In many of our posts here, we make a point to highlight scholarship in the field of pop culture and communication. We do this in part to laud the scholarship we see as valuable and to reveal how the world of academia functions.
It is in this vein that we thought we would take some time to explain how academic publishing has traditionally functioned, the role of open access publications, and explain our choice at Profs Do Pop to focus on open access research when we highlight scholarship on our site.
Art: Academic publishing is complicated ultimately because we need the publishers more than they need us. For instance, I used to be an untenured faculty member at a university. During my time at the Assistant Professor rank, typically one of the primary criteria for whether or not I will receive tenure is a combination of amount and quality of publications. Therefore, in order to keep my job, I need to publish in well-regarded and established journals for my field.
A well-regarded and established journal is typically one with a long history, a well-known publisher, or an affiliation with a respected organization. The way these journals typically work is that an author submits a manuscript, the editor sends that manuscript out to two scholars in the field for peer-review, and then chooses to accept, requests revisions, or rejects the essay. The key here is that neither the author, the editor, nor the reviewers are typically paid for their time.
Instead of paying people for their labor, the journal takes the manuscript and typically sells it as part of an issue to libraries and subscribers. Now, one could make the argument that professors are paid by their universities to be researchers; but, whether you believe it is the universities or the researchers, someone is subsidizing these journals with free labor. Certainly, there are costs associated with publishing, but those costs can be recouped by not paying those associated with creating the content that fills those pages.
Andrew: Also think about it this way:
- Universities – mostly via taxpayer monies – pay professors.
- The professors do research.
- They get that research published in a journal.
- Then university libraries – also funded by taxpayers – have to pay for those publications.
In other words, taxpayers end up paying twice.
Art: This is where open-access comes in. Instead of paying the content creators, open-access journals make the content freely available to the public. This opportunity was certainly made available by the internet, so most open access journals are fairly new. Going back to the top of this post, this typically complicates things for the untenured faculty member.
Some respected publishers, such as Sage, have begun to make some of their articles open-access at a cost to the author (anywhere from $300 to thousands of dollars). Also, in the name of open-access, some predatory journals have begun to take money to publish any content without vetting the quality of the material. Unfortunately, the system is not without its complications.
Ultimately, when we spotlight scholarship here at Profs Do Pop, we have chosen to focus on open-access work such as that published in The International Journal of Communication and Popular Culture Studies Journal. We believe in the idea that our research is created for all. Even if it is still unpaid labor, it is important that the public have access to the ideas being discussed in communication and popular culture research. Hopefully, at some point, open-access popular culture research will be something we produce on this site as well.