The open access journals in social sciences and humanities: case studies
Nowadays it has become difficult to ignore the movement for open access (OA) to knowledge through scholarly publications. The deep discussions engendered by the Research Work Act (RWA) in the United States highlight the growing involvement of the scientific community. Passionate debates are taking place, notably on blogs and social networking websites. Scientists defend public access to taxpayer-funded research and call for wider distribution of their findings. A petition to boycott Elsevier has been signed by numerous researchers. The commercial publisher is being criticised for its considerable profits and its support for the RWA. But the OA movement is not the only disruption affecting scholarly publications. At the same time, scholarly journals are playing an increasingly important role in the dissemination and evaluation of research in social sciences and humanities (SSH). The OA movement and the recently acquired primacy of scholarly journals are reshaping communication in SSH. Scholarly journals are considered to be the golden road to open access. Several of the OA movement’s theorists see them as the best way to “change the paradigm of scholarly publication”. Beyond discourses and theories about OA journals, there is the question of how they are actually built up. To address this question, my PhD research focuses on open access journals in sociology. The objective is thus to determine what elements allow them to assert and maintain their own identity. The identification and understanding of these elements are crucial, because the way in which scientific communication actors define themselves directly influences the scientific communication value system. Are we moving towards a new paradigm? To explore this topic I have chosen the multiple case studies method, taking into account journals from different (inter)national and linguistic backgrounds, journals which have become open access and journals which started out as open access. This method allows for a more accurate description and understanding of the different actors, processes and dynamics involved.