An idea whose time has come often takes time to develop. Two years have elapsed since Dr. Martin Paul Eve first issued a call on his blog for participants to help build a “PLOS-style model for the Humanities and Social Sciences.” (I covered and commented on Dr. Eve’s call here.) A broad and deep response to this call from the humanities community internationally set this timely idea in motion through scholar-led organization and governance, seed grant funding, and lots of hard work. On December 2, 2014, the Open Library of Humanities site announced that through its technology partnership with the open access publisher Ubiquity Press, the submissions platform for the multi/interdisciplinary humanities “megajournal” is now open and ready to accept submissions! The formal launch of OLH with the publication of an estimated 120 articles (based on scholar pledges) is slated for “between May and Summer 2015.” You can visit OLH’s submissions platform here to learn about publication guidelines, and to submit your article. See also this announcement on the Ubiquity Press blog.
The “megajournal” concept leverages the scalability of a robust centralized online submissions and publication platform. Ubiquity Press has built the enhanced platform based on Public Knowledge Project’s Open Journal Systems open source journal software. The platform will serve as a multidisciplinary humanities research environment.
OLH takes a broad, inclusive understanding of the academic humanities, from classics, religious studies & theology, modern languages and literatures through to political philosophy, critical legal studies, anthropology and newer subject areas such as critical theory & cultural studies, film, media & TV studies. (from the OLH Library Partnership Subsidies flyer)
Section editors have been selected and are tasked with receiving and pre-screening relevant disciplinary submissions, routing them to qualified peer reviewers, corresponding with authors, promoting OLH, etc. Additional editors will be engaged as article submission volumes increase or as subject expertise needs to be expanded. The section editors will also curate content into disciplinary “overlay journals.” As this content builds and overlay journals are identified (including established journals currently outside of OLH that might choose to publish their content in a co-branding relationship with OLH), authors can submit articles targeted to these specific discipline areas or journals. Since content across the platform will be browsable/searchable, the megajournal can also contribute to and support interdisciplinary research.
Religious Studies and Theology Section editors are in place
Speaking of section editors, a slate for Religious Studies and Theology editors have been selected and are now in place, ready to shepherd your submissions through the editorial and review process:
- Jonathan Harwell, Collections and Systems Librarian, Rollins College, Florida, USA, with a research interest in the cultural history of Quakers in the Southern United States
- Athanasios Koutoupas, a graduate student at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece, with research interests that include Hellenistic Religion and Ptolemaic Egyptian History
- Dr. Timothy Lubin, Professor of Religion, Washington and Lee University, Virginia, USA, teaches and researches on South Asian (Indian) Religious and Legal History
- Dr. Thomas E. Phillips, Dean of the Library and Professor of Theological Bibliography, Claremont School of Theology, California, USA, with a research interest focusing on Luke-Acts in the New Testament
- Garrett Brooks Trott, Reference and Instruction Librarian, Corban University, Oregon, USA, with a background in theological studies
I reached out to these editors and asked them how they learned about OLH; what motivated their interest in becoming a Religious Studies and Theology section editor; and if they could speak to their philosophy of/identification with open access. I received several very thoughtful responses to my inquiry, including this comment from Garrett Trott:
I found out about [Open Library of Humanities] as I was doing some research for a presentation proposal related to open access. I was really intrigued with the idea, particularly as OA really seems to be a “big thing” in the hard sciences—which I believe is in large part a reaction to what publishers have done with some major journals in the hard sciences. However, I do believe that humanities are not far behind—particularly as journal publishers (like Sage and Taylor & Francis) begin to look at taking over more humanities related journals. I really wanted to do my part to make future humanities scholarship available open access—and OLH does exactly that.
And Professor Timothy Lubin replied (excerpted):
My interest in this open access project is a symptom of my frustration with how proprietary practices have developed in the digital era, in the spheres of both dissemination of scholarship and delivery of educational materials. In both these spheres, for-profit publishers and distributers—perversely, given the opportunities for wider dissemination of information—found ways actually to drive up prices on scholarship and textbooks. A few conglomerates have come to dominate the scholarly journals and some monograph series, setting rates far beyond the means of many schools and other institutions. Meanwhile, copyright permissions for course packs, and prices of textbooks, are artificially inflated at alarming rates. …
Although I have good access to material behind paywalls on account of my university post, I have many colleagues in South Asia and Russia (and even some in Europe!) who are stranded outside the paywall. Most of my work pertains to Indian religious and legal history, but readers in India are unable to read much of what is published in the field, and as a result, scholarship there (and even public discourse) is often based on outdated information.
I would like to see this transition come about sooner rather than later, but I recognize that quality control is crucial—open-access should not come to be associated with second-quality work declined by the premier presses. Tenured faculty need to take the lead, so it is in that spirit that I threw in my hat.
I have been impressed by the visibility religious studies and theology is garnering at OLH, including the level of scholarly representation from our disciplines at the organizational level (as I wrote about here*). I think this bodes well, and I look forward to continuing developments.
In Part 2 of this post I want to indicate how disciplinary content published on OLH will be curated; announce a first Religious Studies call for papers initiative (an example of content curation); and describe OLH’s sustainable funding model.
*Note: Peter Webster is now a partner with me here at Omega Alpha. But the blog is not otherwise affiliated with Open Library of Humanities.