Publishing Technology recently featured an interesting interview with Ziyad Marar, Global Publishing Director of SAGE. The interview focused on the role of publishers in scholarly publishing, especially in the Humanities and Social Sciences. It is worth referring to this interview, especially since some of the assertions by Ziyad Marar touch on the matters raised in the article “Do OA journals need Editors?” published on openscience.com. Here is a bunch of my thoughts on the interview.
In his statement, Ziyad Marar emphasizes the role of editors especially in HSS-publishing. He says:
“The question people who consume scholarly content still have to answer is “how do I decide what to read?” Scholarly publishers and journal editors currently play a key role in helping answer that question. This is especially acute in the humanities and social sciences, which make their impact diffusely and over time – often in ways that are somewhat distant from the underlying scholarly or research process – culminating in that final form of expression, whether as a book, essay, chapter or article. In these fields, the publishing process helps to establish knowledge claims as authoritative, which is particularly important to early career authors.”
The editors whom I approached for my piece ‘Do OA journals need Editors?‘ expressed similar concerns:
“I do think that open access journals benefit from having editors. The editor is a useful third contributor to the publishing process along with the author and reviewer. I thought about how a journal would be without an editor. It could be argued that the quality control of plagiarism detection, design and layout advice, and language editing to improve readability could be automated or performed by production (e.g. language and typesetting) staff. However, an editor also provides the author suggestions on how to improve a manuscript’s scientific content, and suitability for the intended readership, be that an expert or less-informed audience. These tasks require a high level of familiarity with the area of study.”
Dr. Neil Youngson, Journal Editor of Non-Genetic Inheritance
However, Ziyad Marar gives us to understand that the quality of editing in the HSS can be provided only, though not exclusively, in the traditional model of publishing. Referring to OA, Ziyad Marar points, in particular, to the problem of insufficient funds for publishing monographs.
This problem is certainly present and pressing. Grants for research in HSS are small and often do not take into account the possibility of publishing in Open Access. However, this is a systemic problem concerning the allocation of resources, not the open access model itself. It does not mean that publishing in OA is a worse solution than publishing in the traditional model. The issue of the quality of an editor’s work is present in both. Publishing in the traditional way does not guarantee that editing is more professional.
I am not saying that Ziyad Marar repudiates Open Access. However, it can be inferred from the tone of the interview that he considers the traditional model to be more suitable for the HSS and supports this opinion, not surprisingly, by statements from the practitioners of those disciplines.
Indeed, the issue of Open Access in the Humanities and Social Sciences is quite difficult. Research and publication in these fields of learning have specific features. While in other areas, such as mathematics, physics, medicine, chemistry and biology, the adaptation of OA progresses quite smoothly, it is not the case for the HSS. There is also the general problem of the lack of funding for research in humanities. However, the benefits of OA, in the form of greater visibility and levels of citations pertain also to OA monographs. Currently there is a discussion in the scientific community on the ways to implement OA in the HSS. It is worth paying attention, especially since Open Access is not just about a publishing model, but rather a way of thinking about science – its directions and development.