American Philological Association releases OA statement

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The American Philological Association has raised concerns on behalf of humanities and social sciences in comments to a British Parliamentary Committee investigating the UK government's policy on open access.

The comments, submitted by the APA's president Denis Feeney, and vice president for publication and research Michael Gagarin, were:

'The APA, the principal learned society representing scholars and teachers of classics located primarily in the US and Canada, is strongly committed to OA as a goal for all publication and research in the area of classics. We recognise, however, that the move to OA raises complex and difficult issues, and we thus welcome the proposals made in the Finch Report to address these issues, many of which would be positive steps in the direction of OA. At the same time, the Finch report raises some significant concerns, which in our view must be addressed in any plan for implementing their recommendations. Many of these stem from the fact that the report views OA primarily as it affects medical and scientific research. Because conditions affecting the social sciences and humanities differ in several significant respects, we are concerned about the negative effects on research in classics in the US and abroad.

'1. Most research in classics is single-author, and either is not funded or is funded by grants or fellowships that only provide relief from teaching; this leaves no consistent funding for author publishing charges (APCs). Requiring researchers to pay to have their work published would seriously burden those who are poor or not connected to a well-endowed institution; any system that favours the rich could significantly reduce the quality of journal publications.

'2. Publication in the form of monographs or collections of essays is much more important in the social sciences and humanities than in the sciences. In classics in particular, the proliferation of essay collections in the last few decades has meant that many senior scholars – those with the best access to APC funds – rarely if ever publish in refereed journals. Journals would therefore be left to recover the costs of publishing almost entirely from younger scholars, who are least able to pay. We mention as a footnote that an experiment, funded by the Mellon Foundation, is underway in the US for an OA monograph series; it is too early to predict the results.

'3. Classics, like many humanistic fields, is broadly international; indeed a good many APA members are housed in other countries, including the UK. Many journals publish articles in more than one language and scholars everywhere publish their work with presses and journals in many other countries. Any movement to OA in the UK alone, especially if a requirement for OA is included in future Research Assessments, would restrict the ability of UK scholars to have their work published, reduce the submission of papers to UK journals by non-UK scholars, and discourage journals in other countries from publishing the work of UK scholars. The harm done to the international exchange of ideas in classics would be notable.

'4.For all of these reasons, we strongly support the conclusion of the British Academy's submission to the House of Lords Select Committee, that the special circumstances of the humanities and social sciences be particularly considered in planning the implementation of the proposed OA policies.'