’s more than just a part-time copy-editor involved; there’s design, marketing, order fulfilment, and no doubt many other things I don’t know about since I’ve never worked for a publisher.

    Before anyone decides to do this for phonetics and phonology, they should give long, hard thought to the time commitment. Realistically, getting a journal like this established and running probably means doing no new research for the next five years (unless perhaps one’s institution has a very generous teaching load policy).

  2. Eric Bakovic

    I’m sympathetic to John’s concerns, but the conspiracy theorist in me replies “that’s exactly what they want us to think”. I have no doubt that editing an open-access journal like this will involve some more work than editing a publisher’s journal, but especially as more and more open-access journals come online and share their practices with one another, I also have no doubt the benefits of open access will far, far outweigh the costs of doing it all ourselves.

    I believe that much of what John is concerned with has already been greatly facilitated by institution-backed services like the University of California’s eScholarship Repository. Marketing and order fulfilment seem to me to be issues unique to for-profit, print publishing. The only real outstanding issues, it seems to me, are (a) providing print copies for those who insist on having them (though something along the lines of BookSurge comes to mind) and (b) establishing a reputation (something Kai and David addressed in their SALT presentation).

    In short: yes, it’ll take a little more commitment. But the pay-off for the field will make it more than worth it. If more of us get involved, the work can be more evenly distributed. I for one would much prefer to submit to, and review in a timely fashion for, an open-access journal that makes its content available freely and as soon as it has been accepted for publication. Wouldn’t you?

    (It’s been a while since I’ve kept up with Open Access News, but I’ll bet that issues like those that John raises have been discussed there — either that or links to discussions about such issues have been linked to from there. There have also been some relevant discussions relatively recently on LINGUIST List.)

  3. Alan Prince

    I share McCarthy’s concerns about the depth of the infrastructure tasks behind a journal. Without further mooting them, though, I’d like to put out a question and a comment. The underlying concern is whether ‘modern methods of distribution’ haven’t undermined the inherited journal culture in more fundamental ways than we’ve yet acknowledged.

    Question. What is the marginal utility of ‘rigorous peer-review’? Specifically, is the difference in quality between article and a serious draft generally large enough to be worth the investment of time, energy, and stress on the part of all concerned? The alternative to a journal is simply an open archive, with matters of quality & improvement left up to the twin pressures of self-respect and the marketplace of ideas. How well does this work in comparison with the reviewing system now in place? This sounds like the kind of thing that social scientists would study (rigorously) — but, rigor aside, it might be interesting to gather some opinions.
    Comment. In promotion cases, the publication list is a proxy for impact on the field (itself a proxy for value). With wholesale electronification and effective search engines, impact can be more directly assessed via citation indexing. It strikes me as possible that official use of the humanist hallmark of ‘publication by a major press’ [or other reputable entity] will dwindle as this becomes apparent.

  4. Ed

    Eric, I’ve been thinking of talking to you about something like this. I hadn’t thought of doing an open journal per se, but I think Phonoloblog could be expanded to create some collaborative workspace for phonologists. Maybe incorporate a wiki (I’ve been reading Wikinomics) and maybe create some ongoing open source phonology seminars or something. Even publishing datasets for languages. I think there’s some interesting room on the web for connecting scholars better and providing access to materials.

  5. Pingback: S&P: Editors’ Blog » Blog Archive » Peer Review in Decline?

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