As most readers will probably have seen somewhere by now (here, for example), a new open-access journal in philosophy was recently launched: Ergo, an Open Access Journal of Philosophy. There are two main reasons to rejoice about the arrival of this new journal. The first is the fact that Ergo aims at becoming a generalist journal, and the second is, of course, that it’s open access without charging authors for publication. (Full disclosure: I am the area editor for history of logic, but am likely to occasionaly be the handling editor for other topics as well which fall under my expertise, such as general philosophy of logic, logic and cognition, certain areas in philosophy of mind, philosophy of mathematics, medieval philosophy etc.).
Indeed, Jonathan Weisberg and Franz Huber, the creators of the journal, intend it to be a truly generalist journal, covering all areas in philosophy – in the same way as e.g. the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is truly general in that it covers pretty much everything done under the heading of ‘professional philosophy’ (and more!). As extensively discussed recently in light of Healy’s data on the ‘four top general philosophy journals’, these journals are not truly general in that the main focus remains on the so-called ‘core areas’ of philosophy: language, epistemology, metaphysics and mind. Ergo deliberately aims at being inclusive both in the topics dimension and in the styles/approaches dimension.
It is true that the current list of editors has some lacunae, but this is a reflection of the early stages of the project and the difficulty with getting people involved, rather than a deliberate decision. (Having followed, as an area editor, how much work Jonathan and Franz have been putting on getting Ergo off the ground, I can tell ya all that it ain’t easy to start a new open access journal!). Now, as has become clear from recent debates, there is an acute need for truly generalist journals in the profession, as the ‘gate-keeping mentality’ seems to be having the pernicious effect of systematically excluding certain topics and certain voices from philosophical debates. (Another full disclosure: I’m a Feyerabendian – let a thousand flowers bloom!)
As for the second point: open access! In recent years, it has become more and more obvious that the business model of commercial academic publishers is a form of extortion, on many levels, especially of public money in places where research is largely or partially publicly funded. It’s the usual story: we work for them for free, both by writing papers and by doing most of the work involved in publishing a journal (editing, refereeing etc.), and then the irony is that we (or our institutions) then need to pay to have access to the results, through outrageous library subscriptions. (Here is an article by George Monbiot which spells this out very clearly.) It is about time we wake up and realize that we basically do not need the ‘mediation’ of commercial academic publishers, and start taking matters in our own hands. (Yet another full disclosure: I am one of the editors for a non-open-access journal, the Review of Symbolic Logic, but at least the subscription fees for the RSL seem to me to be more within the range of what could be called reasonable. Still, there's scope for improvement...)
What stands in the way of open access journals in philosophy is to a large extent the issue of establishing a reputation as a top-quality venue; we are still too hung up on the traditional ‘top journals’, and a bit wary of novelty. Open access or not, it is very difficult for a new journal to establish itself in philosophy – we are a rather conservative discipline… Philosophers’ Imprint has been bravely pushing for a new trend since 2003, and a journal such as Ergo will benefit tremendously from how Imprint has paved the way for open access journals in philosophy. (Not coincidentally, both journals are published by the University of Michigan Library.)
All this to say: we look forward to receiving many high-quality submissions! Check the full CFP circulated yesterday by the managing editors. Also, should you be asked to act as a referee for Ergo, please do bear in mind that it makes a lot more sense to work for free in cases where the end results will also be freely available for everyone to see…