Scholarly journals are now regularly adopting open access policies, often as part of broader social justice initiatives and/or to build a more international reputation. Thirty-five (35) of South Africa's top academic journals across multiple disciplines will go 'Open' by the end of 2009, aiming to increase access for the benefit of development in Sub-Saharan Africa (Makoni & Scott, 2009).
When I first saw one of my colleagues publishing in an electronic-only journal a few years back, I was quite reluctant to participate, and did not though the opportunity existed. My discomfort arose, in part, from the prospect of losing the satisfaction of pulling a print copy of my work off of my bookshelf anytime I pleased. It also struck me that technology had advanced to the point of permitting most anyone with access to a computer and the Internet to start an e-journal or self-publish. Were our standards for peer review and other forms of vetting our work becoming just a little less important?
Maintaining scholarly integrity in the present publishing climate is becoming evermore challenging. The ubiquity of information alone tests the academic's resolve to scrutinize each piece of information for its authority, methodology, and contribution. That said, I do support open access initiatives; they are a democratizing force in a world where many people lack the opportunity to practice freedom of thought and action. Open access undoubtedly will increase the competition for resources among scholars, and may push academics to seek to standout in both more deserving and questionable ways.
See: Munyaradzi Makoni & Christina Scott, South Africa: Top Science Journals to Go Open Access, allAfrica.com, March 2, 2009, available at http://allafrica.com/stories/200903030029.html