Comments from the Deleted / Outdated PhilPapers Post

I should have done this at the time, but an email from someone prompted this. I tried to just put it in the comments to the main PhilPapers post I have up, but WordPress balked at the length I guess. So, for anyone who missed the conversation:



Stephen Francoeur
Submitted on 2014/04/16 at 9:22 am
I think that it is promising that PhilPapers pushed back the deadline but honestly, that is still way too soon for some institutions to move forward with subscriptions. It also is out of sync with many universities that have fiscal years ending in June. It would be far better for the service to give at least 6 months notice before any such switch.

Wayne Bivens-Tatum 
Submitted on 2014/04/15 at 5:58 pm | In reply to Matt Thomas.
Matt, I agree. I dislike the approach that immediately starts with a threat to restrict access before anything else has been tried. There are possibilities of offering more as well. For example, right now PP is SFX-enabled, but only sort of. I did some searches comparing it to the Philosopher’s Index. For the same article, PP linked to SFX, but was missing the Source and Page# information, and wasn’t finding the article. The PI link did the correct SFX search and provided links. For books, PP doesn’t seem to have SFX enabled at all, whereas the book I searched in PI to compared linked to SFX and then the catalog record. If better funding could allow PP to offer services that would increase the compatibility with library systems, this would be an incentive for some to subscribe.

Anne Knafl (University of Chicago)
Submitted on 2014/04/15 at 3:23 pm | In reply to David Bourget.
Hi David,
July 1 still isn’t enough time, for me at least, since our fiscal year ends June 30 and our deadline for new orders is May 15. In addition, I have already spent down my philosophy budget for the year. Extending the deadline through the summer would be much appreciated.

Matt Thomas
Submitted on 2014/04/15 at 11:19 am
I’m not sure why philpapers didn’t just say what they meant initially: that they are no longer going to be open access. The subscription model is fine if that’s what they plan to change to but don’t wrap it up in “seeking support”. If libraries are paying, it needs to be something of value. And OA can coexist alongside a subscription model if they’re are providing access to two different things. Subscription could give an institution bonus access or special access or access to more than just what is available as OA. We can work with that. What no one appreciates is having to pay for the privilege of not being punished. Throttling or restricting access to your potential customers can only be seen as a punishment.

Also, is this a done deal? The information about this is well hidden. I see no way to get to the subscription information except the discussion forum item. Is that intentional?

Wayne Bivens-Tatum
Submitted on 2014/04/14 at 7:54 pm | In reply to David Chalmers.
David, it should be clear that I’m not opposed to this, but objected to the threat that unless we paid in 6 weeks data would be “throttled,” as well as the initial wording of the website that stated all of the 3000+ institutions would be expected to subscribe, rather than the larger universities who have philosophy departments and can probably afford it. I thought that was an inappropriate way to promote open access scholarship, and I appreciate the change.

Banners asking people to ask their libraries to subscribe, or perhaps with slightly stronger language, I think are a good idea. I thought the SEP approach was very clever. Instead of threatening to restrict access ever, the threat was instead to put up banners basically shaming places that wouldn’t contribute, especially larger institutions like mine. Although I also understand the need to create incentives when such shaming doesn’t work. Great and useful resources should be supported by the places that will use them the most, and if that makes the resource available freely to everyone else in the world, I’m all for it.

Mark McDayter
Submitted on 2014/04/14 at 7:43 pm
At the heart of the open access movement is the notion of accessible public scholarship — the idea that even non-academics may have access to scholarly work and resources that are, after all, generally funded directly or indirectly through public money, and that are of a general benefit to society.

While we all recognize that scholarly libraries — indeed, libraries in general — are under terrible and very unfortunate financial pressures these days, OA is not really about ensuring institutional access. It would of course be wonderful if PhilPapers could remain free for everyone, all the time; were our public universities and researchers better funded that might even be possible.

But in the final analysis, this model, which allows individuals regardless of affiliation to use it, seems a pretty good compromise. If the worst is that a scholar has to use a home rather than office or library computer to get at it, I think there is little to complain about. In fact, I wish a few non-commercial resources that are not currently OA would adopt this model, which seems to me pretty true to the essential spirit of the movement.

David Chalmers
Submitted on 2014/04/14 at 6:38 pm
As co-director of PhilPapers, let me say that I’m sorry that our message to librarians came across as a threat. That’s far from what we intended. We have consulted with many university librarians over the last year or so, asking about the best model for financial support. We initially thought about pursuing a donation model, but a number of librarians (especially at public institutions) told us that it would be difficult for them to justify giving a donation and much easier to justifying paying for a subscription. They also told us that for this to work, there would have to be some sort of differential effect for subscribing and non-subscribing institutions. So that’s the model we have pursued.

We’ve done our best to ensure as much open access as possible consistent with a subscription model. The PhilPapers Archive (the biggest open access archive in philosophy) remains open access, of course, as do the PhilEvents and PhilJobs services. Subscription is for the PhilPapers bibliographic database, which is a bibliographical service comparable to the Philosopher’s Index. Access to the database remains free for non-institutional users. Even for institutional users, in the short term the access restrictions will take the form of banners saying “Your university doesn’t subscribe. Please ask them to subscribe.” Our aim has been for this subscription model to share as much of the spirit of a donation model as possible.

We’re sorry that our communication about this model translated into the appearance of a “threat”. We’re academics who are new to the subscriptions business. It’s hard to get tone right, and we obviously should have explained more in the message to librarians, as we did in our messages to users.

A little background: We set up PhilPapers in 2009 as a sort of labour of love, working for free. I’ve never received any financial compensation for my many hours per week working on PhilPapers and I don’t intend to (though I’m still hoping that one day my department chair at NYU will grant me a teaching release for it). For a period we had significant grant support from the UK, which paid for David Bourget to work nearly full-time on PhilPapers and for other technical staff, but this has now dried up. As things now stand, both of us have full-time academic jobs with many other duties, and it has become clear that without financial support to appoint technical and administrative staff, PhilPapers can’t be sustained. With the financial support from subscriptions, we hope that PhilPapers will be able to not just survive but to keep developing in new and innovative directions. PhilPapers is now used by the majority of professional philosophers and students, and we think we have a responsibility to keep it going and to develop it. So we hope librarians appreciate why this step has been necessary.

We greatly appreciate the feedback we’ve received so far from librarians. Any further feedback is welcome.

Wayne Bivens-Tatum 
Submitted on 2014/04/14 at 6:17 pm | In reply to Jen (@JemLibrarian).
Jen, I understand that position, but don’t share it. I took issue with the threat, but I do understand that there are concrete reasons why this resource that’s widely used in the philosophy community can no longer remain free. My primary objection was the idea of targeting, even in theory, over 3000 institutions, most of which don’t offer philosophy degrees.

In a separate email from someone else at PhilPapers that arrived via another route this afternoon, PhilPapers said it has decided “the best way forward is a model involving annual subscriptions for large institutions.” I have no problems with that. Open access scholarship isn’t really free. It has to be paid for somehow. I have no objections to universities, especially those with philosophy graduate programs, being targeted to support a resource like this that’s valuable to everyone studying philosophy, including at smaller institutions that can’t even afford standard philosophy indexes and journal databases.

I think that’s good for the open access study of philosophy without putting an onerous burden on libraries. It’s akin to the fundraising campaign several years ago for the SEP, which raised money from philosophy departments and libraries like mine to make sure that valuable resource could remain open access.

Jen (@JemLibrarian)
Submitted on 2014/04/14 at 5:33 pm
I would only not subscribe, I would discourage anyone from releasing/submitting their papers to this organization. This flies in the face of the principles of open access.

Wayne Bivens-Tatum
Submitted on 2014/04/14 at 2:53 pm | In reply to David Bourget.
David, thanks very much for commenting. I wrote this upon receiving your initial email to see whether other librarians were thinking. Thanks very much for considering my objections to the initial proposal. As I wrote to you, this move shows that it’s a positive move asking the institutionalized philosophy community to help support open access scholarship for everyone, regardless of whether their school happens to have philosophy degrees or programs.

David Bourget
Submitted on 2014/04/14 at 2:51 pm
Hi Wayne, as we’ve discussed by email, we are not going to require non-BA granting institutions to subscribe. The language on the site has been clarified to reflect this. We also moved the start of the subscription model to July 1st following your advice. – David Bourget