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Martin Paul Eve

Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing at Birkbeck, University of London

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Dear Walt,

A response to your letter, albeit only briefly as it is late here on a Friday but I have only just seen this. I would have left it as a comment but it didn’t seem to work when I did so.

It has never been my intention to claim “that OA just wasn’t happening in the humanities until [I] came along”. If this is the impression that I gave, then I apologise for it.

I would like to make a number of points about the article in question, though, and my practice of crediting others.

  1. This piece credits the work of others throughout in detailing the contemporary scene. Kathleen Fitzpatrick and Nicky Agate’s Humanities Commons; the recent AAU-ARL-AAUP initiative; work funded by Mellon; Open Book Publishers; Open Humanities Press; Eileen Joy and Punctum Books; Knowledge Unlatched. There is just one paragraph on OLH. It is not possible, in a piece with as tight a word limit as this, to cover everything.

  2. In almost every longer talk I have given over the last few years years I have spent quite some time talking about humanists’ involvement in the BBB declarations (as I mention in this piece also, noting Suber’s and Guedon’s participation). I also note (and usually list) a range of scholar-OA publications. I myself have published in such venues (Neo-Victorian Studies, for example). I have never meant to demean or downplay this work.

  3. I have never made the claim that OA wasn’t happening before me. (So far as I am aware, I have never made a statement that I would hope would even imply this. I would be embarrassed to do so and I am mortified that you think that I would do so on purpose.) I made the claim that a move towards OA has been slower in the humanities disciplines (on aggregate) than in many natural sciences. This doesn’t seem too controversial a statement and it is backed up, at least in conversation and at OA events etc., by others I meet (Suber seemed to confirm this view in his pieces about OA and the humanities). But, then, I also value your statistical approach here and it could be that my experience of actually encountering paywalls has yielded me a false subjective impression. I will look into this.

  4. I have actually given talks on behalf of other OA organisations in order to promote their work. For instance, at their request, I spoke on behalf Knowledge Unlatched to the International Consortium of Library Consortia a couple of years ago. I am on the advisory boards of many other projects that promote different routes to OA in the humanities.

So, I would like to gently suggest that the reading here is a little harsh on me. You are probably right that a couple of sentences at the least that pointed towards histories of fee-free OA in the humanities – often scholar-led and of extremely high quality – would not have gone amiss. If I were able to revise the piece, I would take that advice on board. I assure you though that a phrase that I repeatedly say in talks that I give is (as near as I can remember): “when humanists have started their own publications, they have often gone OA by default”. (I then usually list Gamut, Foucault Studies, and a raft of other high-quality, fee-free humanistic journals.)

I don’t though think that I oversell my role. At least, I really do not mean to. I’m working on OA. Lots of people are working on OA. Lots of people have worked on OA. I promote OLH because I believe in it as a route. I’ve also put, on record, though, that I don’t believe it is the only way and that we need a series of models side-by-side.

Yours sincerely,

Martin Paul Eve