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“Open Access: A great idea on paper”. An Interview with Dr Ludivine Broch

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by Hannah Stokes

Dr Ludivine Broch is a research fellow of Historical Studies at Birbeck, University of London. Her work focuses mainly on modern French history with specific emphasis on the social history of Vichy France, and the politics of memory in the post-war period. Following the recent concerns voiced by the Royal Historical Society about Open Access Publishing and the humanities, Ludivine shares her thoughts and experiences of Open Access Publishing with us here at Open Science.

Hannah Stokes: What is your opinion of Open Access Publishing?

Ludivine Broch: It’s a great idea on paper. I believe most historians are especially sensitive to OA, as most of us use our research to engage with people, groups and institutions beyond the academy. Equally, the current system for academic publishing needs freshening up, and, in principle, OA is certainly a step forward.

However, as a post doc, whilst I agree with the logic behind OA, I believe that its implementation brings on many new problems – not least in the fact that you/your institution will have to pay to have your article published. The apparent solution is that government funds will cover APCs – but not all institutions will take the same approach to research funding, especially those that may be lagging behind in the REF.

 The implementation of OA needs re-thinking. In the meantime, many of us are active in social media/blogging/newspapers, and the fruits of our research are therefore reaching wider audiences through other means.

HS: Speaking as a professor of Historical Studies, do you think Willett’s plans to make all publicly-funded research freely available by 2014 will impact on academic freedom and diversity?

LB: Instinctively, I fear that because of the Article Processing Charges, younger researchers will suffer more than senior researchers; that established scholars will receive more attention than those trying to climb the ladder. Post docs, teaching fellows, etc are not necessarily linked to the institution which will eventually use our work for the REF – will their submissions be overlooked as a result of this? Also, will certain journals ask for higher APCs? And if you can’t afford them, will your paper be overlooked? Thus academic research diversity could suffer quite badly from OA. At the same time, our academic ‘freedom’ and ‘diversity’ is already subjected to a number of obstacles. Researchers already have to jump through hoops in order to get their projects funded, for instance.  Would this be just another hoop we need to jump through? Would we now need to look for funding not just to do our research but to publish it?

The university system is going through a crisis period where we are constantly questioning their role, status and usage. Along with REF and student fees, OA is just another (problematic) building block in the erection of the future of academia and academic institutions.

HS: Have you ever published in the open access model?

LB: No.

HS: Why not?

LB: Because I haven’t published my book yet and I want to wait until the last minute before I publish my research – its about protecting my sources for a little while longer! Also, Publishing in certain journals earns you more credit than others – getting an article accepted recently for Contemporary European History, therefore, was very important for my career.

HS: What is the normal procedure for publishing your work?

LB: It takes ages, you have to work like a dog, it is a minefield. One great thing about it though is the peer review system, which allows you to test your theories and arguments before you publish. Indeed, an academic publication is a seriously groomed, thoughtful and representative reflection of your research and ideas. It is a projection of yourself as a scholar. By basing it purely on a peer review system, your articles are judged anonymously by specialists in your field. If you are being peer reviewed within your university (1) is your paper really anonymous? (2)  are ‘specialists’ reviewing your work? Also, the long wait is a negative side effect of the current system, and I don’t think OA could help solve this.

HS: How do you feel Open Access Publishing could affect the Arts and Humanities disciplines?

LB: In many ways it will be great, adding more interaction between us and the public will raise the profile of art & humanities scholars, and perhaps give a better impression of academics and our research all around. We, as a community, will be/appear to be less insular.

HS: It seems that Open Access Publishing is definitely not a ‘one size fits all’ model for all subjects. Would you agree?

LB: Of course; this is one of the big obstacles in fact in thinking of how to work around OA.

HS: Going forward, would you ever consider publishing in the Open Access model? Why/ Why not?

LB: Yes, for the reasons stated above.

HS: Do you think that Open Access will supersede the traditional model or will they be coexisting?

LB: In the long short-term, they will co-exist.

HS: In your opinion, why are researchers still reluctant to the Open Access Publishing process?

LB: Mostly in regards to its implementation. Universities are currently undergoing huge strains – this just adds to the existing financial difficulties/changes which are threatening the very existence & status of our universities & their scholars as we know them.

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