The publishing proposal of the Open Library of Humanities [Originally published in The Impact Factor Blog]

By Dr. Francisco Osorio (, Cinta de Moebio Journal Editor

The Open Library of Humanities ( is no longer a project. On September 28th, 2015 the mega-journal for humanities and the social sciences came into existence, and at the same time a new funding model.

Challenges for Latin American journals and SciELO

The concept of mega journals started in the natural sciences, but now we have one in humanities and the social sciences. In Latin America we are not heading in that direction as far as I know, but creating new journals every time. Language will not be an issue because The Open Library of Humanities is willing to publish articles in Spanish and Portuguese. One important question is if we should join them.

I open the discussion about this subject, presenting some arguments in the following sections. My view is that this proposal challenges us in many ways. From the perspective of the open access call, I don’t see something new. We have travelled that path long ago and there’re no signs things will change in the near future. Quite the opposite, it is the English publishing world the one trying to escape from the traditional model. What it is interesting to see is their funding proposal, how they work with libraries from many countries, how they continue to discuss open access and how is going to work the first mega-journal in humanities.

The point is that new ways to communicating research are emerging and it is precisely that our interest in this conversation about a mega journal in humanities. Beyond the challenge it represents to individual journals, SciELO, which pioneered open access online publishing, might trigger this discussion towards the convergence of several current journals to operate as a mega journal. In other words, we can do it, so let us engage in this proposal and talk about it.

Four models for open access journals

As we know the funding models for academic journals were: (a) the reader pays, (b) the author pays and (c) nobody pays. The new model of the Open Library of Humanities is that (d) the libraries pay. Models (a) and (b) are quite familiar to students and lecturers. It is based on charging one end of the spectrum: either the creator pays upfront or the end user does so. Model (c) is common in Latin American open access journals because either an author pays the journals to publish or the reader is charged to access the content they are interested in. But the sentence ‘nobody pays’ is misleading. The cost of running the journal is absorbed by someone: the editor’s own pocket, the research centre, the university, a private company, or even the State.

Bearing this in mind, the Open Library of Humanities came up with a different proposal: to charge libraries. It is defined as a collective funding model. When the proposal came forward in 2013, it was based on the following supposition: Consider a journal publishes 250 articles in a year – If 100 libraries were involved, each library should contribute USD$1850.00 so the cost of the article per institution would be USD$7.40. If 400 libraries were involved, their contribution would be USD$462.00 and the cost per article would drop to USD$1.84.

On the launch day 99 libraries were involved. By libraries they mean those attached to UK universities (mostly), American universities, some Canadian, a few European, one Australian university and some private organisations. In 2015, Open Library of Humanities will be considering publishing 150 articles per year at the cost of USD$6 per library.

So, is the model (d) – library pays – different from model (c) – nobody pays? In one sense, the library pays option falls under the category ‘nobody pays’ because the cost is absorbed by a university, as per the Latin American open access experience. The difference can be found in their collective approach. As far as I know, you cannot find 100 Latin American universities contributing funding to a single academic journal in humanities and social sciences.

The journal as a platform

As a journal, the Open Library of Humanities published one article in its first day (3D UK? 3D History and the Absent British Pioneers by Keith Johnston) and one editorial by their creators (Eve & Edwards 2015). The Chilean Manuel Tapia (or more accurately Manuel Loyola Tapia ( ‘Loyola Tapia’ being the surnames as is typical in Spanish naming structures) is the only Latin-American in their editorial team as section editor of cultural studies and critical theory.

As a platform, 7 journals so far exist under the protocol (if I have understood correctly, the 150 articles expected to be published are distributed among these seven journals). In other words, it is an economic, social and technological platform for a transition to open access. Again, Latin American journals that are already open access should ask themselves what they are likely to gain by joining the Open Library of Humanities as a platform.

A nice welcome

I really like this proposal because at the heart of the matter is the question of the forms of communication in humanities and social sciences as distinctive from the natural sciences. In 2015 the newly formed Association of Cultural and Literary Journals of Latin American (called Latinoamericana, with 106 journals, led by the Venezuelan journal editor Jeffrey Cedeño), asked the question: Could the journals themselves be called scientific? Interestingly, some strong opinions were in favour, not because the work resembles the natural sciences but because the concept of science helps to explain how it’s undertaken to the government: serious and important thinking. Also in 2015, a statement subscribed to at that time by 92 journals and published in the journal Poiesis (No. 29) called ‘A statement about the assessment of academic quality in humanities journals’1, argued against (a) the overall importance of metrics and indicators instead of content and value in humanities journal articles and (b) the overlooking of the differences between practices in humanities compared to the natural sciences. That led to a protocol with five guidelines:

Do not promote an article because of its impact factor

Do not use the IMRAD journal structure as an obligation

Do not consider a journal without impact factor as less valuable

Do not close access to journal reading

Do not charge authors for publishing

Finally, I very much welcome the debate about academic publishing in the era of the Internet. Our practices indeed are changing and sometimes it’s hard to understand where we are going. The question of the forms of communication in humanities remains and perhaps this is a simple yet important lesson from the social sciences: open the debate and compare other practices in a universal dialogue.


1. Declaración sobre la medición de la calidad académica de las publicaciones propias de las humanidades. Poiesis. 2015, vol. 29, pp. 1-7. Available from:ódicos/index.php/poiesis/article/view/1607

2. This version is based upon The Impact Factor Blog post published on 30 Sep 2015 by the author, under a Creative Common License:


Declaración sobre la medición de la calidad académica de las publicaciones propias de las humanidades. Poiesis. 2015, vol. 29, pp. 1-7. Available from:ódicos/index.php/poiesis/article/view/1607

EVE, M.P. and EDWARDS, C. Opening the Open Library of Humanities. Open Library of Humanities. 2015, vol. 1, nº 1, pp. e1. DOI: 10.16995/olh.46

OSORIO, F. Exploring the publishing model of the Open Library of Humanities: A view from Latin America. The Impact Factor Blog. Available from:


Como citar este post [ISO 690/2010]:

OSORIO, F. The publishing proposal of the Open Library of Humanities [Originally published in The Impact Factor Blog] [online]. SciELO in Perspective, 2015 [viewed ]. Available from:


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