Oh OER, Oh Oer, has my little dog gone?

The truth is that I never heard the term OER until I read this module, though the idea has been on my mind for awhile. Our whole academic system is warped, in my view, by the economic interests that we never really name in our quest for purity. So, for example, we measure scholars and award tenure on the basis of decisions made by editors of presses who are themselves trying very hard to publish what will sell (and will tell you as much over a drink at any conference). They pay authors almost nothing ( I say with regret as the editor of a book series) and continually reduce their rights in a variety of ways.  Journals, some of which are quite profitable, do not even make the effort to pretend, and then cry with indignation if an author puts his own work up on a website or makes it available to colleagues. There has to be another way.

Lately, I have tried my best to publish with open access journals, which are a kind of OER I very much admire and respect. Of course, there are problems. Some just charge exorbitant fees to authors–pay us a thousand dollars for the chance to give people a chance to read what you yourself have written–while others struggle with various funding models. Two journals I recently published with, and that I recommend to others, are open access without charging authors– Medicine, Anthropology Theory, and the Jewish Studies Internet Journal. I believe they have some institutional funding and extremely dedicated staffs as well as some volunteers, so it is not perfect either, but it is at least an attempt to break out of the corporate stranglehold in academia.

We can also do more to support it.

A very fine Open Access journal in anthropology called HAU was started a few years ago. Rather than asking authors to pay for the publication of their work, they ask faculty to seek institutional sponsorships for a few years of $500-$1000, which sometimes comes from departmental budgets. Emory has a fund that will contribute to author fees if you want to publish open access but, to date, they will not support institutional memberships, which seems to me a shame.

Anyway, so much for my rant. My basic point is that these resources are growing in diversity and stature and that is something I think we want to encourage as much as possible, figuring out new funding models as we can.




About Don Seeman PhD

Don Seeman is Associate Professor in the Department of Religion and the Tam Institute for Jewish Studies at Emory. He is a social anthropologist (PhD Harvard 1997) specializing in medical and phenomenological anthropology, ethnography of religion and Jewish thought.

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