New Journal Platforms

For law professors and other legal scholars: the University of Chicago Law Review has joined the review at the University of California Berkeley in announcing that henceforth, submissions must be submitted through a service called Scholastica, rather than through the Bepress ExpressO service that lawprofs have been using, for nearly all American law journals, for the last dozen years.

The immediate change is an abrupt upward ratchet in the cost (to authors) of submitting a manuscript: Instead of more than $2 per journal, more or less, through ExpressO, each Scholastica submission will cost $5. So far as I can tell (reading the Scholastica website), the money goes – to Scholastica. It’s a startup.

There was a brief dialogue the other day about the shift and about Scholastica. A Scholastica representative showed up and contributed some helpful info in the comments.

Over at Facebook, on a different thread entirely I contributed the following, which I’ll just copy here (with some hyperlinks added) rather than quote.  There is more at stake here than the shift from over $2 per submission to $5 per submission.

The good news is that Scholastica is part of an emerging market of e-journal publishers (platforms) that can and want to handle law journals as well as journals in other disciplines.

Implications:

One, law journal submitting/editing/publishing/distribution will (over time, and not just b/c of Scholastica) look increasingly like all of that in other fields.

Two, the platforms make open access commitments easier to sustain and make real open access to scholarship (through globally inter-linked, searchable archives) that much more feasible.

Three, it’s another nail in the coffin being built for print (versions of) journals. (Bernie Hibbitts was just way ahead of his time.)

The bad news [added for purposes of this post:  in my view this is seriously bad news] is that Scholastica (like SSRN and Bepress) is private, and revenue-dependent, which means that all of this comes at a significant cost to schools and individual scholars, and the open access commitment is always at risk of being modified or limited.

[Another addition:  In other words - in one corner of scholars' professional lives, many of us rail against publishers and publishing systems that make it difficult and expensive (and/or both) for our intended audiences to read our work.   Boo! to Westlaw, Lexis/Nexis, and ReedElsevier -- more or less.  Yay! to SSRN and institutional archives -- mostly.  And now, in this other corner, universities, which have on the whole been supportive (and sometimes aggressively supportive) of OA publishing by their faculties, are (in the case of Scholastica) outsourcing their production of journals to a private firm that is as proprietary about its platform as any traditional publisher.  I have no doubt that the founders of Scholastica, who have been scholars themselves, are committed to doing the right thing, whatever that means to them now and in the future.  But this is, again, competition between a metaphorical Windows (i.e., a closed, centrally-managed environment that's easy for people (law students) to accept because it looks simple and it looks like there are no cheaper alternatives) and a metaphorical Linux (i.e., a free, distributed, modifiable, and customizable environment that isn't as difficult to use as it seems - but that is less visible).  If you're a law professor or a law review editor (or a Dean!) and you wonder whether Scholastica has competition that comes at a lower (or zero) cost, then the answer is:  there is.  See below.]

Coming soon at the University of Pittsburgh, a similar-but-different model: migration of all of our law journals to an *open source* e-publishing platform *funded and maintained by the university itself as part of its commitment to OA* that is comparable to Scholastica and Bepress, but that retains the journals’ ability to accept submissions via ExpressO, if they choose.

Links: