- Forum: Radical Teacher as an Online and Open Access Journal
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The Radical Teacher editorial collective has decided to change the way we publish and distribute our content. After 35 years in print, we will be shifting with Issue #96, in 2013, to online-only publication. We will be operating under an open access model through a partnership with the University of Pittsburgh’s University Library System. This is a significant change, and one we are making in the context of broader conversations and debates about how to publish in a digital age. We asked Board members to tell us how they think this decision will change their work on the magazine, and asked writers, teachers, and librarians who have done this before to tell us what we might expect. And while we cannot tell what our future will be, we are sure it is likely to be different.
Radical Teacher editorial collective
When I joined the board of Radical Teacher in 2007, the journal was facing a financial dilemma common to print journals: the costs of putting out the journal through an academic press were rising year by year while subscription income was dropping dramatically. It did not take a math major to see that this equation was unsustainable. While the economics were something of a mystery to many Board members—why weren’t academic libraries renewing their institutional subscriptions?—they made complete sense to me. As a librarian, I have been on the side of many a journal subscription cancellation project. Rising journal costs, particularly in the sciences, combine with shrinking library budgets and the growth of aggregated databases to force librarians to cut print journal subscriptions wherever possible. If a journal like Radical Teacher is available electronically in a database like JSTOR, Project MUSE, or Ebsco’s Academic Search Premiere, the librarian in charge of serials will cut the print subscription and drive that cash savings back into the budget for purchase of electronic databases and high cost scientific journals. It is a common and fiscally unavoidable process for librarians, but can also mean the death of small journals like Radical Teacher that rely on institutional subscription fees to pay the costs of printing, mailing, subscription management and website maintenance fees.
So the decision to move online-only and open access was initially driven by financial realities. How can we produce the journal at a cost low enough that we can survive in the new electronic serials world? The Board looked at our options and decided to go with the University of Pittsburgh’s Office of Scholarly Communication and Publishing. Using the open source journal management system OJS from the Public Knowledge Project, Pittsburgh will help us design our journal for the internet, supply the metadata and indexing that will make us accessible online, host our content, and ensure the digital preservation of our journal via the LOCKSS system, all at no cost. Put simply, our relationship with Pitt will allow us to survive economically.
While the push into open access was initially an economic decision, it has become for me and the Board in general an important political decision, one that aligns Radical Teacher’s publishing model with the political principles that drive our content, taking seriously the political economy of our own production. Open access means we can make our content available for the cost of an Internet connection [End Page 4] to readers around the world. We are no longer behind the walled garden of wealthy academic libraries. Open access means those same readers can contribute to our journal, broadening the range of voices we can include in the magazine. If we are serious about...