Monday, April 20, 2015

What's The Point Of A New APSA Journal?

There is a proposal in the American Political Science Association to create a new, online-only open access journal. I am not sure we need a new journal, but the only way this one will have any real purpose is if it makes relevance more central.

The promotional strategy will draw on the combined strengths of APSA and Cambridge University Press, and take full advantage of the open access nature of the content. A dynamic social media strategy will be a key component to this plan, engaging with key blogs, media commentators, NGOs, think tanks, and government organizations with the goal of bringing cutting-edge political science research to the attention of groups that do not have the time or depth of knowledge to engage with the original articles. The provision of non-technical summaries with articles will support the work of translating academic work to a much broader audience. In addition, another important part of the promotional strategy will be to flag the journal to institutions at all levels as a key teaching resource. 

The highlighted part needs more work. I am not sure what the "dynamic" strategy will be, but I hope authors go beyond merely a summary and are required to write something more akin to an op-ed or blog post. The problem in political science is not research, and not even necessarily firewalls. I don't think many people would read the American Political Science Review even if they could do so without restriction. Instead, we need to have brief and well-written analyses that go beyond just summarizing and instead contextualize the argument to demonstrate why anyone should give a damn about it.

My concern is that the journal's emphasis will be on open-access as an end to itself. Indeed, the conclusion doesn't mention relevance and lack of jargon at all.
APSA is one of the largest academic social science associations in the world. Consequently, it has a responsibility to provide intellectual, leadership for the social sciences around the world. Academic publishing is moving in the direction of more open access formats and social science scholars are facing higher expectations for openness and calls for greater diversity and innovation in research methods. The academy and political science in particular is more diverse on many different dimensions. An online-only open access journal will allow APSA to play a critical leadership role for the discipline and the social sciences that will redound to the overall benefit of the discipline, the study of politics and policy, and the engagement of the discipline in the public sphere. 

This journal should not be just a showcase of disciplinary diversity. It needs to be a message to the world that we actually matter, and we can prove it.


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